Nachos

Nachos are considered more “Tex Mex” than Mexican, being an invention of one Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya, a restaurateur serving American servicemen in the 1940s. At their essence, they are simply a layer of tortilla chips with melted cheddar cheese and jalapeño peppers. Unfortunately, the sports stadium concessionaires got a hold of the nachos idea and ruined it by using melted, processed Velveeta cheese, instead of real cheddar. So now, many people think that that’s what nachos are. How distressing! Nachos are all about the ingredients – the best tortilla chips, freshly made refried pinto beans, grated cheddar cheese, jalapeño peppers, salsa, guacamole, sour cream and fresh cilantro.

Canned refried beans can be used for this recipe, of course. But you are truly missing out by not trying to make your beans fresh. It’s a whole other world. Regarding the salsa, there are two kinds of tomato salsa that we use often, one with fresh tomatoes and one with cooked. We used to make the cooked tomato salsa from scratch, but there are so many great prepared salsas on the market these days, that we don’t ours from scratch very often. This recipe works best with the cooked tomato salsa, but really, you can use any salsa.

Nachos Recipe

  • Yield: Serves 8.

Ingredients

Method

1 Preheat the oven to 350°F. Arrange a layer of tortilla chips along the bottom of a wide, shallow baking pan. It will make things easier if this baking pan also can be used as a serving pan, such as the ceramic platter shown in the photo above. The layer of tortilla chips can be a couple chips thick. Spread the refried beans over the chips (this is why you need extra thick chips, so they don't break when encountering the beans). Sprinkle the grated cheese over the top of chips and beans. Sprinkle slices of jalapeño peppers over the cheese. Bake in oven for 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted. 5 minutes in a convection oven.

2 Serve with dollops of salsa, sour cream and guacamole, with chopped cilantro sprinkled on top.

What is pictured above is a half-recipe.

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Texas nachos with homemade tortilla chips from Lisa Fain, our Homesick Texan

19 Comments

  1. Jay

    I lived in Austin for five years, and I consider Smoky Hill Salsa from Austin Spice Company to be the best I’ve tasted, and I’ve tasted a lot :). I still stock my cupboards through their online store (live in Seattle now, salmon / hazelnut salsa just doesn’t cut it).

    Smoky Hill Salsa, and Smoky Hill Salsa Verde (I’m not a big fan of the Chile Ancho or Green Chile varieties):

  2. Jeff

    Maybe it’s just me, but I think using fresh salsa as opposed to a jar of salsa makes a much larger difference than using fresh beans. I guess ideally I would use fresh beans and fresh salsa :)

    Also, I highly recommend adding some/all of the following when making nachos:
    * sliced black olives
    * diced yellow pepper
    * fresh cut jalepenos
    * habenero peppers (if you like them spicy)
    * lettuce
    * fresh diced tomato (depending on how chunky your salsa is)

    Nachos are also great if you add some meat, such as slices of chicken breast or steak. Or left over taco meat always makes great nachos!

  3. pate

    Salsa from a can??? No way, salsa is just too easy to make.

    Besides, a healthy dollop of home made mango-chipotle salsa is just the thing to take your nachos to the next level.

  4. Elise

    Hi Jay – thanks for the recommendation, it looks good!

    Hi Jeff – great suggestions, thank you, though I must disagree with you regarding the beans/salsa discussion (read on…).

    Hi Pate – Salsas come in all kinds – fresh tomato salsa, cooked tomato salsa, tomatillo salsa, mango salsa, etc. The fresh tomato salsa we make fresh during the summer when we have access to delicious fresh tomatoes and chiles. The rest of the year we don’t have access to decent fresh tomatoes or chiles, so we use salsa made from canned cooked tomatoes and canned cooked chiles. (You can also cook the tomatoes and the chiles from scratch, but have the same problem in the winter time in terms of access to good fresh tomatoes and chiles.) You can either make salsa from scratch using canned cooked tomatoes or you can buy salsa that has already been prepared and canned in a jar using cooked ingredients. Quite frankly, I don’t find much a a difference between making salsa from scratch using canned tomatoes and canned cooked chiles and some of the excellent prepared salsas that you can get these days. In fact, I like the brand I linked to in this recipe, Green Mountain, just as much as what I made from scratch almost every day growing up (my job in our family was chief salsa maker). That said, like I mentioned, one can use any salsa with nachos. I just prefer the cooked tomato type with this particular dish.

  5. Christine Naugle

    I currently live in NorthWest NC, in the town that Andy Griffith based Mayberry. We have a large Mexican population and one very good Mexican restaurant. Here, I’ve had the best Nachos I have ever had in my life and I’ve had them in the California, Arizona and Texas.

    It’s definitely not ‘classic’ Tex Mex Nachos (purists beware) but I have to share my favorite:

    It is their shrimp nachos… They use a really creamy blend of Mexican cheeses -it’s almost milky in color but a really strong flavor! Fresh shrimp swiming in spicy cheese on a mountain of hot homemade tortilla chips… with grilled veggies, jalepenos, a huge side of guacamole and a gollup of something they call rancheros salsa. soo yummy!

    So, if they sell Mexican cheese in your area, look for the kind that says “melting” cheese on the package -the texture and flavor is nice and yummy!

