Frito Pie

Frito pie, essentially chili, cheese, and tortilla chips, is legendary in the midwest and southwest. And though the classic is made in a bag of Fritos that’s split open and smothered with chili, cheese, and your favorite chili toppings, you can easily make it a little more upscale.

Several Frito pies made in open bags of Fritos.

Your first Frito pie tends to stand out in memory. The chill in the air. The sun slung low in the sky. The faded jeans and flannel. The beer that helped you succumb. The anticipation—holy moly, the anticipation. And the curious manner in which, just after the frenzy, it felt intensely tempting to shout about it from the rooftops. We know you want to tell us. So go on, don’t be shy, you’re among friends. Tell us what it was like your first time encountering the obscenely enticing melding of Fritos, chili, cheese, sour cream, and otherwise known as Frito Pie. And then tell us how you’ve become a little more mature about it since then. Like opting for a bowl rather than glopping chili and toppings on chips using a hastily ripped open bag. And any and all other deviations you may have since taken.–Renee Schettler

*How to open your bag of Fritos for Fritos pie

One of our recipe testers is an experienced Fritos pie aficionado and has the following advice: Turn the Fritos bag on its side and take scissors and cut across the top (which was, until you turned it, the long side of the bag). Like opening an envelope. You now have a nice pouch that will hold your chips and your chili.

Frito Pie

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  • (1)
  • 5 M
  • 5 M
  • Serves 1
5/5 - 1 reviews
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Place a small handful of chips in each serving bowl or mug (or cut open individual bag of Fritos per *How to open your bag of Fritos for Frito pie above).

Spoon the chili onto the chips and top with the cheese, more chips, sour cream, and jalapeño. Grab your spoon and a fistful of napkins and let loose. Originally published October 9, 2014.

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Recipe Testers' Reviews

Frito pie! (And that is what it is called. To say "Frito Chili Pie" is redundant, as it always has chili.) Count me in the camp of Texans who grew up eating this at high school football games. And at the burger shack one step away from my high school campus that catered to hungry, carless underclassmen. I survived my freshman year on Frito Pie. I rarely put chili over Fritos these days, but I do put it over tortilla chips, a holdover from my Frito-Pie-eating youth. But even if you don't have a childhood memory, give it a shot for your next football gathering. Here's a food easy to eat standing up at a crowded party.

The bag is the bowl. And it's really pretty good. Here's a tip: The directions for cutting the bag in this recipe are designed more for a pretty picture than real football stadium eating. Do it like the concession stands do: Turn the Fritos bag on its side, and take scissors and cut across the top (which was, until you turned it, the long side of the bag). Like opening an envelope. You now have a nice pouch that will hold your chips and your chili. Traditional toppings are grated cheese, pickled jalapeños, and diced raw onion, but feel free to vary it as you see fit. Don't get creative with your chili here. You want a standard Texas chili. Nothing soupy or tomatoey, as it will make your chips soggy. Give it a shot, especially if you have a bunch of teenagers to feed!

This Frito Pie recipe deserves a 10 if for no other reason than it's just a fun thing to make and eat. I love eating out of those little cereal boxes (for the fun of it, not necessarily the cereal!), and this goes one step further. What isn't to love about Fritos, chili, cheese, and sour cream topped with a few slices of jalapeño? I can just imagine myself on a Friday night standing at the concession wagon waiting my turn and watching some good high school football. Or lounging around at Tiger Stadium on a Saturday night hassling Alabama fans while I smugly offer them a taste of my epicurean delight. Geaux Tigers! Eat Frito Pie!

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  1. I first heard widespread rumors of the legendary Frito Pie as a 12-year-old boy scout at summer camp. Six years later, I have become a connoisseur of this diverse dish. Whether Fritos or Doritos, jalapeños or hot sauce, beans or no beans, I have seen (and tasted) them all, and this Frito Pie recipe is perfect—delicious, fun, and easy to make. The most important thing I have learned is that cheese and sour cream are essential, and jalapeños are only good in small doses. I don’t care if Troop 7 is watching, and you feel the need to prove your worth and manhood at age 12 by eating hot peppers. It’s not worth it. Frito Pie is at its best when it has a balanced complexity of temperatures, flavors, and textures. Hot chili should be balanced with cold sour cream. Spicy chili and peppers should be tempered by the dairy concoction of sour cream and cheese. The brittle-not-yet-soggy chips should be surrounded by the smorgasbord of other ingredients. That’s the beauty of Frito Pie. If you feel the need to add vegetables, spices, or any other ingredient under the sun, you can make it work. There are no rules…except go easy on the jalapeños.

  2. I don’t know whether this is the American version of nachos or the precursor of nachos, but who cares! It’s a favorite at sporting events, campsites, and kids parties. My now-adult kids take a thermos of chili and bags of Fritos when they go skiing to have for lunch. What a great invention!

  3. If I were lucky enough to have two more sons I think I’d name the first one Frito and the second one Pie. It’s also included in my personal (soon-to-be-published) cookbook of nutball recipes including Beer Can Chicken and Dishwasher Poached Salmon.

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