Soups Tex-Mex

Fideo loco

Fideo loco | Homesick Texan

A few years ago, I was enjoying breakfast tacos at Pete’s in San Antonio and I spotted a sign advertising fideo loco.

In Tex-Mex, when an item is qualified with the phrase crazy or loco, it means that the basic dish has been enhanced with more than the usual toppings. For instance, a taco loco will be stuffed with every meat available. And in the case of crazy nachos, beyond fried corn tortillas, beans, and cheese, there’s also taco meat, guacamole, and sour cream.

Fideo loco, however, was new to me.

Now, I was familiar with traditional fideo, which is a beloved South Texan dish. It’s made by frying broken pieces of thin pasta such as vermicelli or capellini in oil before cooking it in a tomato-based broth. It’s what’s known as a sopa seca, which translates to dry soup. This means that it doesn’t have as much liquid as a soup, yet isn’t as dry as a traditional pasta dish—instead, it falls somewhere in between.

This comforting dish is South Texas comfort food at its finest, and while it does appear as either a starter or a side at restaurants, it’s also often prepared at home and served as a main course. Because ingredients are inexpensive and it takes little time to put together, it’s a workhorse for busy families who need to get a meal on the table quickly. There are many ways to prepare it, but every South Texan’s favorite bowl of fideo is the one they grew up eating, prepared by someone they loved.


Fideo loco | Homesick Texan

In my first book, I included my rendition of traditional fideo. It’s a quick and easy meal that’s especially welcome on a chilly day. But since fideo loco was new to me, I asked the waitress what was involved.

She explained that it took the foundation of South Texas fideo—the thin noodles and the tomato broth—then added pinto beans and taco meat to the mix. So, following in the tradition of other Tex-Mex dishes described as loco, it was simply the standard dish enhanced.

I ordered a bowl, and the piquant broth and noodles were livened by the beef and beans. It was filling and good, and I decided to try my own version at home.

While I learned that there are many ways to transform regular fideo into one that’s loco, such as stirring in potatoes, squash, or steak, for mine I decided to stick with the simple additions of taco meat and pinto beans. I kept my beans plain, though charro or ranch style would be good, too.

Fideo loco | Homesick Texan

Here’s my take on the dish, which has a smoky, chipotle-laced tomato broth that’s thick with noodles along with cumin-spiced ground beef and tender pinto beans. It’s hearty, simple and makes for a fine one-pot meal. And that’s not crazy at all!

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Fideo loco | Homesick Texan
4.5 from 4 votes
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Fideo loco

Servings 6
Author Lisa Fain

Ingredients

For the beef:

  • 1 teaspoon safflower oil
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Pinch cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro

For the fideo:

  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 2 chipotle chiles en adobo
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon safflower oil
  • 4 ounces thin noodles such as vermicelli or capellini, broken into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 cups pinto beans or 1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, drained
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • Crumbled Cotija cheese, for serving
  • Flour tortillas, for serving

Instructions

  1. In a Dutch oven, heat the oil on medium-low and add the beef and onion. While occasionally stirring, cook until the onions are soft and the beef is beginning to brown, about 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic, chili powder, cumin, oregano, cayenne, salt, and cilantro and while stirring occasionally, continue to cook for 10 more minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings and then pour the beef into a mixing bowl.
  2. Meanwhile, for the fideo, place in a blender the onion, garlic, diced tomatoes, chipotle chiles en adobo, chili powder, cumin, and salt. Once you’ve moved the cooked meat from the pot, add the water to the pot and swirl around while scraping the bottom to get all the remaining bits. Add the water to the blender and then blend until smooth.
  3. Add the oil to the pot and pasta. While occasionally stirring, cook on medium for 1 minute or until lightly browned and fragrant. Pour the tomato sauce from the blender into the pot. While stirring occasionally, cook on medium until the pasta is softened, about 10 minutes.

  4. Add the beans to the pot along with the cooked meat. Stir in the lime juice and cilantro. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve warm topped with Cotija cheese and with tortillas on the side, if you like.

Recipe Notes

I prefer mine on the thicker side though if you want a soupier dish, feel free to add more water or broth. 

  1. Taylor

    I live in Louisville KY and this is chili to us! We use beans and ground meat and noodles in our tomato based chili. We’re close enough to Cincinnati to have probably taken the idea of noodles from their cinnamon chili over spaghetti but we typically have a more traditional tomato base with beans and noodles,

    • Lisa Fain

      Taylor–Very interesting! No one in Texas would call it chili, but I can see some of the similarities with the Cincinnati style, though fideo has thinner noodles and usually a lighter broth.

  2. Julian Peace

    I’d be interested to see the history of this particular dish – Fideua is a Catalan dish (which I believe may have originally come from Valencia) – of fried noodles, in a tomato and seafood broth…
    There must be a connection – other than fideo being Spanish for noodle.

    • Lisa Fain

      Julian–That would be fun to trace and I’m sure there’s a connection to the Spanish dish.

  3. Haven’t tried this yet, but looking over the recipe looks right up my alley. Thanks so much for all your time in posting such wonderful recipes for us. I’m originally from West Texas about 30miles from Midland, and now live half way around the world from there. Cannot get chipolte en adobo here in Asia, could you recommend a decent sub for it? Keep up the great work.

    • Lisa Fain

      Randy–Any smoked chile pepper would work or even a tablespoon of smoked paprika, if you have access to that. Barring not being able to find a smoky chile, I’d just use a red Asian chile.

  4. Meredith Galloway

    Great football dish on a cold PNW night! It’s like chili and spaghetti had a delicious baby 🙂 Good comfort food dish. And a perfect use of chili after stocking up last time I was home in December. Thanks Lisa!

    • Lisa Fain

      Meredith–It will definitely keep you warm on these chilly nights. So glad you enjoyed it!

  5. HEB has started carrying comida kits by their own brand.

    They are a great starting point if anyone is unfamiliar with what to do..

  6. Trudy Reed

    Just made this and it’s out of this world delicious! The warm, complex spices, the hearty meat and beans, the splash of lime and cilantro at the end all serve to make a wonderfully balanced and “stick to your ribs” meal. One pound of ground meat makes enough for a hearty meal plus leftovers. Fideo loco is a new favorite for us!

    • Lisa Fain

      Trudy–Wonderful news! I’m delighted that the fideo is a new favorite for y’all!

  7. I am like Taylor except I am a Texan. My Grandparents are from Indiana and my Gma would add spagetti noodles to her chili with beans. They had 5 kids so by adding noodles the meal could feed all 7 of them and it was tasty to me when I was a kid. Thank you for bringing back that memory. I agree with you about fideo having a more of a lighter consistency.

    • Lisa Fain

      Amber–It sounds like chili spaghetti, Texas style, may be due a comeback!

  8. I grew up about halfway between San Antonio and Corpus Christi and this was new to me and to coworker who grew up near Lubbock. Another coworker from Monterrey say fideo, pan friend potatoes, and pinto beans is common there. I’m going to give it a try…looks interesting.

    • Lisa Fain

      Bob–That’s interesting there’s a very similar dish in Monterrey. Thanks for sharing as I didn’t know that. In Texas, however, I’ve only seen this style of fideo loco in San Antonio. Though if you’re a fan of fideo and all the other ingredients, you will probably enjoy it! Happy cooking!

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