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Frito Pie is a glorious mess of corn chips, chili, cheese and other toppings piled together — often right in the chip bag — for a satisfying meal perfect for tail-gating or other casual get-togethers. Our recipe loads on the toppings, finishing the chili-laden chips with homemade pickled red onions, shredded cheddar, and sour cream, plus jalapeño slices for a little extra heat. The chili itself gets a bite and some bitterness from the inclusion of amber beer, and sweetness and acidity from tomatoes. The tangy cream and sharp, bright pickled onions match it perfectly. Letting the chili reduce slightly and thicken helps tighten up the sauce so it's not too runny when you assemble the pies. Be sure to let it cool slightly as well before using it to avoid melting the bag and also burning your hands. Note that corn chips — especially Fritos — are inherently salty, so make sure the chili is lower in salt for balance.

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Credit: Photo by Fred Hardy / Food Styling by Ali Ramee / Prop Styling by Christina Brockman

Recipe Summary

active:
1 hr 15 mins
total:
1 hr 40 mins
Servings:
12
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Ingredients

Ingredient Checklist

Directions

Instructions Checklist
  • Bring vinegar, sugar, peppercorns, mustard seeds, and 2 teaspoons of the salt to a boil in a small nonreactive saucepan over medium-high. Boil, stirring often, until sugar and salt completely dissolve, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; let cool 5 minutes. Place red onion slices in a pint-size glass jar. Pour cooled vinegar mixture through a fine mesh strainer into jar; press down on onion slices to ensure they are fully covered. Discard strained solids. Seal jar lid; let stand until onion slices are room temperature, about 15 minutes. Place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or up to 5 days. 

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  • While onion slices cool, heat oil in small Dutch oven over medium. Add chopped yellow onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 3 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high, and stir in ground chuck; cook, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 5 minutes. Add jalapeño, chili powder, cumin, garlic, black pepper, cayenne, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. 

  • Stir beer into mixture in Dutch oven; bring to a boil over medium-high. Boil, stirring often, until liquid slightly reduces, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low, and add tomatoes with juices; cook, covered, stirring occasionally, 20 minutes. Uncover; cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced slightly and thickened, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Let cool slightly, about 10 minutes.

  • Lay chip bags flat on a work surface. Using a sharp knife or scissors, cut a vertical slit in center of each bag, leaving sealed edges intact. Spoon a heaping 1/3 cup chili over chips in each bag. Top with pickled red onion, shredded Cheddar, sour cream, and (if desired) jalapeño slices. Serve immediately.

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