Frito Pie

Aug 9, 2014


©2014 All Rights Reserved by Norman Van Aken and Justin Van Aken. Excerpted from “My Key West Kitchen”, Kyle Books

The Midget was known foremost for its barbecued ribs. One day Sammy got the idea to cut the meat off the ribs leftover from the night before and toss it in a pot of chili. Because most home cooks are not faced with loads of leftover rib ends, we’ve replaced them here with braised pork shoulder to make a chili that’s just as flavorful but without the work of slow cooking on the grill and having to take the meat off the bones.

Frito Pie
Credit Norman Van Aken


  • 11⁄2 tablespoons chile molido or chile powder
  • 1⁄2 tablespoon cumin Zest of 1 orange
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3  pounds pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes 3 guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded 12 ounces beer
  • 1⁄2 cup pure olive oil or bacon fat
  • 4  large cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, stemmed, seeded and minced 1 poblano chile, stemmed, seeded and minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 Spanish onion, diced (about 2 cups), plus more for garnish (optional) One 15-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1  cup of your favorite BBQ sauce
  • 2  cups Black Beans, or other cooked beans you like (if not using our recipe, more stock may be needed)
  • Jack cheese, grated, for garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Mix all of the marinade ingredients together in a large bowl or zip- tight baggie. Add the pork and marinate for an hour.

Meanwhile, roast the guajillo chiles for 4 to 5 minutes, until they become fragrant. Pour the beer in a small pot and bring to a simmer.

Remove the chiles from the oven and place in a bowl. Add the beer and let the submerged chiles steep for 15 minutes to soften. Transfer to a blender, pulse until roughly pureed, and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add the pork and cook until the meat is no longer pink in the middle.

Add the garlic, jalapeño, poblano, oregano and onion and cook, stirring, until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes.

Add the beer and guajillo mixture to the pork mixture and cook until the liquid is reduced by half.

Add the canned tomato sauce and lemon BBQ sauce. Reduce the heat and cook at a simmer until the meat is tender, about 2 hours.

Add the cooked black beans and simmer for about 10 minutes.


At this point, the chili only gets better from sitting for while. But, when ready to serve the Frito Pie, make sure the chili is good and hot.

Take a bag of corn chips and lay it sideways. Cut open the ‘top’ (read: side) of the bag and scoop in a generous helping of chili.

Garnish the chili with chopped onion and/or as much grated cheese as desired. Of course, sour cream, chopped bacon, scallions, and hot sauce are all fair game here — and when I say “fair”, I mean Texas State Fair here! Got some mac n’ cheese at this shin-dig?? Shoot, throw some in there! Go big, folks. This is Frito Pie, I’m Norman Van Aken, and this is my Word On Food.