Frito Pie: All Grown Up

When I was a kid we belonged to a Dad’s Club where my brother and I played sports. To me, one of the best parts of Saturdays full of games was the concession stand frito pies. I’ve recently learned that frito pie isn’t a national phenomenon, which saddens me. I hate to think of all the children that were deprived of such great childhood food as fritos covered with chili and cheese.

I generally say a frito pie isn’t a frito pie unless it is served in a little Frito bag, but for my grown up version of frito pie I had to alter course and steer away from my childhood ideals. Yes, I had to grow up a little bit with the making of this frito pie. Sad, sad stuff here, but all in the name of good food, so it was completely worthwhile.

A couple of years ago I posted a vegetarian black bean chili recipe from Rachel Ray that I have since altered and tweaked and has become the go-to chili for the weeone and me. I decided that if I was going to make a grown up frito pie, it HAD to be done with black bean chili.

Then I found out the the Frito-Lay corporation was making a frito that had 50%less sodium than traditional fritos. It only seemed logical to use the “responsible” frito in this grown up frito pie.

So then it came down to the cheese. Cheddar, the traditional frito pie cheese, wasn’t going to cut it with black bean chili. I didn’t want a cheese to overwhelm the great bean flavor, but I didn’t want a cheese that would be overwhelmed either. I turned to a trusted group of foodie friends and sought out their recommendations. The result? Queso Fresco. Queso fresco is a soft, mild and unaged cheese that is often found in Mexican or Latin cooking. It was the perfect fit.

I declared that Friday “Frito Pie Friday” at our house and the weeone and I tucked into our frito pies while watching “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.” It was what I would call a perfect Friday night.

The Grown Up Frito Pie was everything I wanted it to be: slightly reminiscent of the concession stand variety, but filled with more complex flavors and healthier ingredients, rich and filling, and heart warming. I wouldn’t call this a “light” recipe, but it is definitely a healthy version of the one I fell in love with so many years ago.

Sometimes when you revisit things from your childhood, you find yourself wondering why you ever liked them, but this frito pie just left me wondering why I hadn’t recreated it sooner.


Frito Pie: All Grown Up
Nutritional Information
  • Serves: 1
  • Serving size: 1 frito pie
  • Calories: 442
  • Fat: 20.2g
  • Saturated fat: 6.1g
  • Unsaturated fat: 6.6g
  • Trans fat: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 70.5g
  • Sugar: 1.1g
  • Sodium: 599mg
  • Fiber: 11.9g
  • Protein: 19g
  • Cholesterol: 210mg
Recipe type: Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine: Vegetarian
Prep time: 
Total time: 
A childhood classic updated with the flavors and healthful considerations that adults prefer.
  • 1 oz Lightly Salted Fritos
  • 1 cup Vegetarian Black Bean Chili (recipe below)
  • 1 oz Queso Fresco
Now What?
  1. Layer in a bowl - fritos, followed by chili and topped with the cheese.

Vegetarian Black Bean Chili
Nutritional Information
  • Serves: 8
  • Serving size: 1 cup
  • Calories: 223
  • Fat: 4.2g
  • Saturated fat: 0.6g
  • Unsaturated fat: 3.2g
  • Carbohydrates: 34.5g
  • Sugar: 1.1g
  • Sodium: 309mg
  • Fiber: 10.9g
  • Protein: 10.9g
Recipe type: Soups, Stews, Chilis
Cuisine: Vegetarian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Chili gets a makeover using poblano peppers and black beans as a base.
  • 4 large poblano peppers
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 15-ounce cans black beans, drained
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 bottle dark beer (in Texas we use Shiner Bock)
  • 1 15-ounce can crushed fire-roasted tomatoes (such as Muir Glen)
  • 2½ cups vegetable stock
Now What?
  1. Under a broiler, char the outsides of the poblano peppers for 5-10 minuutes, turning to get all the skin blackened. Place the peppers in a bowl covered with plastic to cool and continue to steam the skins loose.
  2. When the peppers are cool enough to handle, peel the skins off, remove seeds and chop into bite sized pieces.
  3. In a soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. toss jalapeno, onion and garlic into the pot and saute for 5 minutes or until the onions are tender. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Pour the beer into the pot and scrape up any bits that have adhere to the bottom. Cook until the the liquid is reduced by half, then add the black beans, poblano peppers, and spices, tomatoes and veggie broth.
  5. Bring the chili to a boil, then simmer for about 10-15 minutes to allow flavors to blend. Add salt and pepper as needed.


  1. mia
    October 12, 2012

    I loe everything fried and crunchy!

    • mia
      October 12, 2012

      That would be loVe…

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