Frito Pie

August 10, 2011
1 Ratings
Photo by Joseph DeLeo
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

Buda (pronounced BYOO-da), Texas is "famous" for a couple small-town festivals: "Red, White, and Buda," where people from around the state gather to race their wiener dogs, and "Budafest," the annual Christmas festival. At both events, Frito Pies are the stars of the concession stands. They're usually made with Fritos, Wolf brand chili, pre-shredded orange cheese product, and onions. My version classes it up a bit, with legit cheddar cheese and an honest Texas chili: no beans, no tomatoes. But it's close enough to the original to satisfy any Texas Fair-goer :) —arielleclementine

Test Kitchen Notes

We loved this Texas-style (no beans, no tomato) chili. The cinnamon and cocoa powder add a nice depth of flavor. The chunks of beef are fall-apart tender, and the semolina gives some thickness to the sauce. We strained the skins out after blending the reconstituted chiles to keep the sauce smooth. The Fritos are fun! We could easily eat this out of a bag, a nice big bowl is pretty hard to beat. —theediblecomplex

What You'll Need
  • 2 dried ancho chiles, stem and seeds removed
  • 2 dried guajillo chiles, stem and seeds removed
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 teaspoon whole coriander seed
  • 1 teaspoon whole cumin seed
  • 1 teaspoon chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons rendered beef fat (or bacon drippings, or veg oil)
  • 1 pound beef chuck roast, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1/2 large white onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 12 oz bottle of beer (I used Shiner Bock)
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tablespoon semolina
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • 4 small bags Fritos
  • 3 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 white onion, minced
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, for dolloping
  1. Tear the chiles into smaller pieces and toast in a medium-sized dutch oven set over medium heat for 1-2 minutes. Transfer toasted chiles to a blender, cover with 1 cup of very hot tap water, and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Blend the chiles and water until smooth.
  2. Toast the cumin and coriander seeds in the now empty pot for a minute or two, until fragrant, and then grind in a mortar and pestle until finely ground. Add the chile powder, cocoa powder, and kosher salt and stir to combine.
  3. Add the beef fat (or bacon fat, or oil) to the dutch oven, set over medium heat. Brown the diced beef in two batches, and then remove to sit on a plate.
  4. Add the onions to the pot and cook for 5 minutes, until soft and caramelized, being sure to scrape up the beef bits on the bottom of the pot. Add the minced garlic and spice blend, and cook for 30 more seconds. Add the browned beef and any accumulated juices, the chile puree, the cinnamon stick, and the bottle of beer. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat to low and simmer for 3 hours.
  5. Stir in the semolina and season the chili to taste with kosher salt.
  6. To assemble the Frito Pies, cut open the front of the bags of Fritos, and top each with a few spoonfuls of chili, shredded cheddar cheese, minced onion, and a dollop of sour cream. I hope you like it!

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • ml
  • Kayla
  • mcs3000
  • Bevi
  • mrslarkin
I have always loved food. My favorite books as a kid always featured food (eg. The Berenstain Bears Get the Gimmies- so much candy!) and I loved cooking shows like Yan Can Cook and The Frugal Gourmet. I started cooking the Thanksgiving dinner for my family when I was 13 years old. I have food52 to thank for inspiring me to come up with my own recipes, as well as for introducing me to a community of fantastic cooks and their amazing recipes. I try my best to cook locally and seasonally, and I tend to prefer straightforward, simple recipes where the ingredients get to shine. I live in wonderful Austin, Texas with my husband, Andy (a video game programmer) and my son, Henry (an 8-month-old who loves to eat).

27 Reviews

ml December 30, 2015
Chili's restaurant use to have this on its menu back in the "70's and '80's (it was one of the cheapest items and as a poor college student, I had it often). However, about 10 years ago, at a lunch with friends, I didn't see it on the menu, asked the waiter, and he had no idea what I was talking about!
Paula October 8, 2015
LOVE chili + Fritos + grated cheddar cheese of course.. when i was a little girl in Beeville, Texas we would just open up a mini bag of Fritos and put the chili on top and then add some cheese.. i thought it was FABULOUS then, and STILL must have some kinda tortilla in my chili.. with cheese, etc.. THIS Is REAL CHILI in my book:) SAVED
willsmom February 3, 2013
What does one do without access to the chilis? I can get these specific kinds of powder.
Emma R. November 6, 2012
Can't wait to make this! Yum!
Kayla July 20, 2012
Haha, at Pennsylvania football games this is called a "walking taco". Still delicious!!
mcs3000 February 18, 2012
I had a horse when I was little. Frito pie was sold at the barrel-racing competitions. it was the perfect lunch because we could eat it straight from the bag, sitting on our horses.
arielleclementine February 21, 2012
what a fantastic story mcs3000! love the image of eating frito pie on horseback!
Bevi February 16, 2012
Yay! I was hoping you would get a pretty photo!
arielleclementine February 16, 2012
oh hooray! thanks, Bevi!!
mrslarkin January 26, 2012
oh baby. yes! i love this recipe.
hardlikearmour January 26, 2012
Love this, AC! Don't know how I missed it the first time around.
luvcookbooks October 22, 2011
ArielleClementine, I'm from the Midwest and now, living in the Northeast, miss declasse foods like Frito Pie. I just read about it in Andre Dubus's memoir "Townie" and just came across your recipe. Thank you so much and I love the authentic looking photograph.
lorigoldsby August 11, 2011
We call these "walking tacos"
boulangere August 11, 2011
WAY too clever! Not to mention great. Love the "cut open the front of the bags of Fritos, and top each with a few spoonfuls of chili, shredded cheddar cheese, minced onion, and a dollop of sour cream."
boulangere August 11, 2011
During the school year, I teach kids' cooking classes in the afternoons, and they would absolutely LOVE this! Thank you, thank you, thank you!
boulangere August 11, 2011
I believe we should probably skip the beer.
checker August 11, 2011
I had one of these at a taco stand just inside the U.S. border at Tijuana, and I have wondered about them ever since. Thanks for the info!
arielleclementine August 11, 2011
Haha! Awesome! I'm happy to spread the word about frito pies!
nannydeb August 11, 2011
Takes me back to elementary school! I think they just didn't want to do dishes, therefore it was served in the bag.
arielleclementine August 11, 2011
Aren't Texas school lunches the best? My favorite was a deep fried burrito! I don't think I ate any vegetables in any of my K-12 school lunches :/
arielleclementine August 11, 2011
Thanks everybody for the very nice comments!!
Midge August 11, 2011
Love your version!
aargersi August 11, 2011
Hurrah for Frito Chili Pie!!!! The real kind, served in the frito bag.
mrslarkin August 10, 2011
yeah, Texas in da house!
dani August 10, 2011
This sounds wonderful! I'm always on the look out for a great chili recipe. I'll try it soon.
arielleclementine August 11, 2011
Thanks mama :)
Helenthenanny August 10, 2011
This was so yummy, Yeti!! Best frito pie I ever ate. And I've eaten A LOT of frito pies.