Frito Pie with TVP Chili


Sometimes you just want things to taste like they did when you were a kid. Me, I grew up in a family where not a lot of cooking went on, so many of my childhood favorites have turned out to be a little bit disappointing to my adult palate.

Fortunately, that’s not true for frito pie.

Yeah, it’s a little lowbrow, but it’s also completely satisfying. Strong flavors, a bit of heat, and lots of contrasting textures hold up pretty well to scrutiny. The best part, both as a kid and now, is how some of the fritos soak up the chili and get that great crispy-soggy texture. Nothing like it, man.

Oh, also? It also veganizes really, really well.

When I got a craving for this, I was delighted to discover that fritos are accidentally vegan. The ingredients are just corn, corn oil, and salt. I mean, they’re practically health food. As for the chili, the spices and the beans are what matter here anyway, so leaving out the meat isn’t even an issue.

The Verdict
Completely awesome, of course.

The chili turned out great, with the TVP adding just a nice little bit of chewy texture and extra protein. I kept it fairly mild so the kids could eat it, but there was enough flavor from the peppers to keep me and my husband happy, too. Overall, I’d say A+.

Recipe Used

Vegan Chili with TVP

Yield: 8 servings

This is great over fritos, but it’s also good with rice, corn bread, or in tortillas as a burrito. The TVP adds a little extra protein and some additional texture, but it’s not necessary. Just simmer it a bit longer if you leave it out. The corn is optional, too, but I like the bursting texture and sweetness it gives.


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2-3 serrano peppers or a jalapeno, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 7-ounce can tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon sauce from a can of chipotles in adobo sauce (add a diced pepper from the can, too, if you want it a little spicier)
  • 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes or Ro-Tel
  • 4 14-ounce cans beans, rinsed and drained (I used kidney, pinto, and black beans)
  • 1 14-ounce can corn (optional)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • ½ teaspoon oregano, preferably Mexican
  • 1 cup texturized vegetable protein


  1. Heat the oil in a large pan over medium-low heat and add the onion, peppers, and garlic. Saute until softened.
  2. When the veggies are soft, turn the heat to medium and add the tomato paste and adobo sauce and stir for about a minute, until thoroughly combined and sizzling a little.
  3. Add everything else except the TVP and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and stir in the TVP.
  4. Simmer until nice and thick, about half an hour if you use the TVP or an hour or so if you don’t. Taste for seasoning and add additional salt if necessary before serving.
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