Frito Pie

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I've gone through great lengths to not let my professional culinary experience get the best of me. No amount of food tours, international travel, trade shows, dinners and tasting panels will ever go to my head, no sir! (Ok, written down it sounds exciting but trust me, it is a job.) Underneath the exterior of a man who tries his best to live up to his corporate image is a professional dork of the highest order. If you don't believe me I've got photographic evidence of me in a wig with, er, um, nevermind. Back to the food, the real reason why I keep this blog.

Sometimes, just sometimes, I find it necessary to step away from my professional life and get back to basics. And when I say basics I mean the tastes and flavors that i grew up with on the gulf coast of Texas, however-bad-for-you and trashy they may be.

Enter Frito Pie.

I was prompted to write this entry about my beloved Frito Pie because just today I was talking about it with a co-worker. I went on blabbing for about 6 minutes about how it's been forever since I've had one and how if I had my druthers I'd eat my weight in fritos and chili and get fat (ok, fatter) and never leave the house and wear torn up sweatpants and a wifebeater and drink nothing but Big Red and become a giant blob of a human being–all with tattoos, of course. After my co-worker let me gab nonstop (thanks, Sandy!) she turned to me, stared me straight in the eyes and asked:


Ok, people, if you keep a vegan blog, a blog focusing on healthy eating or living, or have any type of political agenda against bad taste or junk food then now is a great time to point your browser to another web site. You see, Frito Pie is so wrong that it's right, so bad that it's good, and that makes me very, very happy.

Just like margaritas and caesar salads, Frito Pie's origins aren't completely clear and have been debated for many years. Everyone seems to stake their claim to its invention, but in this case I could care less. New Mexico, Texas, Jupiter or Mars, it could be from Heaven as far as I'm concerned. Just keep them coming.

Ok, enough already. What exactly is a Frito Pie? A staple of county fairs, drive-ins, bake sales and ballparks for decades, Frito Pie nirvana is created when an individual serving-size bag of Fritos is spit open along the back and topped with chili, grated cheese and chopped onions. You may encounter different methods such as baking all the ingredients like a casserole but be assured that you're reading nothing more than good old-fashioned heresy.

As with all recipes of high quality pedigree, Frito Pie's ingredients and proportions do matter. I believe it's most authentic when prepared with canned chili without beans, and Frito Pies must be made with Frito-Lay brand corn chips. Anything less and it's not a Frito Pie. A scoop of chili is sufficient as your goal is to not drown the chips but slighty coat them, leaving them crunchy.

Ok, at this point I know what you're thinking: man this sounds absolutely atrocious and horrible and packed with sodium, artificial ingredients, saturated fat and I can't wait to try it! Seriously though, I won't fault you or get angry if you leave hate mail as I realize that regional "specialties" aren't for everyone. We can't all love cheese curds from Wisconsin, a grinder from New England, or even Poutine from Quebec (Wait a minute, I love all those things so scratch that point I was feebly attempting to make.)

Tomorrow I'll return to my world of artisan foods, but tonight I'll be indulging my inner Texan and damaging some arterial walls. I'm off to the kitchen, y'all!

Frito Pie

Fritos Corn Chips
Chili (without beans)
Grated Cheddar Cheese
Chopped Onion

Heat chili and pour on top of Fritos. Top with cheese and onions. Because it's usually served on the go I have omitted exact amounts needed. It's always to taste, it seems. This recipe can also be prepared with vegetarian chili with delicious results. It's really the Fritos that make it so bad for you.

22 Responses to “Frito Pie”

  1. Anonymous Liz 

    Oh yeah, baby! Way to indulge that inner junkfoodie.

    Fritos are, without a doubt, the guilty pleasure snackfood. At least for me, and you too, it seems. Crunchy, salty, oily yum. Sun Chips if I must, Fritos if I gotta!

  2. Anonymous Kathy 

    The best thing about this recipe (okay, definitely not the tastiest, but good news for some of us) is that Fritos are vegan. It's true. Just cook up some vegan 'ground like chili action and cut up some tomatoes instead of cheese-- or use the soy cheese to discretion-- and you're gravy. =o)

  3. Anonymous tami 

    fritos + chili = crazy delicious

  4. Anonymous Matt 


    Are you SERIOUS??? NO WAY!!! Ok, that makes me feel even better about indulging myself with this bad, bad snack.


  5. Anonymous melissa 

    i am starrrrrving now for a frito pie. i omit the onions, but other than that, a frito pie is a frito pie is a frito pie is manna from heaven. i have friends from the northeast who think i'm some sort of heathen. so beit. if loving frito pie is wrong, i don't want to be right. thank you matt. i was wondering what to have for dinner tonight. and i *will* be washing it down with a texas original - ice cold big red. somebody stop me...

