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America’s favorite snacking chip sheds the ‘school lunchbox image’ when it meets chili con carne in Tailgater Frito Pie With Cowgirl Chili.
All images and text ©Jenny DeRemer for Not Entirely Average, LLC
Tailgater Frito Pie With Cowgirl Chili
Why do I LOVE THIS for college game tailgating? It’s MAKE AHEAD! AND it’s SUPER EASY to transport on game day just by boxing up its few parts and assembling on site. Seriously – 5 minutes! And Tailgater Frito Pie With Cowgirl Chili works for all kinds of crowd get-togethers and is certainly a favorite for kids! C’mon, it’s Fritos and chili, so what’s not to embrace???
Frito Pie is a uniquely Southern party dish that instantly reminds us that college school football games and autumn tailgate parties are right around the corner! And this quirky-delicious creation isn’t new. The oldest known recipe using Fritos brand corn chips with chili was published in Texas in 1949. For this first and best Frito pie recipe, the basic ingredients are chili, cheese, and corn chips, and debuted in the Frito-Lay company’s official 1950s cookbook which included the Frito pie. Copies of this cookbook are highly sought after today. It was the most comprehensive publication popularizing Frito recipes and the start of the market for processed foods at the time.
Have a favorite chili recipe your whole family loves? Use it when assembling this Texas Frito pie casserole. Or, go with canned chili. The recipe I am posting today introduces the world to MY CHILI, otherwise known as Cowgirl Chili. It’s right down the middle in terms of heat and sweet, so if you like things with a kick, adjust to taste or consider adding fresh jalapeño slices right before serving!
Tailgater Frito Pie With Cowgirl Chili makes enough to feed a small crowd, is EASILY doubled or even tripled, and is great for nearly every gathering where you’re gonna have kids.
Tailgating is BIG BUSINESS in the American South. Tailgaters take the ‘art and craft’ of the biggest, bestest, boldest display of team spirit to an over the top level some might say. And game day food has much to do with the whole shebang!
Think of it like comfort food on the road. You need all of the “parts” to be moveable, complete, and SUPER SCRUMPTIOUS for partyers to enjoy. Festive is important but flavor is key!
What Do You Put In A Frito Pie?
Frito chili pie, or Frito Casserole is it’s also known, has been around for a good long while, and I’m betting it’s not quite a ‘northern thing.’ I may have once spied it on a menu on Cony Island, but I cannot be sure. One thing I do know however, is that this method makes enough to feed a small crowd, is EASILY doubled or even tripled, and is great for nearly every gathering where you’re gonna have kids.
If you make your own chili, all the better as that rich taste is always better the day after it’s made. You can use a recipe you always use, go with a good brand of canned chili, or go with my recipe herein for Cowgirl Chili. Either way, I reheat everything in the slow cooker the day of, then pack it all up and head out. The chili stays warm and all I have to worry about is a 5 minute assembly once we hit the tar.
Offering a dish such as this in addition to our standard tailgate nosh of burgers, dogs, and ranch style beans is a small extra step that takes me virtually no time, and I know it’s gonna be a hit! One thing I should mention is that whatever your choice in chili, keep in mind that it can be ground beef, ground turkey, or no meat for a vegetarian Frito pie.
Do You Have What’s Needed To Make Tailgater Frito Pie With Cowgirl Chili? Check The List!
for the Cowgirl Chili
ground beef chuck or ground venison
smoked sweet paprika
canned diced tomatoes
canned baked beans
a can of amber beer or ale
a handful of pulverized Fritos
for the Frito Pie
Frito’s Corn Chips
shredded sharp cheddar cheese
optional toppings and garnishes
additional shredded cheddar cheese
shredded Pepper Jack
cooked pinto beans
cooked black beans
sliced jalapeño peppers
Modifying The Norm To Make It Not Entirely Average…
Everything goes, and I mean everything. Consider your toppings IF you decide to add any beyond the melted sharp cheddar cheese. Some fun little fixins for this chili cheese Frito pie include sour cream, additional shredded cheddar cheese, zesty shredded cheese like pepper Jack, cooked pinto beans, cooked black beans, diced tomatoes, sliced jalapeño peppers, green onions, enchilada sauce, and guacamole. Like I said, everything goes!
How To Make Frito Pie?
This easy Frito Pie recipe will have you scratching your head as to why you haven’t made it sooner, or don’t make it often enough. And if this is your first time preparing, I can nearly guarantee that it won’t be your last!
Scan the ingredients for Frito Pie above and gather what you’ll need. The biggest question to answer is which chili recipe will you make? If you’re going for a Frito Pie using canned chili, your job is half done. If you’ve got an instant pot chili recipe that your family cannot go without, by all means dive in. The Cowgirl Chili recipe I am including herein is delicious and super easy if you have no other plan for the chili. Grab a large heavy-bottomed skillet or your Dutch oven to get things started.
Once the chili is made, turn your oven on to the broil setting and ensure the broiler rack is in the top 1/3 of your oven. You want your chili Fritos to be close to the broil element to melt the cheese, but not too close as you’ll burn up your corn chips.
