Anthony Bourdain's Controversial Opinion On Frito Pie

If you're not a New Mexican or a Texan, your first introduction to the Frito pie may have been when Anthony Bourdain panned the dish on national TV. Bourdain visited Santa Fe's Five & Dime General Store for a taste of the food on his show "Parts Unknown" in 2013. Newcomers may have learned about the basics of the pie: It's made by slicing open a small bag of Fritos Original Corn Chips lengthwise and ladling chili sauce, shredded cheese, and diced raw onion on top.

Viewers also left the televised meal with a sour taste in their mouth as Bourdain compared Frito pie to a "warm crap in a bag" and "colostomy pie." The chef and host later apologized for falsely asserting that the chili was store bought, and he clarified that he enjoyed the meal's taste. He did, however, stand by his distaste for holding the warm chip bag.

Bourdain ultimately declared the Texas version superior in the episode. Though he didn't say why, it's possible this is because Lone Star State residents sometimes use textured chunks of chuck beef and diced tomatoes in their Texas chili, as well as masa harina, a complementary flavor for masa-based Fritos. The New Mexican iteration featured a smoother meat mixture, which could have contributed to the sloshy sensation when holding the Fritos bag.

The history of Frito pie

As travel host Anthony Bourdain hinted, the origins of the Frito pie remain murky, with both Texas and New Mexico laying claim to the meal. Some believe Teresa Hernandez, who worked at Woolworth's (now the Five & Dime) in Santa Fe, invented the combination in the 1960s. Others think Daisy Dean Doolin, mother of Fritos inventor C.E. Doolin and San Antonio resident, came up with the idea after the product launched in the 1930s.

Early recipes were likely closer to a casserole than the bagged version eaten today, as the crisps were sold in waxed paper until the second half of the century. And regardless of who made it first, cooks across the Southwest were quick to jump on board. Schools even started serving them for lunch and continue doing so today. As a result, for many the dish evokes nostalgia, and some will use canned chili to mimic the spicy taste.

Frito pie also remains a popular concession stand snack and state fair refreshment because it packs a huge amount of spice and flavor into a grab-and-go dish. Its influence has spread to the Midwest, as well, where Frito pies are lovingly referred to as "walking tacos." The mobile food might feature crushed corn chips instead of whole ones, but otherwise it's the same recipe.

Making Frito pie at home

Home cooks outside of the Land of Enchantment may find it hard to procure the red chiles intrinsic to New Mexican cuisine and the chili sauce. That shouldn't stop you from testing out a Frito pie recipe that combines the best of both Santa Fe and San Antonio. Or use your go-to chili recipe, using the protein and spices of choice, to pair with the chips. We do suggest serving the meal in the Fritos bag — that's half the fun (for most people).

Fans of the dish, including Chef Daniel Boulud and TikToker Emily Mariko, might add toppings like cilantro, raw jalapeños, and sour cream to their Frito bowls. However, non-traditionalists might choose to swap in a flavorful vegetarian chili or a bean-heavy version of the spiced beef to change the texture. Cooks can also add pickled onions, jalapeño, or giardiniera on top for a balancing hit of acid.

Even the base of the dish isn't safe from innovation. Shake up the Frito pie by making a Doritos pie or a Flamin' Hot Cheetos pie instead. Simply swap out the corn chips for a flavored crisp of your choosing. You can even follow a suggestion from Frito-Lay brand and make an actual pie crust out of crushed corn chips using flour and butter. Just bake chili into the shell and serve.