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.

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.

Chili and grated cheddar on top of Fritos in open mini bags of Fritos.

Frito Pie

5 / 2 votes
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.
David Leite
CourseMains
CuisineTex Mex
Servings1 servings
Calories582 kcal
Prep Time5 minutes
Total Time5 minutes

Ingredients 

  • One (2-ounce) bag Fritos (or other tortilla chips), (or substitute smaller individual bags of Fritos)
  • 1 cup homemade chili
  • Shredded Cheddar cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Minced or thinly sliced jalapeños

Instructions 

  • 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.
The Southern Cowboy Cookbook

Adapted From

The Southern Cowboy Cookbook

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Nutrition

Serving: 1 portionCalories: 582 kcalCarbohydrates: 66 gProtein: 18 gFat: 30 gSaturated Fat: 8 gMonounsaturated Fat: 10 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 44 mgSodium: 1647 mgFiber: 14 gSugar: 4 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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Recipe © 2013 John Rivers. Photo © 2013 BeefItsWhatsForDinner. All rights reserved.

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!

I may be the only person in America who has never had Fritos and chili before (at least according to my husband), but it always sounded rather gross to me, especially eating it out of a bag. Well, I’ve been enlightened. I’d made some black bean chili earlier in the week, so my husband ran out for Fritos. The piping hot bowl of Fritos, chili, sour cream, and shredded Cheddar can now be called comfort food in my home. The Fritos softened up nicely and gave the chili a wonderful new flavor profile. I’m convinced…and hooked.

I know Frito Pie from New Mexico, but I hadn’t realized it had trekked eastward to Texas! There is something perfect about the combination of Frito and chili and cheese, served in the bag, but it took this recipe to reunite me with my beloved Frito Pie.

I’m a bit of a purist, so this for me would be fine with just Fritos, chili, and cheese. However, nothing at all is wrong with gilding the lily a bit and adding the nacho-type toppings of sour cream and jalapeños. Once you’ve done that, there are probably other ideas: sub a Mexican cheese, add cilantro, use pickled jalapeños, pour on some salsa, sprinkle a few pepitas atop, add onions or scallions, to name a few. I’d also like to add that I prefer a different proportion. I’d be happier with a greater proportion of chili to chips, by nearly half the chips. For me, a 1-ounce bag of Fritos would be perfect with 1 cup chili (this is also how I prefer my pasta, with lots more sauce than carb!). And, while I suppose you could substitute a different type of corn chip, I think you’d lose not only the tradition of this pie, but also a good deal of the charm. Speaking of charm—nope, no paper banana boat or long bowl needed! Frito Pie is best and properly eaten right out of the bag!

Frito Pie–simple but SO good! This must be done with Fritos, not just any corn chip. Also, I think this calls for a very basic chili made with ground beef and pinto beans. I used a very sharp Cheddar cheese and full-fat sour cream. Come on folks, who are we kidding—we aren’t doing this for health reasons, but just the plain goodness and enjoyment of it! While perfect for a cold night at a football game, I think this sounds good on a warm summer day by the pool with a VERY cold bottle of beer.

What can I say? This recipe is the perfect Frito Pie—especially if you can find one of those red-checkered paper-boats to serve it in. This is the ideal sports party dish. Everyone could bring a different part of the recipe, and it only takes a few minutes to put together. This one is worth revisiting or trying for the first time. It’s super fun.

I love chili served with tortilla chips, sour cream, and grated cheese, so this was always going to be wonderful in my mind. I’m not familiar with Fritos or eating Frito Pie, but I can imagine if I was watching a game on a cold night, I would love this dish. I used Doritos Cool Original flavor corn chips and made a chili to my own specifications (onion, garlic, minced chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, kidney beans, chili powders, and seasoning). I topped the tortilla chips with chili, cheese, sour cream, sliced jalapeños, and some scallions for contrast in color and texture.

I hadn’t originally planned on making this Frito Pie recipe, but after glancing at it, I couldn’t get it out of my head for days. We went ultra simple–I made some slow-cooker chili from a seasoning packet, which the family thought was “mom doesn’t really want to cook tonight” chili. But when I whipped out the assorted toppings and they saw that Fritos were in the mix…well, you would’ve thought I’d turned into Santa Claus. Rave reviews all around. I will definitely be making a version of this for game days!

I enjoyed the ingredients, especially the Fritos, the ease of making the dish, (we used a bowl as a serving vessel), and the fact that it allowed everyone an opportunity to participate in assembling it. We had 2 types of chili–meat and vegetarian options–in slow cookers. Some people made two trips to try both types of chili for our Frito Pie.

This Frito Pie is a fun, easy dish that tastes good. It can be made with healthier ingredients, although I wouldn’t argue that this is a healthy dish. I made the Frito Pie twice—once with actual Fritos and another time with healthier corn tortilla chips. I couldn’t tell the difference. Essentially, what matters is the type of chili. (I used Annie’s brand natural chili but you can substitute green chili.) You don’t have to use sour cream, but the cheese is necessary. If the chili is hot enough, then you don’t have to melt the cheese.

It’s that sports time of year again when so many parents find themselves standing on the sidelines of games until after the dinner hour with lots of hungry mouths to fill. Last year, one mom suggested we have dinner after the game with all the families. We were sorry we started this late in the year because it worked so well and was a huge success. We decided to do Frito Pie, and it was soooo easy! Several moms volunteered to make crockpots full of chili. (I used my family’s favorite chili recipe, but any recipe would work.)

Make sure if you make your chili ahead of time and are just reheating in your slow cooker that you watch it closely and keep it on low. If you have a “warm” setting, this is better than low for reheating. Just make sure that if it’s a big pot, you start it early, because it will take several hours to get good and hot if you have a lot that’s cold from the refrigerator. To convert your favorite chili recipe to CrockPot, just brown your meat and onions and whatever else needs to be browned first. If you plan to drain the fat, then transfer that to the slow cooker, adding all remaining ingredients and cooking on low for as many hours as possible. I like to use liners for my slow cooker to make cleanup easier, too, although you will still probably end up washing the cooker. Still, it’s much easier to clean up than without a liner.

Other parents that night brought sour cream, salsa, hot sauce, and lots and lots of cheese (always bring more cheese than you think you will need because you will go through it), beverages, paper products, and, of course, the small bags of Fritos. We had bowls also, and we did find that most people used one since it offered more room than the small bag of chips. Almost everyone incorporated the Fritos in their chili in some way, as they have more flavor than plain tortilla chips. They’re more like cornbread in a chip and perfect for chili. And I love that you can freeze any leftovers—if you have them—and they’ll be even better than the original. Truly a win-win.




About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.


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8 Comments

  1. 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!

  2. 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.