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.

And yes, I’m fully aware that the image above portrays a Frito Pie a la  "Straw Hat" variety because it’s in a bowl and not the bag.

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.

This entry originally appeared last year at the old Mattbites sight. It has magically reappeared because 1) I pigged out on a Frito Pie last weekend and 2) I find myself craving another one.


  1. says

    This vaguely stirs a memory in my mind that maybe I’ve heard of it before but I don’t recall eating one, and now I am sad. I may have eaten something similar but…. I love Fritos with a passion because they’re so salty, and I like chili on chips and stuff. Now I will go pout. Or go find some. Hehehe.

  2. says

    I used to do some of the art for the breakthroughs while in HS in San Antonio (breakthrough = that huge paper sheet people hold up that the football players run through at the start of the game).

    The BEST part of the game was getting a hot frito pie .. it would be in a food service traylet (you know.. the cardstock weight paper container you get fries in sometimes) with the frito bag in it, popped open and then the chili poured over it. Cheese would be sprinkled over that. (or was that nacho cheese liquid? mabybe also some jalapeno slices – oh yumm)

    I can not eat fritos without thinking about frito pie and thats the ONLY way I will eat chili (otherwise, I pretty much loathe chili, do NOT ask me why, I cant tell you).

    To me, its definitely a reminder of younger, not really any happier but less wrinkly times in the heart of Texas.

  3. says

    Dear Matt:

    I have credited you in the past for your excellent taste (although the snail thing tested it), professionaism, and propriety. This one single post has destroyed my opinion of you. A published (TWICE published I should say) piece including a recipe for Frito Pie is the kind of base, common crap I expect from other bloggers!

    Are you buying any of this? Nahhhhhhhh!!!!!! I have to admit that I’ve never heard of Frito Pie but damn, I’ve been eating fruit and yogurt and whole grains and crap like that for weeks AND I’M STARVING FOR SOMETHING LIKE THIS! Make some Frito Pie PLEASE and bring it over! Would a bottle of Grand Dame be a good pairing??? :)

  4. says

    Drat. I was GOING to stir-fry some veggies tonight for a virtuous dinner, but now I fear Frito Pie lust has the better of me.

    I grew up in south Louisiana where we used to get these at the local snowball stand (did you have those in Texas? I’m betting you did.), served exactly as you described. Now that I live in NJ, I have them much less frequently, but did manage to turn on a big group of yankees to this heavenly creation at last year’s Super Bowl party.

    Oh, sure, they made the obligatory objections … until they tasted it. They left us that evening with guilty smiles plastered all over their faces.

  5. says

    I don’t really like frito pie, but I am sure I could make something similar and more of a match to my cutural heritage by using marmite flavoured crisps instead of fritos. I could look upon you as my inspiration 😉

  6. Kate says

    Mmm…fritos and chili are excellent together. Though I haven’t had an original Frito Pie, I prefer Fritos with my chili versus any other addition. I grew up with “chili mac” which just means you add mushy macaroni to the chili, I think it’s just wasteful filler! The other thing I can’t stand with chili…oyster crackers! Blech. They just turn to mush once they’re mixed in.

  7. says

    Oh, yum.

    In our family, we call this “walking tostadas” and add shredded lettuce, ripe olives, and any other traditional (by which I mean Cali-Gringo-Mex) tostada toppings.

  8. J. Bo says

    How serendipitous! ONLY YESTERDAY I was detailing the beauty of Frito Pie to my sweetheart. It is oh-so very wonderful…

  9. says

    well slap me nekkid and call me wanda.

    one of the staples of weekend food i grew up with. my mom would make frito pies when it was just the two of us, and we’d set up the tv trays and watch the friday night movie on our black & white set. good times. thanks for bringing them flooding back to me. i’m gonna call my mom and set up a frito pie date.

  10. says

    wow between you and Homesick Texan its Frito Pie Monday , Yay !!!

