Cowboy Cactus Pork Chili, photo by Sonia Mendez GarciaPhoto by Sonia Mendez Garcia

Cowboy Cactus Pork Chili

Cuisine: Tex Mex
Servings: 12 servings

Chili! Chili!… and yes, it’s chilly!!! A big pot of hot chili for Sunday dinner sounds good to me right about now. I have mentioned in the past that I cook from my pantry. What that means, is that on most days, I cook from the ingredients that are available to me in my pantry. I was getting low on meat in my freezer and all I found was one pound of pork steak and some Mexican chorizo. In my canned goods I found black beans and cactus in a brine. To me, preparing chili is much like preparing soup, almost anything goes! For this night, I created a small chili bar, if you will. Serve the chili with some different toppings for your guest to choose from.


  • For the Chili
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound pork steak sliced into ½-inch pieces
  • 10 ounces Mexican pork chorizo
  • 1 medium sweet onion diced
  • 1 medium red bell pepper diced
  • 2-3 jalapeño peppers diced (removing seeds optional)
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 cups cactus in brine drained, rinsed, and diced (I prefer Doña María brand)
  • 3 large tomatillos diced
  • 1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 8-ounce can of tomato sauce
  • 3 cups black beans drained and rinsed
  • 5 tablespoons mild chili powder or chile ancho powder
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon hickory-flavored liquid smoke
  • 3 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons Mexican oregano
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • salt to taste
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • For the Garnish
  • 1/2 cup crumbled bacon bits
  • 1 cup shredded extra sharp cheese
  • cups homemade croutons
  • 1/3 cup green onions sliced

More like this


  1. In a large Dutch oven pot, preheat 2 tablespoons of olive oil to medium/high heat for 3 minutes. Add the pork steak, season with 1/3 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder and cook until browned nicely on all sides. Add the Mexican chorizo and cook for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the onions, bell pepper, jalapeño, and garlic. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes until softened. Add all of the remaining ingredients in the order listed. Stir well to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and cook for a good 45 minutes to 1 hour. Taste for salt as it cooks down and becomes thicker. Yields up to 12 servings. Serve with your favorite garnishes.

Chef Notes

To make homemade croutons, simply reserve the bacon grease. Slice whole wheat sandwich bread slices into large cubes. Cook on medium in a nonstick pan and when it starts to toast, drizzle some of the bacon grease onto the croutons. Cook until browned and crispy.

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