Frito Pies: A Childhood Throwback

It was my birthday last week and to celebrate we invited some friends over for a celebratory feast.  I wanted to make something that was a fun throwback to my childhood, a little treat/present to myself that could be shared with friends. With adding another item to the birthday food smorgasbord, it had to be simple enough to be done ahead of time and not take too much effort to serve up to the guest upon arrival.  Simple, childhood, fun…Frito Pies!  Growing up in New Mexico, the Frito Pie is a well-known staple of high school sports concession stands everywhere.  Some will say that the Frito Pie is of Texan origin, made by the mother of the chips inventor, but I among others believe it was the creation of Teresa Hernandez at the Woolworth’s lunch counter in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  Am I being biased? Yes. Yes I am. So I ventured to my local snack chip store, the bodega, and bought every last bag of single serving Frito’s.  On a side note, the look on a cashier’s face when you drop 27 bags of Frito’s on the counter is priceless.  I only thing I said was, “they’re not all for me”, and left it at that.  Onto the cooking!

The bags of Frito were placed out with a pair of scissors, a pot of the chili and array of toppings.  Then, guests were told to cut open the sides of their bags and fill it with chili and the toppings of their choosing.  The Frito Pie bar was born.  Here’s how to do it yourself:

Frito Pies:

Serves 8


8 single serving bags of Fritos chips

For the chili-

2 lbs of ground beef

2 medium size onions diced (reserved half cup for toppings)

3 cloves garlic diced

2 teaspoons of ground Cumin

2 teaspoons of ground Black Pepper

1 Tablespoon of Mexican Oregano

4 Tablespoons of New Mexican Hatch red chili powder

1 qt. of Beef Stock

2 cans of pinto beans drained

Salt to taste

For the toppings-

2 cups cheddar cheese shredded

Half a head of ice burg lettuce shredded

2 tomatoes diced

Half an onion, diced. (reserved from earlier)

Small bunch cilantro picked and chopped

Sour Cream


1-    In a large stockpot add a small amount of oil, cook and stir onions on medium heat till they start to color.

2-    Then add black pepper, cumin, oregano, chili powder, garlic, a pinch of salt and continue to stir.

3-    After a couple minutes incorporate the ground beef into your mixture and keep stirring until the beef has crumbled into tiny pieces and looks almost cooked but not browned.

4-    Add the beef stock and scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon lifting and residual flavor off the bottom and into your dish.

5-    Cover and let simmer on low for about 45 minutes to an hour occasionally stirring.

6-    After that time has elapsed drain and rinse your beans and add them to the chili, letting it all simmer uncovered for an additional ten minutes.

7-    Remove from heat, salt to taste and add a small squeeze of lime juice to brighten the flavor


Arrange the unopened bags of Frito’s in a bowl with a pair of scissors.  Place the chili pot on the table with a ladle.  Put each topping in an individual bowl with a spoon and place them next to the chili pot.  Have your guests cut open the bags (picture of the two ways we did it are above) scoop in chili and dress the pie any way they please.

Final Note on the Original Frito Pie:

Even though Woolworth’s is long gone, it’s replacement the Five and Dime General Store, still has the Frito Pie roots running strong with Teresa’s family still slinging the deliciousness.  If you are ever in Santa Fe, you can try one of the originals fro yourself at

Five and Dime General Store

58 E. San Francisco st.
Santa Fe, NM 87501

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