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Game Day Walking Cowboy Chili Tacos

Walking Tacos on a Platter
Game Day Walking Cowboy Chili Tacos

This recipe and photography were provided courtesy of local cookbook author and chef, Carla Snyder. Learn more about Carla and discover her recipes at or in her cookbook, One Pan Whole Family. 

If you have kids, you’ve probably had walking tacos. Kids love it. Adults love it. Easy and delicious, we all need more walking taco in our hectic lives. If you’ve never had them, walking tacos consist of a 2oz bag of Fritos, slightly crushed and layered with seasoned taco meat, cheese and a few toppings like sour cream, green onions, olives and salsa.

Crunchy, meaty, cheesy and salty, a walking taco tastes amazing, but we can do better and make it healthier by adding some greens and beans to the mix. How about taking the basic recipe for the taco meat and instead, making a cowboy chili layered over romaine lettuce, Fritos and all the obligatory toppings making it more of a Frito-ey nacho plate? This is a dish we all need in our lives, especially during seasonal fall sporting events when quick and easy but equally delicious and healthy meals are a top priority.

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to feeding my clan this one-pot wonder for the past 20 years. It’s full of vegetables and crunchy Fritos, cheese and beefy chili.

To get things started, a bare-bones cowboy chili begins with a sauté of onions, garlic and ground meat with chili powder, salt and pepper to season. We like a stronger chili powder presence in our chili and I even like to add some extra heat in the way of a chipotle chili or two when the little ones will be eating something else. Chipotle chilies are smoked jalapeños, canned in an adobo-style tomato sauce. If you like hot things, I suggest you try them, but tread lightly as they are super spicy.

Walking Tacos in Single Serve Bowls

Once the meat is browned, just toss in the beans and enchilada sauce and give it a simmer. Mashing up the beans a bit with a potato masher or the back of a fork thickens the stew making it easier to get all that deliciousness in your mouth, where it belongs.

As with nachos, the toppings rule and the more the merrier. This is dinner, after all, so raw, crunchy, freshly-shucked corn cut from the cob is a brilliant addition along with good-for-you avocado and romaine lettuce. A little cheese, sour cream, olives and green onion add some fun and signal that dinner doesn’t have to be boring but can be delicious and good for you as well. With all the fresh vegetables and crunchy chips and toppings, no one will be thinking healthy, they’ll only be thinking about how good it tastes.

To keep it walkable, I purchased those plastic red baskets and paper liners online for serving individual portions. It makes this dish (and many others) easy to eat when you have a crowd and not enough seats at a table. When it comes to making a happy meal for everyone, this walking taco/Frito pie/nacho plate really walks the walk.

Walking Cowboy Chili Tacos


  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1-2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
  • 1-lb ground beef chili meat or ground beef
  • 1 canned chipotle chili, minced, optional
  • 1- 15 1/2 oz. can chili beans in sauce
  • 1- 10-oz can enchilada sauce
  • 1 small head romaine lettuce, shredded
  • 2 cups lightly crushed Fritos
  • 2 ears corn, shucked and cut from the cob
  • 2 avocados, diced
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1- 2.25 oz. can sliced black olives


  1. On a large cutting board, chop the onion, garlic and cilantro and transfer it all to a large bowl.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the chili powder, salt and a few grinds of pepper.
  3. Heat a 12 inch skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil. When the oil shimmers, add the bowl of vegetables and chili mixture to the pan. Sauté the vegetables, stirring every now and then until the vegetables begin to soften, about 4 minutes.
  4. Crumble the ground beef into the skillet and cook the meat, breaking it up with a spatula until no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Stir in the chipotle chili if using it. Add the beans with sauce and enchilada sauce and bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Mash the beans a bit with a potato masher or the back of a fork to thicken it up.
  5. On a large platter, spread out the lettuce and sprinkle the Fritos. Top with half the remaining toppings: chili, corn, avocado, green onion, cheddar, sour cream, olives and a sprinkle of cilantro. Place extra toppings into bowls so more can be piled on to individual tastes.
  6. Scoop the Frito chili into shallow bowls, top with more toppings to taste and dig in

Extra Hungry Kids? Add an extra 1/2 cup of corn to the chili as it cooks. It will also make the chili a little sweeter, which isn’t a bad thing.

Adult Taste Buds? Add a garnish of pickled jalapenos to the adult portions.

In the Glass: It can be difficult to match chili with wine, but just about any beer from Pabst Blue Ribbon to your local brew will work very nicely.

Walking Tacos in Personal Size Bowls

Click Here to Print the Recipe for Walking Cowboy Chili Tacos.

Carla Snyder in her kitchen
By Carla Snyder
Carla has spent the past 30 years in the food world as a caterer, artisan baker, cooking school teacher, food writer and author of 6 cook books including the James Beard nominated Big Book of Appetizers. Her passion is sharing fresh, cooked-from-scratch weeknight meals that cut prep time and practically eliminate that nightly sink full of dishes.

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