Food & Drink

Frito Pie, Alabama-Style

Serves 12-14

Just don’t skimp on the fat in the roux

Photo: Eric Savage

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has a regular order at Acre, in Auburn, Alabama. “He always gets fried calamari with red pepper coulis and blackened shrimp tacos,” says chef David Bancroft. “I should probably point out that we don’t have blackened shrimp tacos on the menu.” Like many people in the college town, Bancroft is happy to oblige.

Newton led the Auburn Tigers to a national championship in 2011. This weekend, locals will be cheering him on as he faces Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50. “These guys are my two favorite quarterbacks right now,” Bancroft says. Naturally, he’s rooting for Newton and the Panthers over the New Orleans–born Manning. “Let’s just say I want the Panthers to win, but I want Manning to make it a hell of a game.

On game day, Bancroft will be serving Frito pies loaded with his signature venison chili. The recipe he gave us substitutes store-bought beef, but you’re welcome to use any meat you like—venison, pork, and turkey all work. Just don’t skimp on the fat in the roux. “That roux gives the chili its smooth texture and its rich, full-bodied flavor,” he says. “If you’re worried about burning it, turn the heat down and take your time. Drink a beer. Enjoy it.”


    • 1 stick unsalted butter

    • 3 lb. ground beef

    • 1/2 cup all purpose flour

    • 2 red bell peppers, diced

    • 1 large white onion, diced

    • 2 jalapeños, minced (seeds optional)

    • 15 cloves garlic, minced

    • 1 6-oz. can tomato paste

    • 2 tbsp. kosher salt

    • 1/3 cup chili powder

    • 2 1/2 tbsp. cumin

    • 1 tsp. allspice

    • 1 tsp. dried oregano

    • 4 cups low-sodium beef stock

    • 1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce

    • 1/4 cup soy sauce

    • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar

    • 1 cup dark beer

    • 1/2 of 1 16-oz. can pinto beans, drained (optional)

    • 12 2-oz. bags Fritos

    • Optional garnishes: Chopped scallions, diced onion, sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese


  1. Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add ground beef and sauté until fully cooked, about 5 minutes. Remove beef from pan with a slotted spoon and strain fat, reserving 1 cup and 2 tbsp. Pour 1 cup reserved fat into a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add flour to fat to begin roux, whisking frequently, and continue to cook until the roux is milk chocolate in color, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat and reserve.

  2. Pour 2 tbsp. reserved fat into Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add vegetables and cooked beef to the pan and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste, salt, and dried spices and continue sautéing until paste begins to toast, no more than 2 minutes. Pour reserved roux into the pan, stir to combine, and sauté for 1 minute. Stir in liquid ingredients and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer covered until ready to serve, stirring occasionally. (If using beans, add them a few minutes before serving to heat through.)

  3. To serve, ladle the chili over the chips. Garnish and enjoy.

Recipe from chef David Bancroft of Acre in Auburn, Alabama