First, apple dumplings. Now, Frito pie. I’m definitely in a fall state of mind. On Sunday afternoon, I put a big pot of chili on the stove to simmer while I watched (and weeped at) the Steelers game. While this all-American beef chili has been my favorite for some time, I made it with ulterior motives. Yes, it’s absolutely fabulous all on its own, but I had my sights on something I’ve been lusting after for quite some time – Frito Pie. I’ve seen this chili, Fritos and cheddar concoction on tons of blogs and have been waiting for the weather to cool ever so slightly so I could have an excuse to throw this together.
Let’s talk about Fritos for a second. They have and will always remind me of high school gym class. Yes, gym class. Strange, right? Well, I went to a very small Catholic high school that did not have a gymnasium. During the warmer fall and spring months, we would hold gym class in the large field outside of the school, but during the winter we… bowled. As in, walked to the strip plaza adjacent to the school where there was a bowling alley, and spent an hour bowling. It sounds ridiculous, right? I’m so totally serious. For the most part, it was an hour of shenanigans, snacks and goofing off. For some reason, my group of friends and I always raided the vending machine for Fritos.
I really haven’t eaten very many Fritos since those bowling days in high school, but man, aren’t they good?! When I realized that something existed that combined chili, Fritos and cheese, I was in heaven. Folks in the southwest certainly know how to eat!
I have seen versions of Frito Pie that are simply chili mixed with the corn chips and cheddar cheese, but I was drawn to this version by Bev Cooks because, really, who can resist melted, gooey cheese? It ups the ante, that’s for sure! You can certainly use your own favorite chili recipe as the base, but I do highly recommend the recipe below; I tried countless chili recipes before discovering this one. It’s really the perfect quintessential chili.
Grab a spoon, an extra handful of Fritos and your favorite hoodie, and let’s dig in!
The famous Frito Pie - a generous serving of chili topped with Fritos corn chips and shredded cheddar cheese, then baked until melted and bubbling.
For the Chili:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 yellow onions, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
¼ cup chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt, divided
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds ground beef (85-90% lean)
2 (15-ounce) cans dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (28-ounce) can tomato puree
For the Frito Pie:
1 (10.25-ounce) bag Fritos corn chips
16 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1. Make the Chili: Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until it is shimmering. Add the onions, bell pepper, chili powder, cumin, cayenne and ½ teaspoon of the salt. Cook until the vegetables have softened, about 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.
2. Add the beef and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook, breaking up the beef with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 10 minutes. Stir in the beans, diced tomatoes (with their juice), tomato puree and the remaining ½ teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat so it maintains a slow simmer, cover and cook for 45 minutes.
3. Remove the lid and continue to simmer for an additional 45 minutes. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
4. Assemble the Frito Pie: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Transfer some or all of the chili to a baking dish or individual ramekins. Top with Fritos, pressing them lightly into the chili. Sprinkle cheddar cheese over the top and bake until the cheese is melted and the chili is bubbling, about 30 minutes. Sprinkle with sliced green onions and serve immediately.