Though the word "pie" may conjure up images of a dessert made of dough with various fillings, the famous Frito Pie is, in fact, something of an entirely different nature. Absurdly simple in its construction, this pile of Fritos and chili is served in the actual chip bag and more closely resembles nachos than it does a traditional pie.
Still, this bag of cheese-topped goodness has a loyal and devoted following. Culinary icon and highbrow food enthusiast Anthony Bourdain even said it was delicious on Parts Unknown, though not without taking some cheap shots at its supposedly unsophisticated nature (which he later recanted).
So, let's dig in a little deeper and take a gander at the things that make up (and ways to recreate) this slice of corny (literally) history.
As stated previously, the Frito Pie is not a pie—it's a pile of Fritos in a cut-open Fritos bag, topped with chili poured straight in the center, and most likely topped with shredded cheddar cheese. Being the high caliber cuisine that it is, it's advised to be eaten with a plastic fork.
According to Eater, the origin of the iconic dish is widely disputed. New Mexican folks claim a woman named Teresa Hernandez invented it back in the 1960s at a Woolworth's drugstore. Texans, however, trace the start of the culinary invention back to the 1930s, where San Antonio resident Daisy Doolan (the mother of Fritos inventor Charles Doolin) was said to have used her son's crispy corn chips as the base for the bagged meal.
Texas culinary expert Robb Walsh told Eater that Texas did, at least, help the dish gain popularity, due to the fact that it was—and is—frequent fare at high school concession stands.
Aside from making it on your own (which we'll go over in painstaking detail below), the Frito Pie can be found at concession stands and state fairs across the country. It's also found its place on restaurant menus and oozing out of drive-through windows; Sonic, for example, once served a Fritos chili cheese wrap. If you're in the Midwest, you can simply ask for a "walking taco" to get your Frito Pie fix. Now if we could just get them to stop calling soda "pop!"
To make our Frito Pie at home, we opted for a can of vegetarian chili, mixed shredded cheese, and a large bag of Fritos (of course).
Give the bag a lengthwise slice right down the middle, plop the warm chili inside, top with cheese, snag a plastic fork, and indulge.
Some may say "no beans!" in the chili of a Frito Pie, or that vegetarian chili is not really chili, but hey—you do you, especially when it comes to Frito Pie.
Though it may be blasphemous to do so, we took our Frito Pie out of the bag... don't hate us! Here's what our pie looks like plated. (Please note that we did this strictly for food-journalistic reasons. And we do admit, eating it out of the bag is way better. No Fritos were harmed in the removing of this Frito Pie from its bag.)
Part of the appeal of the Frito Pie is the foil packaging, which keeps your pile of chips, cheese, and chili nice and toasty.
But we assume it also would be neat to slice that bag of Ruffles with Ridges down the center and plop on some onion dip, or serve a bit of guacamole straight out of your bag of Cool Ranch Doritos (a trick Bay's mom taught us when plain tortilla chips were scarce). How about trying apple chips with a drizzle of caramel sauce? Or beet chips, with a spoonful of hummus?
These in-bag snacks, it seems, could take our picnicking to a practically professional level. Have you ever tried your hand at a homemade Frito Pie? How about other in-bag snack variations? Let us know in the comments below!