Frito pie is the ingenious combination of a fabulously meaty chili on top of crunchy Fritos corn chips. Dinner (or game day) doesn’t get any better!
What are Frito pies? (aka walking tacos and Frito boats)
It’s not a pie, first off. Frito pie consists of chili, ladled over Frito corn chips, often served up with a plastic spoon in individual Frito corn chip bags sliced down the middle. It can also be baked up casserole style, or just served in bowls, like I’m doing.
Wondering about the history of this glorious junk food with notes of chilaquile, nacho and chili dog? As is so often the case with famous recipes, it’s disputed. According to Wikipedia the earliest known recipe for Frito pie was published in Texas in 1949. Since then this delicious chili recipe has become a Tex Mex classic that has become a staple food at sports events, state fairs, bakes sales, etc. all over the country. (Here’s the inside ‘scoop’, if you’re interested.)
As for Frito pie served up in the chip bags, it’s fun… but let’s just say it’s not very practical. And when I’m hangry, a cute concept just doesn’t cut it. So my version of Frito pie is served in bowls, where chili belongs, not in bags. ‘Nuf said.
crock pot frito pie ingredients
Frito pie is nothing without a really great chili. For mine I’ve chosen to go the meaty route. I combine stew meat with ground sirloin so this is definitely a meat lovers version. The slow cooker does all the work except for one critical step ~ browning the meats. After this, everything goes into the crock pot and perks away until dinnertime.
- ground sirloin + beef stew meat
- 3 pounds in this bad boy. I prefer a small-ish size for the chunks of beef, so if yours are very large, you might consider cutting them down.
- crushed tomatoes
- tomato paste
- canned chiles
- pinto beans
- in this case, use cans, but be sure to drain them first, I don’t want any of that canned bean water spoiling my chili.
- chili powder, ground cumin, smoked paprika, bay leaves, and salt
- masa harina
- this will add a little body to the chili, plus flavor.
- I add this at the very last minute, to taste. Usually less than a teaspoon.
- apple cider vinegar
- that little pop of acidity works wonders.
- buy the original size, original flavor. The flavored Fritos will not work as well.
why is Frito pie so popular?
The concept is pure genius and here’s why: chili is delicious but can be quite rich and heavy. The salty crunch of corn chips brings the perfect textural contrast to the meal, and of course corn is a natural pairing with chili. Can you do this with regular corn chips? Definitely, but there’s something special about Fritos 🙂
the Fritos ~ under or over the chili?
Under. And over, if you like, I do both. But definitely under. They start out crunchy and get a little softened as your meal goes on…so good.
Frito pie variations
Once you try Frito pie you’re going to become obsessed, so here are a few ideas to keep it coming…
Frito pie sloppy joes ~ serve up your chili on a bun, with Fritos.
Frito pie casserole ~ Layer Fritos into a casserole dish, top with chili and cheese, and bake just until the cheese is melted.
Frito pie dip ~ Serve hot chili dip style, with larger ‘scoop’ sized Fritos.
Frito pie stuffed squash or potatoes
Skillet Frito pie ~ Cook or heat chili in a cast iron skillet and top with Fritos for serving.
Frito pie wrap ~ wrap your chili and Fritos in a large burrito sized flour tortilla.
Crock Pot Frito Pie
- large crock pot
- 2 lbs stew beef, cut in smallish chunks
- 1 lb ground sirloin
- olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced
- 3 cloves minced garlic
- 28 ounces canned crushed tomatoes
- 10 ounces can Ro-tel (diced tomatoes and chilies)
- 3 ounces tomato paste
- 12 ounces beer
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 Tbsp chili powder, or more to taste
- 1 Tbsp smoked paprika
- 2 tsp (heaped) cumin
- 28 ounces canned pinto beans, drained
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1-2 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 10 ounces Fritos corn chips
for thickening the chili
- 1/4 cup masa harina
- 1/2 cup warm water
- shredded cheddar or Mexican blend cheese
- finely chopped red onion
- sliced black olives
- finely chopped jalapeño peppers
- Season your meat with salt. Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet and brown the stew meat in 2 batches. Add to your crock pot.
- Brown the ground sirloin in the same pan, breaking it apart with your spatula as it cooks. You want it to be finely crumbled. Add to the crock pot.
- Add the onion, garlic, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, beer, bay leaves, and spices to the crock pot. Give everything a good stir. Cover and cook on high for 3 hours, then add the drained beans, cover again, and turn the machine to low for another 3 hours.
- Mix the masa harina with the water and stir into the chili. Taste to adjust the seasonings. I add the sugar and vinegar now, to taste. Let cook, uncovered, for 10-15 more minutes, until ready to serve. Switch the crock pot to the keep warm setting for serving, if you like.
- To serve put Fritos into the bottom of serving bowls, and ladle some of the chili over them. Top with the garnishes of your choice.