    I have a recipe somewhere for Frito pie with venison Chili, caciotta cheese and creme fraiche. I need to go dig that up for the Super Bowl.

  11. says

    Great Post. Earlier I left a comment at Homesick Texan about a similar topic topic. I am a firm lover of Fritos. One item of note, in my experience, when you serve this dish in the single-serve bag, it is often referred to as a “Walking Taco”. I like that name. It’s catchy.

  12. says

    ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod no you didn’t! Oh hell no: Now I’m going to have to make some of this, I love it! We made it when I was younger and poor (still poor, now older). I need some of this right now…and roll around in it naked. It’s that good.

  13. says

    Matt-Thanks for bringing Frito Pie back to my radar! I had forgotten all about it. I haven’t had it in years! I must go now and get me some! (I am crawling to the door….)

  14. says

    You crack me up! I know…I do PR for a restaurant that was named one of the “Best Restaurants in the World.” It’s not uncommon for me to eat that awesome decadent food 4 nights a week…and sometimes more. When I’m not at the restuarant, I crave, and I mean CRAVE simple food. The other day, all I wanted was a grilled cheese. Simple Velveta..easy melting…velveta. True confession. Do I have to turn in my die-hard foodie membership card???

  15. says

    dear matt, guilty pleasures that blur the tacky/tasty fine line wouldn’t be half as pleasurable without the guilt! i’ve never had a frito pie, it sounds rather revolting, but i so totally want a piece of it thanks to your genius!

  16. says

    Previewing your Comment
    My husband waxes rhapsodical over this about once a year. He has not yet tempted me with such ick. 😉 Must be one of those childhood memory-type things.

  17. says

    Previewing your Comment
    My husband waxes rhapsodical over this about once a year. He has not yet tempted me with such ick. 😉 Must be one of those childhood memory-type things.

  18. says

    I remember eating this as a kid. A great salty, greasy, oniony flavor, I loved it!
    (the onions are very important)
    My mom also made tater-tot casserole. Did you ever eat that?

  19. Cheryl says

    My kingdom for a Frito Pie… Now, take a Frito Pie and wrap it in a tortilla (sans bag of course) and you have a Frito Burrito! I worked in Benecia, CA for a while and I actually convinced the manager of the local Taco Bell to put it on their menu (since it’s on the menu at Houston Taco Bells).

  20. says

    Ahhh, the Frito Pie. It’s a fundraising favorite up here – especially when a donation is made of caribou chili! I have to admit, though, that I didn’t discover it until a few months ago. Now I love it – and all the comforts and ease of it. Plus – here’s a little tundra survival tip in case you’re ever out here in the Alaskan Bush – apparently Frito’s make for excellent fire starters. Having learned that, it seems I’ve gone from a girl who had never heard of Frito Pie (probably because she was a pretentious food snob and, on principle, never touched Frito’s until a kind boyfriend taught her to live better than that), to one who never leaves home without them!

    Thanks for a great post, on a delicious treat that brings the crowds that raise the funds for art and music in rural Alaska!

  21. says

    A perfect dessert for this humble creation would be a fried honey bun. Melt a thick hunk of real butter in a small frying pan. Add a honey bun. Fry on each side until dark golden brown, carmelized almost to burning. Serve immediately, topped with your favorite vanilla ice cream.

    Humble, but extraordinarily delicious!

  22. says

    The more I eat the bland diet to which I am currently subjecting myself, the more things like this frito pie sound like the absolute best thing in the whole world!

  23. says

    Wow you just took me back to grade school days! Did anyone ever have “hot lunch” at school? Ok, maybe I am dating myself. But once a month they would serve some sort of all-American type lunch such as hamburger, sloppy joe, or hot dogs. And there was chili…served on top of fritos. I had forgotten all about that!

