Hangover Helper: Vegan Frito Pie

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

Note: For the four weeks between January 14th and February 11th, I'm adopting a completely vegan lifestyle. Every weekday I'll be updating my progress with a diary entry and a recipe. For past posts, check here!

One of the biggest problems I've discovered since going vegan is that when I gave up meat and cheese, I didn't simultaneously give up cocktails. How is this a problem? Well, if you follow my weekend recipes, you'd know that fatty meat and cheese are sort of staples in my regular hangover regimen (exhibits A and B). So what's a cocktail-loving vegan to do the next morning? How about go back to the roots and hit up one of the grandaddies of hangover helpers: The Frito Pie.

If I may be so bold as to make some very broad generalizations here, there are two groups of Frito pie lovers in the world: Texans, and also EVERYBODY ELSE. Seriously, does anybody not love Frito pie? Fritos are already the king of packaged fried corn chip snacks with a saltier, cornier, greasier flavor than any competitor on the market. Soaked in savory, spicy chili until they're soft yet retain a shadow of their crisp crunch, they're like the lazy drunk man's version of chilaquiles (and every bit as delicious).

There are a few modifications that need to be made. The first and most obvious is the chili. Luckily, we've got an number of great vegetarian/vegan chili recipes on the site (try the Vegetarian Chili with Porter and Chipotle or the Winter Vegetable Chili). And if you wait until Monday, I'll be doing my own version of vegetarian chili (hint: it involves coarsely chopped chickpeas, real dried chilis, and a few secret ingredients).

The classic recipe gets topped with cheese or cheese sauce, along with a dollop of sour cream. For my version, I go the completely opposite route: rather than complementing the chili with extra fat, I add a bunch of pickled onions and jalapeños to add an acidic bite that adds complexity and balance to the dish. A sprinkle of fresh cilantro, a scattering of sliced scallions, and a squeeze of lime all add freshness.

Ok, so it's not quite the Frito pie you know, but it's—dare I say—better?*

*P.S. Ed disagrees.