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How to Make Nachos – Like a Superstar

how to make nachos, nacho chips, nacho topping

Nachos started out similar to the Caesar salad. A Mexican Maitre’D named Ignacio (Nacho) Anaya had a table of 10 to 12 ladies show up at his restaurant after closing.

Not one to miss out on business, Nacho ran into the kitchen to see what he had.The answer was tostadas, shredded Wisconsin cheese, and jalapenos. The “nacho” was born.

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Originally, Ignacio called them “Nacho’s especiale”

tostadas, tortilla chipsThe nacho as we know it from movie theatres, ball parks, and convenience stores comes from 1976 when a man named Frank Liberto brought his version to the Texas Rangers stadium in Arlington Texas.

He made a pumpable sauce that made the snack take only seconds to prepare. It was a hit! Frank started a company called Ricos. Ricos sold nacho cheese sauce in a condensed form that increased concessionaires’ profits considerably and nachos took over the convenience food world.

Since the beginning, people have been putting all kinds of toppings on nachos. From the basic cheese and jalapeno, to barbeque pork or kalua pork and pineapple, different chefs and different regions have very different takes on the tasty treat.

Every kind of meat that can be eaten with a tortilla “fork” has been offered, as well as every kind of topping, but you should always start out with quality ingredients. Otherwise you could just go to 7/11 and get stale chips and scary “cheese product”

Nacho Chips 

spicy tortilla chips, cheese sauceLet’s start with the foundation of your nachos, the chips. If you have your own deep fryer you can select a good quality tortilla, cut it into triangles and fry your own. I prefer the fresh flavor of frying my own chips.

You can’t beat warm chips, lightly salted, dipped in fresh salsa or pico de gallo. But, if you don’t have a fryer, selecting the right chip makes a big difference in the quality of your nachos.

Where I live we have a few really good Latin grocery stores. That’s where the best pre-made chips will be found. Otherwise, I go to the “Ethnic” section of the supermarket.


Next, we need to pick a good quality cheese. For this article we will not be using cheese sauce. If you want to use cheese sauce, check out the article on nacho cheese sauce.

homemade tortilla chips, recipes for tortilla chipsThe original cheese Nacho Anaya used was Wisconsin Cheddar. I love Cheddar, but with so many great cheeses out there, why limit ourselves? I like to use cotija and cheddar mixed. Cotija has a very good flavor, sort of like a parmesan, and a decent melt.

Cheddar adds the sharp zing, and melts incredibly. I also like to use enchilado and Mexican manchega (not to be confused with Spanish manchega which is more like a pecorino), but these can be harder to find.


Let’s talk toppings. I like to load my nachos up. Black beans, ground beef, diced avocado, diced tomato, fresh sliced peppers, I can go on forever. I usually get complaints that there aren’t enough chips for the toppings, but that’s what forks are for.

If you are going to use ground beef, one thing I urge you to try is to forget the taco seasoning. I like to brown my beef, drain off excess grease, and add homemade pico de gallo. Salsa works just as well, but by using pico de gallo you get the advantage of bringing out the flavor of the pico and beef and enhancing the over all flavor.

Cooking the fresh veggies with the beef really creates a lot of flavor. Besides, taco seasoning is usually a lot of dehydrated stuff and food coloring, and why use nasty ingredients when the real deal is better and just as easy. Here is a basic recipe for loaded nachos.

Sean’s Loaded Nachos
1 pound lean ground beef

1 can black beans or 1 cup cooked black beans

3 cups tortilla chips

2 avocados, diced

1 tomato, diced

2 jalapenos, sliced

½ cup Cheddar cheese, shredded

½ cup cotija cheese, shredded

1 cup salsa or pico de gallo

  • Prepare the beef, I recommend the method suggested above.
  • Heat the black beans, I like to add garlic and fresh cilantro to mine.
  • Preheat your oven to 375, or better yet, use your broiler.
  • Place a piece of wax paper on a cookie sheet.
  • Arrange the chips so that you can’t see the bottom.
  • Sprinkle cheese over the top of the chips. Don’t use all the cheese, save some for the top.
  • Now evenly distribute the toppings so that every chip has some toppings, but don’t overload, we are trying to make each chip 1 mouthful.
  • Now top with the remaining cheese. Pop into the oven and watch closely.

We want the cheese to just barely melt with out browning the chips or toppings. If you are using freshly fried chips they will brown quickly.

  • When the cheese is melted, pull the pan out of the oven and use a metal spatula to put nachos on plates. Each sheet pan full of nachos will feed 2-4 people, depending on how hungry people are.

Boom! Enjoy!

Sean Jewett

Sean Jewett

Sean is lucky enough to live, work, and play in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, USA. He has been cooking professionally for 20 years, the last 15 in the best kept secret of American Locavores. With a serious love for cooking, and eating, Sean loves to share knowledge and learn new tricks.

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