  6. Leonora

    Ironically, now in Mexico nachos always come with processed cheese sauce, and we think nachos with melted cheese is soo “american” and un-authentic haha. We’re a weird bunch I know. Personally, I like the sauce (I guess I’m used to it), and I’ve found the Que Bueno brand to be quite good. I imagine this is to the horror of nacho purists…
    FORGIVE ME =)
    Love the site!

  7. Deb

    Thank you for posting this recipe. We are true mexican spicy food fans here in our family.
    Amazingly, I’ve never made my own refried beans. I will definitely try nachos this way…because you make everything sound so delicious! :)

  8. Aaron

    Hi Elise,
    My favorite widely distributed salsa is Mrs. Renfroe’s. You can get them at Shaw’s or Kroger. If you like spicy hot, I highly recommend the habanero salsa. The salsa verde is also quite good.

  9. Sven

    I will have to try Mrs. Renfroe’s salsa, I tried their diced jalapenos and I thought they tasted too grassy. Maybe I just got a weird batch?

  10. Karina Wright

    I actually make my nachos the way you do (although I do use canned beans, I make salsa every year and freeze it). However, I truly do not like thick tortilla chips (the thinner and lighter the better, but I compromise for nachos since really light ones won’t stand up to the weight of the rest of the ingredients), so I buy thinner chips and spread the beans on by hand with a knife. Takes a little while, but it’s worth the time for me.

  11. Karina

    Elise~ Thanks so much – or should I say, Muchas gracias! – for the shout-out [link]. Nachos are a fave in our house, especially with organic blue corn chips.

  12. Lacey

    When I make nachos, I buy Taco shells and split them in half. I like them because they’re bigger and thick enough to hold a lot of toppings. I’ve also found that canned pinto beans (Sun Vista with Jalapenos is my favorite) drained a bit (leave some juice in) and spun in the food processor makes for a much more flavorful and better textured bean than canned refried beans. Try it sometime!

  13. Martyn

    Hi,
    My wife and I love nachos…..but the corn chips were so loaded with fats, when we decided to go on “the regime” to lose 15+ kilos it seemed things like this would need to go… but…. we decided to try Lebanese Bread instead..I guess you could use any unleavened flatbread for this, just crisp in the oven then pile on whatever you like. We have trouble getting most of the tex-mex options down here in a small town 300km sth of Sydney Aust., but enthusiasm makes up for much in this life !!
    We’re having them tonight (again) actually, it’s a Friday night ritual !

    For salsa, fresh tomato, red onion, chili, maybe a little bell pepper, garlic, lime juice, loads of coriander (cilantro) olive oil and a touch of sea salt…chop, mix, enjoy on the side or on top !! This way, it is a salad, the cooked varieties are fine in their place, this adds a fresh clean aspect.

  14. star

    I love nachos. What I HATE is the processed cheese spreads (like CheeseWhiz) that they have started to use. Most of these cheese spreads have no cheese at all in the ingredients. The stadium “nachos” are junk.

    We went to a new restaurant for dinner this weekend and their speciality is “nachos”. The chips, salsa, chili and peppers were mixed together, and then melted cheese sauce was plopped on top. Nothing was cooked. They were terrible. We told the chef and she argued saying that’s what nachos are – uncooked with cheese sauce on the top – besides she said everyone has always loved them this way and that was why they serve them like that. Funny, but this restaurant had just opened the night before (Friday) and on Saturday night when we went, we were one of two couples – so how can everyone “has always loved them this way”? Hmmm, what for two whole days everyone has “always” loved them? Hey, they asked us before hand to let them know how we felt about the food. We did, and they argued. Processed cheese sauce doesn’t cut it.

    On the other hand, the menu should have said chips and salsa with clumps of yellow chemical sauce on top – uncooked. At least that’s honest.

    Yuck.

  15. Andrea

    I love your method, especially that you use beans (I go through beans so fast, I love them so. I hate that most nachos at restaurants don’t have beans!). I would add that you should definitely make it in layers so that every chip has some nacho mixings on it. I usa a single layer of chips, cheese, beans, salsa, and then repeat several times until I have a gigantic mound of nacho. Sometimes I use refried beans, sometimes I just use whole beans. I also like using both pinto and black beans. Then, after it bakes I add green onions, tomato, and lettuce.

    Easy homemade chips – heat the oven to 450 and bake store bought corn tortillas (cut into quarters) that have been brushed with a little canola oil for 5 minnutes. This is healthier that store-bought fried tortillas and super crispy and tasty. You can do tostadas this way as well. You can also deep fry the chips, which is delicious but perhaps a little greasy.

  16. Frostie

    I have a different take altogether on nachos.
    BTW, love them for breakfast! Fast, healthy and filling. Blue corn chips, black beans, chopped fresh tomatoes, cilantro, scallions, cheddar cheese, salsa fresca, dollop of 2% greek yogurt or sour cream. Layer chips with beans and cheese. Melt in microwave. Top with remaining ingredients. Can add chopped chilies or jalapenos for some heat.

  17. Willie

    I’m not into making nachos (too lazy to do the shopping) so I’ll be coming over to your place tomorrow for the SuperBowl.

  18. Cass

    I live in New Zealand and I’ve never had Nachos without mince (beef), even on my many trips to the USA, so I’m going to try this one on Friday…. maybe I’ll add mince.

  19. D. E. Rivas

    Add Fajita ( Beef Skirt ) to your nachos and it is now called Ponchos!!

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