What You Didn't Know About Frito Pie

The Frito pie is a masterpiece dish that has many raising their hand when it comes time to claim its invention. This southwestern concoction, which is a combination of a regional staple and a favorite salty junk food, renders all those who fall under its siren song powerless to resist, regardless of will power and determination. Per the blog Dan Woeller the Food Etymologist, Frito pie, at its most basic, consists of Fritos corn chips topped with chili and cheese. 

Call it pie, call it Fritos boat, or even call it Walking Taco — the taste is still the same savory goodness that keeps us longing for this concession stand food every time we find ourselves at a high school sporting event. But have you ever wondered what you don't know about this classic dish? Frito pie is a meal or snack, take your pick, that seems to have been around forever — or at least as long as Fritos corn chips have been on grocery store shelves. Yet, it is also a tasty recipe that has launched lots of controversy over its short history.

Texas says Frito pie belongs to them

Texans are first in line to lay claim that they invented Frito pie. Yep, and they won't back down either. Per Texas Monthly, who shared two other affectionate monikers for this dish, which include Texas Straw Hat and Stomach Grenade, Texans believe they are the rightful heirs to the Frito pie. However, while some think the Texas creator of these addictive chips, C. E. Doolin, is the rightful father to this dish, the magazine shares that it is highly unlikely given Doolin was not a fan of meat. Sounds sacrilege if you are a Texan, but that's the claim. 

Instead, Texas Monthly suggests that stories of his mom, Daisy Dean Doolin, inventing Frito pie may be more probable. But Houstonia Magazine throws some shade on this theory, citing the 2011 book Fritos Pie, Stories, Recipes and More, by Kaleta Doolin, C.E. Doolin's daughter, who apparently claims her father not only didn't invent Fritos pie, he didn't invent Fritos. Wait. What? Quelle horreur!

The Fritos chips recipe wasn't invented — it was bought

Yep, Houstonia Magazine says that Kaleta Doolin shares in her book that her father actually bought both the Fritos recipe and a chip company that was already making the corn chips from a gentleman of Mexican descent named Gustavo Olguin. Chip history is so fascinating, right? Kaleta Doolin claims Olguin sold both the company and the Fritos pie recipe to her dad in a bid to raise money so he could return home. 

The magazine goes on to say that Kaleta's grandmother also does not earn the credit for this fabled dish, although Grandma Doolin does receive accolades for being the catalyst for the 1937 "Cooking with Fritos" campaign and developing a fruitcake recipe that utilizes these iconic chips. However, they share that the genesis of the Frito Pie recipe was probably the result of a lot of corporate kitchen experimentation, quoting a 1960s news article which stated, "While recipes are created for Frito-Lay's entire line of snack products and canned foods, perhaps the most famous recipe developed by the Consumer Service department is that for Fritos Chili Pie."

New Mexico claims they invented Frito pie

Still, New Mexico also has laid claim to the creation of Fritos pie and while most people dismiss this possibility, it is worth noting. According to Eater, New Mexican lovers of the Fritos Pie have lobbied for the story of Teresa Hernandez bringing this creation to life. As the story goes, it happened at a Woolworth in Santa Fe in the 1960s, and it was really a stripped-down form of the dish, only featuring chili and the Fritos. 

However, before you get too comfortable with the plausibility of this tale, Houstonia Magazine notes that Doolin's daughter's book shuts down this story from the get-go, revealing that "Fritos Chili Pie" was served up as early as 1949 at a Dallas Dietetic Association. Sorry, New Mexico. Your version of this snacking food is still noteworthy, and you still get to claim the Hatch chile if that's any consolation.

Frito pie was made popular by high schools

The only person who has openly distanced himself from this beloved dish is Anthony Bourdain, who famously called it "warm crap in a bag," during a segment of Parts Unknown (via Gawker). It's a sentiment that over 75 percent of those who have taste buds and were polled by Live Journal do not share. But regardless of where Frito pie was invented, it is safe to say that one common denominator in this tale are the high schools and their concession stands that can lay claim to where this chip-filled, chili-laden, and melted cheese and onion-topped recipe found the people who would love it and popularized it among the masses. 

Robb Walsh, a writer for Houstonia Magazine, told Eater, "Frito pie owes its popularity to Texas high school stadium concession stands where it's made by tearing open the bag of chips and ladling in all of the options in the condiment holder. After the chili dog, it is the second most delicious thing you can possibly assemble from chopped onions, shredded cheese, and chili."

Frito pie has a celeb following

But, Frito pie is not just for high school sports fans. The iconic snack has a celebrity following including the likes of Kendall Jenner, according to Brit + Co. But Jenner is not the only famous person to love the famous Fritos pie. Supermodel, super chef, and Cravings author Chrissy Teigen, along with her hubby, singer and songwriter, John Legend, also keep this meal on their radar. 

Teigen shared with My Recipe, "We love Frito Pie, which is a tailgating-style dish. We make John's chili, dump it into a little bag of Fritos, and then have an entire buffet of all of these accouterments for it like shredded cheddar, green onion, and sour cream." Teigen continued, "It's one of my favorite recipes in my book, and I think it's one of the coolest things to walk into for a party. When you see these little bags of Fritos with their tops rolled down and this pot of crazy-flavorful, bold chili, and then all these little bowls of toppings for people to jazz it up however they want, it really sets the tone for a party." Hey if Teigen is serving it up, you know it has to be good.