Ultimate Chili Cheese Pie How-To


If loaded nachos and a classic comforting casserole came together and had a baby it would absolutely be this chili cheese Frito pie recipe!


chili cheese pie recipe on white countertop from overhead


With fall and football season upon us, it’s time to indulge in all of the comfort foods that match the season. Whip up this chili cheese pie for a tailgate party, or just simply for your next get-together. Whether you’re a football fan or purely a diehard foodie, this chili cheese pie recipe will have you cheering for more!


close up of chili cheese and frito pie recipe with serving taken out


Spice Up Your Life


It’s important to thoroughly season any dish you’re making, and building a flavorful chili base is no exception. We always encourage adventurous cooks to grind their own spices versus buying them pre-ground if possible. The aroma of freshly ground cumin is incredibly intoxicating. Understandably, for convenience, most use pre-ground spices which still work perfectly in a pinch! 


ground cumin seeds and jeera powder on brown towel and wooden backgrand


variety of eastern spices in silver spoons close up rough dark natural wooden board


The smokiness of the dish really comes through from the use of the chipotles in adobo sauce. These are smoked and dried jalapeños that have been rehydrated with the adobo sauce, which is a mixture of vinegar, tomato puree, and a plethora of other spices. They add a magical depth of flavor and balance to the dish that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. 


whole smoke-dried overripe jalapeno peppers in seasoning


Since we’re on the topic of spices, let’s also talk about spice! You can increase the heat level in this dish in a few ways. You could kick up the amount of cayenne pepper you put in it. You could also use pepper jack cheese or a fiery jalapeño havarti that’s just as spicy as it is creamy and delicious. These cheeses can easily be substituted for the shredded Mexican and cheddar cheese that gets sprinkled over the top of the pie just before it heads into the oven.


shredded cheese and a box grater on a bamboo cutting board


Where’s The Beef?


For this chili cheese Frito pie recipe we like to use eighty five percent lean ground beef. This means that the beef mixture is composed of fifteen percent fat and eighty five percent meat. This ratio offers the perfect amount of fat to keep the beef moist while not being overly greasy. If you prefer your chili to be a little less lean you could also consider using eighty percent lean ground beef with the other twenty percent being fat.


The most common cut of beef to use for ground beef is chuck. This is the shoulder of the cow and therefore is one of the more heavily exercised muscles. Since this muscle is used so often the resulting cuts of meat tend to be tougher. This is where the cooking methods of braising and stewing come in handy to bring out the flavor in those cuts as well as to tenderize them. Since grinding the meat completely breaks down the tough muscle fibers it makes it the perfect choice to use for ground beef. Another cut that proves good for ground beef is the bottom round. This comes from the back leg of the cow. It’s slightly leaner than the chuck, so if you’re looking for the leaner way to go the bottom round is your cut.                                                                                                                                                             


If you’re not feeling the beef you could absolutely substitute ground chicken or turkey here for an even leaner option. It’s important to keep in mind that because the chicken and turkey are so lean you may need to add a little extra fat in the form of avocado oil to keep the meat from drying out too much.


Try To Top This


The way we see it the sky’s the limit for what you can top this chili cheese Frito pie recipe with. Think of the pie as a delicious vessel to hold a myriad of toppings that can be served up like a seemingly endless Las Vegas buffet. We never really agreed with the phrase “less is more”, especially when it comes to our chili cheese pie. We think more is more, and we prefer to gracefully garnish ours a mile high.


chili cheese pie with table setting on white countertop from overhead


When serving your chili cheese Fritos make it fun with bowls as far as the eye can see of different toppings. Pickled jalapeños make an excellent topper and offer that extra bit of heat that some might be looking for. Shredded lettuce, sour cream, diced red onion, and fresh cilantro would all make amazing garnishes and take this chili cheese pie to the next level. Don’t forget about avocados! Add to your buffet of toppings by offering a few different selections of guacamole. Avocados are the perfect blank canvas to create whatever flavor profile your heart desires. Consider a sweet and savory guac with added chunks of sweet mango or pineapple. The sweetness will offer a great balance and complement all the other spicy elements of the dish.


various sauces to nachos or tacos in wooden bowls: guacamole, cheese sauce, pico del gallo


In addition to all of the toppings you offer you might also want to consider breaking out your arsenal of hot sauces. It’s ideal to allow your guests to choose their own heat level as everyone’s spice tolerance is different. This meal can truly be a build your own adventure when you set the table with all of these delicious possibilities.


Tips & Tricks


The chili mixture itself can be made in advance and frozen for up to a month before you need to use it. With that in mind, you could double your batch and break it out when you’re ready to make this chili cheese pie recipe or use it to top hot dogs for next-level chili dogs. You could even serve it over spaghetti like a true Cincinnatian and you now have your own homemade version of Cincinnati chili. Since fall is upon us spaghetti squash is readily available and would offer a lower-carb version of this unique Cincinnati chili dish.


You don’t have to stop there! If you need other ways to use this chili base you can bake up some potatoes and smother them in the chili along with any other toppings you’d like for some loaded baked potatoes that are sure to please. You could even use the chili mixture to stuff colorful bell peppers, top them with your favorite cheese, and bake them to perfection. Alternatively, you could also halve some zucchini, carve out the seeds in the center to create little boats, fill them with the chili, top with cheese, and bake.


Try our Original Recipe from BigOven Kitchen

Chili Cheese Pie

completed chili cheese pie recipe

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