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Frito Pies in Santa Fe

Frito Pies in Santa Fe — “Whatever you do, after eating this, do not move out of your seat for at least a half hour,” a friend warned. I did not listen to my friend — “Don’t worry, I have a stomach of steel” — and I paid the price. As soon as I finished [...]

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Frito Pies in Santa Fe —

“Whatever you do, after eating this, do not move out of your seat for at least a half hour,” a friend warned.

I did not listen to my friend — “Don’t worry, I have a stomach of steel” — and I paid the price. As soon as I finished my meal, I stood up and took a walk; as soon as I stood up to take a walk, my stomach nearly fell out of me.

Wade from www.VagabondJourney.com
Santa Fe, USA, Early December, 2009
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We were eating Frito pies in the old dining area of a long passed Woolworth five and dime in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

I had never eaten anything that ever made me feel so bad, but yet oddly enough tasted so delicious.

“It was really crazy, it was just chili and cheese and Fritos, I have no idea why it made us so sick,” my wife summarized the experience.

Just chile and cheese and Fritos but so much more

Just chili and cheese and Fritos but so much more


Introduction to the Frito pie

“Have you ever eaten Frito pies before?” my friend Erin ask Chaya and I nearly as soon as we arrived in Santa Fe.


“Frito pies, they are like chili mixed with Fritos?”

“You mean Fritos like the yellow scoop shaped corn chips?”

“Yeah, Fritos.”

I had never heard of anything more disgusting. I have eaten insects, I have eaten testicles, I ate a puppy once, I take food from dumpsters without hesitation, and I sometimes scoop up and eat roadkill, but I have hardly ever heard of a food as foul sounding as Frito corn chips mixed into a chili.

“That sounds disgusting.”

My friends disagreed. “It is actually really good.”

I must say that I’ve heard that before. But, nonetheless, I accepted their invitation to dine on the Santa Fe specialty.

Dave with a Frito pie in Santa Fe

Dave with a Frito pie in Santa Fe


The specified morning of the invitation came a little too soon for my unadventurous palate. “Do you guys want me to cook up some eggs for breakfast?” I offered.

Nope. They wanted Frito pies. I tried to get out of it. To no avail. My friends would not be deterred from providing me with a proper Santa Fe feast before continuing my drive across the country.

We went to the old Woolworth, and my friend Dave ordered us a round of Frito pies.


Origin of the Frito pie

There are a couple contrary opinions as to the origin of the Frito pie. One is that it was initially created by the founder of Frito-Lay’s mother, who prepared the delicacy soon after her son made his first corn chips in 1932. Another popularly held opinion was that the Frito pie was actually first made in the very same Woolworth dining area that we were sitting in sometime during the 1960’s. Whatever the case, an authentic culinary experience was just plopped down into my hand.

Frito pie, a Santa Fe specialty

Frito pie, a Santa Fe specialty


Eating a Frito pie

Like eating a lobster out of its own shell, or cooking a steak in its own juices, the Frito pie is served inside of a small Frito bag. I hesitantly peered inside. It was true, chili and cheese and peppers were poured over a bunch of corn chips inside of a Frito bag.

“It is good,” Dave reassured me before digging into his pie.

I dug in, too.

“Wow, wow wow,” I found myself saying as I withdrew the sucked clean plastic fork from my lips.

It was really good. In fact, I could not believe that anything originating from innards of a Frito bag could taste so delicious. The chili was good, the slightly soggy corn chips were good, the fact that I was eating an entire meal out of a Frito bag with a plastic fork in the home of the Frito pie was good, too.

I indulged. I smiled. I proclaimed myself a fool.

“I did not think Fritos soaked with chili could be so good,” I admitted.

I soon found myself at the bottom of the bag. I had just knocked off my first Frito pied. Satisfied, I arose to walk. I did not heed the warnings. Bad idea. I quickly stumbled back into my seat.

I felt as if my stomach was pumped to its capacity and the bulk head on the intake valve was blown wide open. I felt the Frito pie expanding in my stomach like a “soak in water and watch it grow” cereal box toy. I felt like I just consumed a lethal amount of rat poison. I imagined my stomach blowing up like a balloon and smushing out all of my other organs. I thought of Chaya at 9 months of pregnancy. I thought of a museum exhibit that I once saw about a man with an intestinal blockage who blew up. I felt ill.

I dreaded that I, too, would burst. I dreaded that my “stomach of steel” had become yet another victim of the Frito pie.

Frito pie

Frito pie

After learning my lesson I returned to my seat and sat out the required 30 minute waiting period before beginning the walk back across Santa Fe to Dave and Erin’s home. Our “walking” was actually more of leg dragging shuffle.

We all groaned.

“Now we know why people die here in their forties,” Dave admitted with a hand drawn near his stomach.

In my condition — after scarfing down an entire bag of Frito pie — I felt as if I would keel over and croak long before reaching that glory age.

Eating Frito pies in Santa Fe

She will get her's later

She will get her's later

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Filed under: Food, New Mexico, USA

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3689 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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5 comments… add one

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  • Emery December 23, 2009, 8:39 pm

    Wow. I never knew that Frito Pie was a regional thing. I always thought they were about as American as Apple Pie. I just asked a friend from Boston, and he said he’d never heard of it until he moved to Texas. I was born in Louisiana, and I remember buying split bags of Fritos with Wolf brand chili poured on the top of them at ball games at a very young age. And that was in far eastern Louisiana, right along the Mississippi border, so I’ve no doubt they had them in that southern state as well.

    It’s funny the things you take for granted.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com December 26, 2009, 1:14 pm

      That is interesting, Emery,

      I had never heard of a Frito Pie before, and I have traveled all over the USA — including New Mexico and Louisiana. But now that I know, I too, can take them for granted. I just found a cupboard that is oddly full of Frito corn chips at the home of my family in Western NY.

      Looks like Frito pies will be on the menu on the other side of the country!

      Walk Slow,


      Link Reply
  • Shana September 25, 2010, 10:13 pm

    I grew up in Inglewood, CA and our neighborhood Ice Cream truck sold this very item (right in the bag) which I ate religiously. I never thought about the origin, but I admit I eat some variation of this dish almost weekly. I am now a vegetarian, so I mix tortilla chips, vegetarian chilli and sharp cheddar cheese….DELICIOUS.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com September 25, 2010, 10:15 pm

      This seems to be a cultural sort of food — the people who eat Frito pies do so regularly. Good stuff, wish I could get the ingredients all the time as I travel.

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  • John June 17, 2012, 8:31 pm

    As a lifelong resident of Santa Fe, I have to say that these frito pies are the best in the world. I don’t experience that 30 minute period of hell after eating them though, I guess your stomach builds up a resistance over a lifetime of eating chili.

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