Assemble the corn chips either in a baking dish for a pie casserole, or atop a large oven-proof serving platter. You’ll want the chips to cover the bottom of the dish. Next, ladle on the chili leaving some corn chips to peek out along the sides and edges. Scatter both shredded cheddar and some diced white onion over top and place under the broiler for 3 to 4 minutes or until cheese is melted and corn chips begin to brown. Save some extra diced white onion for serving as an add-on.
What To Serve With Frito Pie?
In terms of toppings, consider sour cream, additional shredded cheddar cheese, zesty shredded cheese like pepper Jack, cooked pinto beans, cooked black beans, diced tomatoes, sliced jalapeño peppers, green onions, enchilada sauce, and guacamole.
What To Drink With Frito Pie?
I lean more toward a traditional brown ale with this dish. If you are set on wine, a bold standout Cabernet Sauvignon with an oaky and smoky finish, or Syrah or Shiraz blend from Australia or South Africa marks all smart choices here.
Can Frito Pie Be Reheated?
Yes, and very easily. If I am reheating a single portion of Frito Pie leftover, I do so in the microwave on medium power for about 90 seconds to 2 minutes. And if I am tasked with reheating a much larger portion, I always add a bit of extra cheese before popping into a hot 350 degree F oven for about 20 to 25 minutes. You do need to watch it if you plan to reheat in the oven to ensure your corn chips do not begin to burn.
Can Frito Pie Be Made Ahead?
Yes, as I mentioned earlier in this post, I love Tailgater Frito Pie With Cowgirl Chili for the sheer fact that I can make my chili in advance, and pack it up for refrigeration until game day. On game day, I plug my slow cooker in, pour in my chili, and heat it through. Then, the cooker is packed with all the remaining Tailgater Frito Pie With Cowgirl Chili ingredients and ushered off for the tailgate party. I assemble on site.
Can Frito Pie Be Frozen?
You can freeze Tailgate Frito Pie before or after baking. To freeze before baking, assemble in a baking dish with a lid or cover tightly with aluminum foil. Freeze up to 3 months. To freeze after baking, allow the casserole to cool room temperature. Transfer to a freezer-safe container with a tight-fitting lid. Freeze for up to 3 months. If you must cook from frozen, add 30 – 45 minutes of oven time to your dish.
Tailgater Frito Pie With Cowgirl Chili
for the Frito Pie
- 8 cups Fritos corn chips
- 8 cups Cowgirl chili or your favorite homemade chili or canned chili
- 2 cups cheddar cheese shredded
- ½ cup white onion diced
for the Cowgirl Chili if not using your own or canned
- 2 large Vidalia onions rough chopped
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 5 cloves garlic minced
- 2 pounds ground beef
- 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon sweet chili powder
- 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 (14.5) ounce cans diced tomatoes
- 1 (14.5) ounce can baked beans
- 1 can tomato paste
- 1 (12) ounce can amber beer or ale *if you prefer a sweeter chili, substitute 6 ounces of red wine in lieu of the 12 ounces of beer; allow the wine to cook off for 3 to 4 minutes, cooking out alcohol to leave behind its sugars
- ¼ cup Fritos corn chips pulverized to resemble corn meal
- sour cream
- additional shredded cheddar cheese
- shredded Pepper Jack
- cooked pinto beans
- cooked black beans
- diced tomatoes
- sliced jalapeño peppers
- green onions
- enchilada sauce
for the Frito Pie
- Pre-heat oven to Broil.
- Place the corn chips into a large casserole dish or oven-proof serving platter. Ladle the Cowgirl Chili on top of corn chips leaving some corn chips exposed around the edges. Sprinkle with Cheddar cheese and the diced onion.
- Place under the broiler element for 3 to 4 minutes or until cheese begins to melt.
- Remove from beneath broiler and top with desired toppings.
to make the Cowgirl Chili
- Sauté diced onions in hot oil in a large Dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat, about 8 minutes or until translucent.
- Add minced garlic, and sauté 1 minute. Move onion mixture to the outside edges of the pan and add beef. Cook, breaking up the beef for 6 minutes or until meat is crumbled and is no longer pink. Drain, reserving 2 tablespoons drippings in Dutch oven; return beef mixture to Dutch oven.
- Stir in 1 tablespoon salt, 1 tablespoons sweet chile powder, 1 tablespoon ground cumin, 2 tablespoons smoked paprika, and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar and cook 2 minutes stirring constantly to avoid the sugar burning.
- Stir in baked beans, diced tomatoes, and tomato paste.
- Add 3/4 cup beer and 1 cup water; simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add remaining 3/4 cup beer and 1/2 cup water; simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add ground Fritos and cook 10 minutes to allow chili to thicken.
The nutrition value can vary depending on what product(s) you use. The information below is an estimate. Always use a calorie counter you are familiar with.
Please note that table salt and iodized salt are NOT substitutions for Kosher salt. Do not deviate unless otherwise specified.
If You Like This Recipe…
…you might also like:
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- Smoked Carolina Pulled Pork Sandwiches
- Oven Baked Deep South Barbecue Ribs
- A Marvelous And Crowd Pleasing Smoky Black Eyed Pea Hummus Dip
- ‘Everything Bagel’ Chicken Tenders with homemade Honey Mustamaise
- The Zany Good Finger Lickin’ Nashville HOT Chicken Dip You Must Taste