  6. Anonymous Angela 

    I had me a gut buster (Jim calls them gut busters!) a while back and it sure was tasty. The chili was homemade. And guess what else I had with it? A Little Debbie Nutty Bar and a Dr. Pepper! Woo hoo, can you say seventh grade snack bar? Uh huh. You can take the girl out of Texas, but you can't take Texas out of the girl.

  7. Anonymous Laura 

    This takes me back to my New Mexican roots! We used to buy it from the school cafeteria for 99 cents. Although, for a proper frito pie, nuevo mexicano style, you eat it in one of those little paper boats, and with that goopy nacho cheese (which, admittedly, almost sends the whole concoction over the edge, but with some jalapenos, its like a combo frito pie/nacho extravaganza... its fabulous).

  8. Anonymous catherine 

    Hi Matt, Love your site. It must say something about me that this is the first post I've wanted to comment on... In my Southern family, we had something related to chili pie called taco salad. Basically, lettuce, tomatoes, kidney beans, grated cheddar cheese, ground meat (if desired). Russian dressing (I think) and -- you got it -- Fritos sprinkled on top. I made this vegetarian-style all through college before giving it up. Every now and then, though, I get a hankering...

  9. Anonymous John 

    How long before chefs start serving foofy versions of Frito pie? The food mags have been spiffing up poutine lately.... Can Frito pie be far behind?

    The Roaring Fork restaurant here in Scottsdale, Arizona, serves actual Frito pie, in the little Frito bag at the bar. Yum.

  10. Anonymous Michael 

    mmmm...Frito Pie... Yeah - it's best in the bag! I agree with John. Heck - in Austin - even Sonic had it on the menu.

    Suppose Charlie Trotter would feature veggie chili made with organic bulghur wheat and hand-cut Fritos... FANCY!

    Gotta love the trash - but - then I live in the hometown of Little Debbie AND MoonPie!


  11. Anonymous Michael 

    mmmm...Frito Pie... Yeah - it's best in the bag! I agree with John. Heck - in Austin - even Sonic had it on the menu.

    Suppose Charlie Trotter would feature veggie chili made with organic bulghur wheat and hand-cut Fritos... FANCY!

    Gotta love the trash - but - then I live in the hometown of Little Debbie AND MoonPie!


  12. Anonymous L 

    I'm not a frito person, but this sounds scrummy. And definitely is inspiring me for some trash-gourmet cuisine of my own.

    oh - and don't hate me, but I just tagged you for a meme!

  13. Anonymous Piperita 

    I Want Frito Pie right now! I had pizza and profiteroles, but i still have space for the frito pie...
    Wonderfull blog and pictures too!!!

  14. Anonymous bea at La tartine gourmande 

    Hi Matt,

    My first time on your blog although now I can see I had admired your pics on Flickr already. Many congratulations on a nice designed little treasure!

    And for the cheese, my hubbie is Irish. So with him Irish and me French, we make a cheese eating happy pair! Thanks for the insight!

  15. Anonymous bea at La tartine gourmande 

    You are added to my list of favs, pretty high on the list actually! ;-)

  16. Anonymous FRQSTR=18819474x198205:1:4320|18819474|18819474|18819474|18819474 


  17. Anonymous Kevin 

    OH MY GOD I thought I was the only one who has ever been forced to eat this. And by forced I mean, OH MY GOD I will gladly swallow it whole. I love this stuff. It's the epitome of trash: I see myself eating it in a panelled room on a TV tray whilst I watch reruns of Threes Company. It's like a sodium heart attack that will blow out your bottom butt seriously, who cares. SOOOO good. Okay, I'm done.

  18. Anonymous Jon 

    I havent thought about poutine in a couple years and I wish I haven't since now I have a huge craving for some.

  19. Anonymous Beth 

    Oh, this is so excellent. We used to have belly bomber days in the school cafeteria! Excellent ideas on the spiffication of the Frito Pie. Am making mental notes...

  20. Anonymous bollo 

    I just made Frito Pie last night, and even if you dog the baking, that's where the taste lies. I took a 9x9 pan, dumped most of a big bag of Fritos in, can of Hormel Chili with beans, topped with kraft Mexican grated cheese and threw it in the oven for 15 minutes at 350.

    My roommate and I gorged oursleves while his girlfriend looked on in horror and disbelief.

    Sidenote: for those in Chicago, Silver Cloud by Damen and North Ave has a killer Frito-Pie on the menu. Perfect for hangovers with a bloody mary.

    i heart frito pie.

  21. Anonymous Lau 

    Great foodblog.. and what a nice fat and salty and yummy idea .. mmmmm

  22. Blogger 日月神教-向左使 

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About me

  • I'm Matt Armendariz
  • From Los Angeles, California
  • A man with a passion for good food and a wonderful life with a dash of irreverence. Read at your own risk. Advertising director by day, wino by night. All photos on this site by Matt Armendariz.
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