Friendly Friday Photo Challenge – Summer Traditions – Recipe for Haystacks

This week’s Friendly Friday Photo Challenge comes from Sandy at The Sandy Chronicles. If you would like to join in this fun photo challenge please visit her site for the rules. The theme “Summer Traditions” was fun for me to think about. I had already started a post about one of my favorite summer recipes, and I decided to submit it for this week’s challenge with just a bit of backstory added. I hope you enjoy it!

I grew up in a Seventh-Day Adventist (SDA) home. Some basics of Seventh-Day Adventist religious beliefs are: a literal translation of the Bible, celebrating a seventh day Sabbath, the belief that people get to go to heaven by faith in Jesus Christ, and faith that Jesus is going to come back to earth one day to take everyone who believes in Him to heaven. There are other doctrines and beliefs but those are some of the main points.

Some of the stereotypical cultural habits of Seventh-Day Adventist’s are: love of nature and being outdoors, healthy lifestyle choices (no smoking, etc.), a vegetarian or vegan diet, and potlucks. SDA churches always have potlucks. Depending on the church, potluck is every week after church or perhaps as seldom as only once per month. We are potluck people.

A favorite SDA potluck dish is called haystacks. Haystacks are a cornerstone of my childhood food memories and they are still one of my favorite meals. Haystacks are absolutely perfect for summer, and a great way to feed a crowd. They are especially perfect if you are feeding people with a variety of dietary restrictions. I hope you try them sometime soon!

Basic Haystack Ingredients

  • Fritos corn chips
  • Pinto beans (recipe below)
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Grated cheese
  • Sliced olives
  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Ranch dressing

West Coast Haystacks

  • Add these toppings to the basic recipe
  • Mexican Rice
  • Avocados or Guacamole
  • Fresh Salsa – like the one in the link below

Barb’s Favorite Salsa Recipe

Basic Haystack Assembly

  • This is the best part because haystacks require a buffet line and DIY assembly.
  • Just line up the ingredients in the proper order and demonstrate the assembly process to anyone unfamiliar with the dish. Now that you have read this post, when I have you over for haystacks, I can skip the demo because you will know exactly what to do!
  • Base layer: Fritos or other corn tortilla chips. You can leave them whole or crunch them up according to your preference
  • Middle bottom: next pile on the refried beans & Mexican rice
  • Middle top: add a handful of lettuce
  • Top: lastly add the grated cheese, sliced olives, chopped tomatoes and ranch dressing (avocados, salsa, guacamole, corn, peppers, sour cream or whatever else you like!)

Basic Haystack Pinto Bean Recipe


  • 2 cups dry pinto beans
  • Water
  • Vegetable broth
  • Salt


Measure the dry beans into a large pot and cover them with water. Rinse the beans thoroughly removing any that don’t look good. Cover the beans with water (about 2 inches over the beans) put a lid on the pot and let them soak overnight.

Rinse the beans again thoroughly. Drain the water and add vegetable broth to cover the beans by about 2 inches. If you use water instead of vegetable broth the beans turn out a rather gray and unappealing color. Using vegetable broth gives the beans in a much more appetizing color and a more complex flavor. Bring the pot to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for approximately two hours or until the beans are tender. If frothy bubbles form on the top just scoop them off and toss them in the sink. Once the beans are tender add the salt to taste (about 2 teaspoons).

A note about the lettuce…

My mom makes the best haystacks and it’s because of how thinly she slices the lettuce. I’m getting pretty close but it’s still not quite the same. I like to use green leaf lettuce or red leaf lettuce.

After I wash and dry the leaves I stick them together so I can cut off the white parts on the ends. I use about 1-2 lettuce leaves for each person that I am feeding.

Then I flip the leaves around so I can begin cutting them from the fluffy end, which is more difficult to cut and I want to do that part first. I slice the leaves as thinly as I can without getting my fingers in the way.

This part of the process can be done ahead of time. After you’re done slicing the lettuce, you can put it in a Ziploc bag in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.

A note about the tomatoes…

I like to use small cherry or grape tomatoes. I simply rinse them and slice them into quarters. When cut this way, they look like jewels on the top of a crown. I cut them like this for any salad with tomatoes.

Btw, that Victorinox Swiss Classic Steak Knife with rounded tip is the best knife ever for cutting tomatoes of any size. Careful though because it’s crazy sharp!!

Other Haystack Variations

My parents always serve haystacks with Mexican rice & sliced avocados. They usually use canned vegetarian chili instead of pinto beans.

My friend K.H. in Colorado makes her pinto beans with tomatoes and uses Nacho Cheese Doritos instead of Fritos.

Our friends in North Carolina always served haystacks with chopped bell peppers and corn kernels.

We use low-sodium Fritos instead of the original and oftentimes just use whatever corn tortilla chips we have on hand. Haystacks are a great way to use up those little pieces of corn tortilla chips at the bottom of the bag!

You can really use your imagination to make this dish your own, any type of bean or chili would work, as well as different types of salad greens and toppings. Go wild friends!

For a true haystack you should keep it vegetarian and serve it without meat. However, we have served it with ground beef or shredded chicken for our meat-loving friends and family with great reviews.

Our most recent haystacks included shredded chicken. I used this Honey BBQ Shredded Chicken recipe from Cooking with a Wallflower. On this occasion we were entertaining guests and the head of the house is from Wyoming. I don’t know if there are any vegetarians in Wyoming. I don’t know if it’s even legal to be vegetarian in Wyoming! Seriously though, I read somewhere that while someone is in your home, you are responsible for their happiness. We want to be accommodating hosts and we try to cater to our guests’ food preferences whenever possible. So if you visit our home and you’re from Wyoming or Montana we will make meat for you! And if you’re vegan, we will whip up some tofu! And if you are both over at the same time, we will serve both!

🥗 Have you tried haystacks before? If so, what are your favorite variations or toppings?

🥗 What is your favorite meal to serve for a crowd?

🥗 What’s your favorite dish to bring to a potluck?

8 thoughts on “Friendly Friday Photo Challenge – Summer Traditions – Recipe for Haystacks

  1. I didn’t know about Haystack before. Sounds like a delicious salad.

    Fun fact: I eat my chopped salad with chop sticks. Sounds weird, right? But try it and you’ll see how much easier it is to pick up those pieces of lettuce and toppings. It’s especially true with take-out salads where that little plastic fork barely does the job. Your salad might be a little bit more challenging with the rice and beans .. but then you can use chopsticks and a spoon!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yumm! We love haystacks! We usually use tortilla chips and, if available, we add all the veggies on top: shredded carrot, green onion, bell pepper, cucumber, avocado…even red cabbage sliced real thin.

    Our 4th of July tradition is veggie corn dogs. And another summer staple is veggie burgers made from scratch.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Haystacks are an easy meal to prepare. I also like using La Hacienda Dressing on top, or for a variation from Ranch dressing, you can mix together sour cream and salsa to make a tasty dressing too. Many add ons are acceptable for this meal as already mentioned by Launa in the above comment. For an alternative you can bake flour tortillas in bowl-shaped fluted baking tins and substitute them for the corn tortilla chips on the base layer. Taco Salad may be more what you are making with the baked flour tortillas. Happy Creative Summer Cooking!!

    Liked by 1 person

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