Phil and I both love to cook, and we like to think of ourselves as foodies.  However, when it came time to plan a menu for a get-together we hosted on Sunday made up of families with young children, I decided to go a different route and select something that would be yummy for both kids and adults.  The selection?  Frito Pie!  As much as we love sophisticated (and healthy) food, sometimes there is just no substitute for good old-fashioned comfort (white trash) food.

I got this recipe from the Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker: Recipes for Entertaining, and it turns out Frito Pie is served regularly at fairs, sporting events and fundraisers in New Mexico.  There they actually slit a single serving bag of Fritos open, put it on a plate and top with the chili.  The recipe was VERY CLEAR that you had to use FRITOS.  No substituting generic brands, tortilla chips, tortillas or any other type of corn chip.  Turns out Fritos have the exact consistency needed for soaking up the chili without losing their crunch.  So you just have to go for it and enjoy their deep-fried, chemically processed, trans-fatty goodness.

I’m here to tell you that this might have been one of the most popular dishes we’ve ever served at a party.  We went through FOUR large bags of Fritos.  The adult version of the chili was completely gone and the kid’s version had only a couple of servings left by evening’s end.  Best of all, it was easy to make and served a large crowd.  I promised everyone I’d share the recipe, so here it is.  Enjoy!

Recipe for Frito Pie

2 lbs. lean ground beef
8-10 garlic cloves, chopped
2-4 tbsp (or more) New Mexican red chile powder (see note)
4 tsp ground cumin
2 28 oz cans diced tomatoes
2 16 oz cans pinto beans, rinsed and drained
Salt and black pepper to taste
Fritos – (make sure you have plenty – they go fast!)
Shredded cheddar cheese
1 large white onion chopped (for topping, optional)

1.  Heat a skillet over medium heat.  Add the ground beef and garlic and cook until there is no pink.  Drain the meat and place in the slow cooker.  Add the ground chile, cumin, tomatoes with their juice and pinto beans.  Stir well to combine.  Cover and cook on LOW for 4-5 hours.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

2.  To serve, place a handful of Fritos on a dinner plate.  Top with a ladleful of chili, some shredded cheese and onion if desired.  We also put out sour cream, salsa and guacamole as extra toppings.

Recipe Notes:

  1. I realized as I was typing this recipe that I only used 1 can of 28 oz. tomatoes, and I thought it turned out delicious.  So I guess you can decide how tomato-y you want the pie to be.
  2. For the chile powder, you can find New Mexico chile powder in specialty stores or even Whole Foods.  I actually used a couple of different blends from Penzey’s Spices (the BEST spices ever, imho).  For the kids version, I used 1 tbsp. of regular chili powder and 1 tbsp. of taco seasoning so it wouldn’t be too spicy.  For the adults, I used 2 tbsp. of Penzey’s Medium Hot chili powder, 1 tbsp. of their Chili 3000 blend and 1/2 tbsp. of Chipotle Chile powder.  The point is, you can use any combination of chile powder, but just make sure it’s high quality.  The grocery store blends probably won’t cut it if you want an “authentic” taste.  Ha!
  3. Don’t forget – Fritos and ONLY Fritos

Categories: Cooking, Entertaining, Friendship, Recipes · Tags: , , , , , , , ,



  1. Um…YUM! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Frito Pie…does that fall under a baked good? Seeing that I only bake…. It is pie… 🙂

  3. That was great! Thanks for the wonderful evening. Can’t wait till Spring, for the next BBQ

  4. Good news, Julie.

    Original Fritos ingredients are limited to whole corn, corn oil, and salt. No artificial coloring or preservatives.

    Fritos (original and barbecue flavor) are a vegan snack.

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