Frito pie is essentially chili either served ladled over or topped with Frito® corn chips - it’s not an actual pie. The combination of meat, chili and corn chips, makes it appealing to every member of the family.
I make the ground beef chili in a baking or casserole dish on the stove then top it with generous amounts of Cheddar and pepper jack cheese and bake until it’s melted for a one-pan meal. The cheesy chili is topped with handfuls of Fritos®, sour cream, pickled jalapeños, diced yellow onion and sliced green onion prior to serving. This chili recipe is made without beans, just as Texans prefer. Frito pie is also believed to have been created in Mexico and popularized in the American Southwest, with first published mentions of the dish in the US coming from Texas.
Ground beef – I use a blend of 80/20 ground beef which means it’s 80% lean beef and 20% fat. The fat adds flavor though it can be swapped for a leaner cut, like 90/10. Look for ground beef with a red color, when it turns brown on the outside it has oxidized.
Canned tomatoes – I add canned diced tomatoes which add a rich tomato flavor and break down well into the chili during the quick simmer time. Look for cans with no preservatives – they break down quickly into the sauce.
Tomato paste – Tomato paste adds a highly concentrated tomato flavor while helping to thicken the chili. While I typically recommend buying tomato paste in a tube so it can be resealed, you can use the whole can called for in this recipe.
Spices – This chili is seasoned with a combination of paprika which adds a deep color to the chili, while the Ancho chili powder adds a deep, sweet and smoky flavor. Ancho chili powder comes from dried poblano peppers, so it has a mild heat.
Beer – Lager beer is cooked with the chili to provide flavor as well as a liquid to keep the chili from drying out. If you don’t want to cook with beer, swap it with chicken stock.
Cheese – Shredded Cheddar cheese and pepper jack cheese are spread over the top of the chili in a skillet or baking dish before it’s baked. Both shredded cheeses are semi-soft so they melt well, adding a stingy, cheesy layer over the Frito pie.
Fritos® – Frito corn chips add a satisfying crunch to this casserole-style meal.
Instructions for Frito Chili Pie
Step 1: Cook the ground beef
Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium heat, add the oil and heat through. Add the beef and cook until browned, about 8 minutes. Season with salt.
Step 2: Add the onions.
Then add the onion and sauté until opaque, about 6 minutes.
Step 3: Season the chili
Next, stir in the chili powder and paprika. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste and beer, stirring to combine.
Step 4: Simmer the chili
Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer until the mixture thickens, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Step 5: Spread cheese on top
Heat oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Evenly spread the cheeses on top and bake until the cheeses have melted, about 20 minutes.
Step 6: Serve
Serve topped with sour cream, Fritos, green onions, jalapeños and onion.
Chili Cheese Frito Pie Variations
Swaps to make
Easily add 1 (12- ounce) can of drained pinto beans to this recipe.
Swap the ground beef in this recipe with another lean ground meat like turkey or chicken.
Some iterations of the dish serve small, single-use bags of Fritos (there are even chili cheese flavored corn chips now) with chili ladled over the top, my chili Frito pie is made in a skillet or casserole dish to easily serve a crowd.
Serve any leftovers of the Frito chili cheese spooned over grilled hot dogs for an easy chili cheese dog.
The chili can be made in a pot then added to a casserole dish or baking dish.
In a pinch the chili seasoning can be substituted with 2 tablespoons of taco seasoning.
To make this recipe gluten free
To make the Frito chili pie gluten free simply swap the beef with water or chicken stock. Fritos are corn chips and are gluten free so it’s an easy swap!
Diced red onion
Diced tomatoes or pico de gallo
To make the recipe dairy free
To make the recipe dairy free omit the sour cream in the recipe and swap the cheese topping with a dairy free cheese or simply serve the chili with the toppings.
Other Recipes to Try
If you enjoy this Frito pie recipe, I recommend checking out these: