Main dish Tex-Mex

Green chile Frito pie

Green chile Frito pie DSC3449

Frito pie is a Texas icon. This tangle of corn chips topped with chili, jalapeños, cheese, and onion is a staple at football games, church suppers, school lunches, and perhaps even your own kitchen. It’s certainly a favorite of mine and I never pass up an opportunity to enjoy one either when I see them out in the wild or have some extra chili and Fritos around.

Now, a few years ago someone mentioned to me that Frito pie was not from Texas but instead came from New Mexico. This, of course, gave me pause. Not only are the chips from Texas but so is the chili. Not to mention, the dish itself is so deeply embedded into our culture it just seemed impossible that it could be from anywhere else.

A little research lead me to discover that the first published mention of it was in an Abilene, Texas newspaper in 1947. This was enough tangible proof for me of its heritage, and as my grandparents had told me stories of eating Frito pie in the 1940s as well, I know that it was popular with Texans at that time.

Green chile Frito pie | Homesick Texan

But after more digging I found that it was mentioned in a New Mexico newspaper in 1948. So it seems that the folks in New Mexico have been enjoying Frito pie almost as long as Texans, and it became clear why someone might think that it originated there.

What’s interesting, however, is that much like New Mexican cuisine varies from Texan cuisine, they also serve their Frito pie not quite the same way we do. For instance, instead of the pie being topped with a hearty red chili, in New Mexico you’ll often see it with a green chili instead. And it’s not even a chunky stew but instead more of a salsa that may have a bit of meat in it, though sometimes it will instead have beans or perhaps no protein additions at all. In New Mexico, the long green chile that forms the backbone of the salsa is the true star.

With this in mind, when I had a hankering for a green chile Frito pie, instead of making a proper New Mexican green chili stew I looked for green chile recipes that were more of a condiment rather than a separate dish. After some digging, I came across a recipe in the Rancho de Chimayo Cookbook by Cheryl and Bill Jamison that was just what I sought—a green chile sauce with a dash of beef that the authors recommended for smothering on enchiladas and burritos. I figured a Frito pie would work well with it, too.

Green chile Frito pie | Homesick Texan

The recipe called for long green chiles to be stewed with some aromatics, along with a small portion of ground beef. When I cooked it, I made a few changes such as increasing the amount of onion, using fresh garlic instead of powder, and adding some cumin and oregano, which I’d seen used in other New Mexican green chilie salsa recipes. I also doubled the amount of ground beef the recipe suggested since I had the notion that the topping on a Frito pie should be rich with meat.

While the flavor of the green chile sauce turned out terrific, surprisingly the extra meat I included got in the way of enjoying the bright and lively nature of the fresh chiles. So I made it again and used the quantity in the original recipe, and this time the sauce tasted just right. As promised, this green chile sauce isn’t a standalone dish but is made to be paired with things. And indeed it was excellent ladled onto a bed of Fritos.

For serving, I garnished my green chile Frito pie with onions, Monterey Jack, sour cream, jalapeños, and cilantro, which made the dish’s combination of flavors echo my beloved enchiladas verdes, except with a bit more crunch. It might have been different than the Frito pie I was used to, but it was still familiar and welcome. I loved it.

Green chile Frito pie | Homesick Texan

Besides having a different flavor profile, I also found it’s lighter than one topped with a heartier red chili. This, of course, isn’t an issue as it simply makes it easier to eat more. So I happily enjoyed another serving. And if you like green chiles, I have a feeling you will, too.

Green chile Frito pie DSC3449
5 from 1 vote

Green chile Frito pie

Servings 8
Author Recipe by Lisa Fain with the green chile salsa adapted from The Rancho De Chimayo Cookbook


Ingredients for the green chile salsa:

  • 12 fresh Hatch or Anaheim green chiles
  • 2 jalapeño chiles
  • 1/2 pound ground beef, preferably coarsely ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 ripe plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Ingredients for the Frito pies:

  • 4 cups Fritos
  • 1 cup 4 ounces shredded Monterrey Jack or Muenster
  • 1/4 cup diced onions
  • 1 jalapeño, sliced
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, for serving


  1. If using fresh green chiles, roast the Hatch and jalapeño chiles under the broiler until blackened, about 5 minutes per side. Place the chiles in a paper sack or plastic food-storage bag, close it tight and let the chiles steam for 20 minutes. After the chiles have steamed, remove from the bag and rub off the skin. Remove the stems and seeds from both the chiles and finely chop.

  2. In a Dutch oven on medium-low heat, add the ground beef, salt, and pepper. While occasionally stirring, cook until the beef has browned, about 10 minutes. Add the onions and tomatoes, and while occasionally stirring continue to cook until the onions have softened and the tomatoes are beginning to release some juices, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 more seconds. Stir in the diced chiles, water, salt, cumin, and oregano, turn the heat down to low, then while occasionally stirring cook uncovered for 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings (I usually add another 1/2 teaspoon of salt).

  3. To assemble the green chile Frito pies, evenly divide the Fritos among 4 to 8 bowls, then top with the green chile salsa, cheese, onion, and sliced jalapeños. Serve with sour cream on the side.

Recipe Notes

If you don’t have access to fresh green chiles, you may substitute 16 ounces canned green chiles or 2 cups frozen green chiles, thawed. Drain and rinse them before using and be careful when adding salt since they may already have been salted, too.

  1. This…..this is just blasphemy! 🙂

    It does sound yummy, though, and gives me the idea to try Frito pie made with pork and green chile stew. Or subbing some diced pork instead of the ground beef in this recipe.

  2. More Cowbell

    This looks great. I love regular green enchilada sauce, so I'm sure I (and the gang, too) will love this. However, you make it, Frito Pie is one of those guilty secrets at my house. Thanks for this recipe and for doing the research.

  3. sixozpatty

    I've wondered about the origin of this dish; thanks for the history! As a Frito lover, I'll have to give it a try, although Hatch chiles are a bit tough to find up here in New England!

  4. ibcookin4u

    WooHoo! A twist on an old favorite for this Texas girl! My mom used to build a frito chili pie and then bake it. I wonder if anyone ever does that anymore? When I moved to East Texas I learned that instead of sour cream, they top theirs with mustard and relish. Who knew, not me though, just give me cheese! Always enjoy your posts.

  5. I have a deep freeze full of Hatch green chiles and am always looking for a way to use them. I'll have to try this. But I really prefer the Texas version of Frito Pie. I learned to eat mine out of the bag of Fritos with chili poured over them and some onions and cheese on top. That was lunch from a corner store in the 50's.

    Wishes for tasty dishes,

  6. urnotfromtx

    Love the idea of a green Chile sauce in Frito Pie. Our Frito Pie always started with putting chili in a bag of Fritos!

  7. Lisa Fain

    Michael–It is definitely yummy and diced pork would be an excellent addition!

  8. Lisa Fain

    More Cowbell–Your guilty secret is safe with me!

  9. Lisa Fain

    sixozpatty–They are hard to find on the East Coast but if your store has Anaheim chiles, that will work, too.

    • Geoffrey

      I have gotten a hatch chile salsa at Trader Joe’s. Maybe add some of that with some fresh, roasted chiles?

  10. Lisa Fain

    ibcookin4u–Wow! I had no idea about that East Texas regional variation on Frito pie. I'm definitely trying that next time.

  11. Lisa Fain

    Linda–It's always good when it's made in a Fritos bag!

  12. Lisa Fain

    urnotfromtx–That is the classic preparation!

  13. nativetexangirl

    This looks good. My mother made Frito pie in a cast iron skillet with onions and cheese and the chili and Fritos and baked it. Fond memories growing up in Fort Worth!

  14. Lisa Fain

    nativetexangirl–I've never made baked Frito pie in a cast-iron skillet but obviously it's something I need to try!

  15. Virginia

    I grew up eating frito pie… in Las Vegas NV! Not sure where mom got her recipe but my dads mom & dad are from Tucson AZ so maybe it migrated that far west. The green chili sounds wonderful. It is on my list.

  16. I grew up eating Frito pie as a native Texan, and I'm excited to try this variation! Making it tonight for my non-Texan husband and kids.

  17. Anonymous

    We bought Frito Pie at football games in Coleman, Texas, just south of Abilene. Always served in the Frito bag slit on the side with onions and cheese. So delicious on a Friday night in west Texas.

  18. gbgolfer71

    When I think of Frito Pie what comes to mind is one from my youth. Simply a bag of Fritos with the side slit and chili, onions and cheese piled on. Just eat it right out of the bag.

  19. SeattleDee

    Perfect for a no-fail gameday treat, and as you mentioned the green sauce will be terrific on so many other dishes.

  20. Anonymous

    I second the ground/chopped pork substitution. I like its flavor with green chile more than beef, although venison or elk is quite good too!

  21. Unknown

    This sounds delicious. Truth be told, I grew up in Albuquerque (3rd generation New Mexican on my mom's side)- Frito Chili Pie was a staple growing up, in fact so much so, that it was on the school menu once a week…but never with green chile. We always had the individual Frito bags filled with a traditional red chili and topped with cheese, onions, and sometimes sour cream. The green chile version sounds rad, though!

  22. Ralph Smith

    We love a spicy Texas dish and this sounds delicious!

  23. Stuart Stegall

    All the Frito Chili Pie I've had in NM and Texas have always been traditional chili, though at school it was generally Wolf brand w/o Beans.

    My wife (a vegetarian ) really loves Chili too, so I make her's with seitan (just because it doesn't have beef doesn't mean you replace it with beans …)

  24. Scott McQuown

    I have friends here in Fort Worth who would say it's not Frito Pie unless there is Wolf Brand Chili involved. 😉

  25. David K Saxe

    Thanks, Lisa!
    We Thanksgiving every year in the Santa Fe area, and a highlight is a lot of red and green at Rancho Chimayo for Thanksgiving dinner. Turkey I have to do at Christmas.
    Bless you for what you do!

    • Lisa Fain

      David–Thank you for the kind words! And I love your Thanksgiving tradition!

  26. Margaret

    I remember Rancho de Chimayo Restaurant north of Santa Fe as a magical place with amazing food. I didn’t know they had a cookbook.

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