  24. says

    Sometimes I crave a marshmallow and peanut butter sandwich. Gross, huh? Mmmmm. See what happens to people when they come visit your site, we get all hungry! 😉

  25. says

    You know, I was just talking about this (sort of) the other day. I go to culinary school and know lots of Executive chefs…one of which doesn’t eat anywhere other than fine dining places. Turns his nose up at everything that’s worthy of the title “cuisine”

    Thanks for proving my point-that while you can enjoy and mold your life around good food, there’s nothing like a dirty water dog and a beer…

    Love your site by the way!

  26. Pam says

    I just found your blog a few months ago. I live in Austin and my favorite place to get frito pie is at the Shady Grove on Barton Springs Road. You can get sliced jalapenos on top to make it extra delicious. In a strange quirk of fate (?) I’ve been thinking about frito pie for days and as today is cold and rainy, so it must be in my immediate destiny! Thanks.

  27. bobby says

    Matt – The hardest thing I have to face now that I live in Austin again are the rivers of Frito Pie that flow everywhere.
    I work only steps from Jo’s Coffee that not only serves a traditional version but a pulled pork one as well. “oh, but I’m a purist, look at me” yes my friend I once thought the same way until that wonderfully sweet/spicy pulled pork combo was laid over some SALT-TAY Fritos and topped with cheese and cold onion. (you know how I am with that sweet-n-salty – didn’t you give me hell for raisins in salad forever?)! Next time you are in town let me treat you to one. It’s a mind scrambler!

  28. says

    i think we ate these in elementary school in san antonio, but they were called “straw hats.”

    they were effin’ fabulous.

    btw, someone told me (from dallas, i mean so we we can’t really trust him), that they pour the chili INTO the bag of fritos and eat it out of the bag that way. (i think someone commented earlier that it was a “walksing tostada”)

    how do you eat chili out of a bag with your hands?!?!?

  29. says

    I think if you showed Frito pie to French people, you’d get yourself into some deep trouble!!!
    Man did I enjoy reading your post!!! :-)

  30. Nelly says

    Also growing up in South Texas, I am feeling your love for the Frito Pie. HOWEVER, I must disagree with some very important points in your opinion. Chili WITH BEANS, lots of it and you must add a scoop full of sour cream. You just have to. It’s in the law books. Congratulations on your nomination! I randomly came across your blog while scouting through my other feeds. I love it. Keep up the good work.

  31. Leigh says

    In my little hometown in Eastern Washington it was called a Spoon Taco (I guess because you ate it out of the bag with a spoon?). Served at every fair & carnival, with optional sides of shredded lettuce, tomatoes & salsa. I finally made them for my husband & son, now they now what all the fuss is about!

  32. Jay Howard says

    A couple of things…

    1) You gotta try jalapenos and a dollop of sour cream on your Frito Pie

    2) Ranch 616, an award winner in Austin, has some GREAT variations on Frito Pie (with venison, mango pico, out of the bag, etc.)

  33. Larry says

    They eat a lot of frito pie done the way you describe up here in Oklahoma. Now I grew up in the west side of west texas eating the cassarole version. For me, the corn flavor really comes out better when it is baked and the leftovers for breakfast the next morning make it twice as nice. My Mom always used real chili, not the gringo version. I will just have to make some this week.

  34. mouse says

    A further heresy:

    Hot Chili w/beans:
    On Cheetos next?
    And then on a Cheetos/ crushed Doritos combo?

    End with dessert of warm-to-hot homemade applesauce topped with crushed Oreos.

    No wonder the Patriot Act scares me silly.

  35. alex says

    “Wow you just took me back to grade school days! Did anyone ever have “hot lunch” at school? Ok, maybe I am dating myself. But once a month they would serve some sort of all-American type lunch such as hamburger, sloppy joe, or hot dogs. And there was chili…served on top of fritos. I had forgotten all about that!”

    I think my favorite day was the day when i got to spoon the chili into the bag of fritos and shake it, and then eat it with a spoon.
    ahh childhood.

  36. says

    I just ate half a bag of Fritos and am entirely TORKED off because I could have used them for Frito Pie. Which I now want desperately…. :)

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