Photographed By Nina Gallant. Styled By Monica Mariano
Salty chips. Gooey cheese. Creamy beans, savory meat, cool avocado, piquant salsa…is there anything better with (or after) a few beers? When all the elements are on point, nachos are sure to please a crowd. That’s why you need our guide to build the best plate of nachos your coffee table has ever seen—just in time for Monday Night Football (or any night, really). Herein, find ideas for crazy-good combos and accompanying recipes (super-seasoned carnitas or fresh pineapple salsa, anyone?); tips for taking nachos to the next level; and a slew of unique regional riffs from around the country. So pour a beverage and ready the cheese grater—it’s nacho time.
SMOKY BLUE CORN NACHOS
BASE: Blue corn chips
CHEESE: Smoked cheddar
TOP IT OFF: Caramelized onions, carnitas, pinto beans, and sliced radishes
BUFFALO WING NACHOS
BASE: Pita chips
CHEESE: Monterey Jack, blue cheese
TOP IT OFF: Pulled buffalo chicken, avocado crema, chopped onion
TOTCHOS CON QUESO
BASE: Tater tots
CHEESE: Chile con queso
TOP IT OFF: Crumbled chorizo, sliced scallion
BASE: Tortilla chips
CHEESE: Pepper Jack
TOP IT OFF: Browned beef, pickled jalapeños, pico de gallo, sour cream
BASE: Plantain chips
CHEESE: Queso Oaxaca
TOP IT OFF: Black beans, pineapple salsa, guacamole
BOSS NACHO TIPS
Choose thick chips
A sturdy base is needed to sustain multiple toppings, says Robb Walsh, author of The Tex-Mex Cookbook: A History in Recipes and Photos (Ten Speed Press, 2004) and co-owner of El Real, a Houston Tex-Mex restaurant.
Get your ratios right
“I don’t know how many dishes I’ve had where I end up with either a ton of chips and no toppings or a mound of toppings I need to dig into with a fork because I’m out of chips,” says Derek Sotak, blogger at nachonomics.com. His advice? “Layer, layer, layer. Every bite should give you some base, some toppings, and some binding agent.”
Don’t let cheese play second fiddle
Grate your own for optimal melting, and be generous when sprinkling. “Use more cheese than you think you need and less of everything else,” says Gina Hamadey, author of ¡Buenos Nachos! (Dovetail, 2016).
Step away from the microwave
Assemble nachos on a foil-lined sheet pan and bake until the cheese melts (about five to 10 minutes in a 350°F oven). Whatever you do, keep “wet” toppings on the side to avoid sad, soggy nachos. “If you want sour cream on top, thin it out with lime juice and drizzle,” Hamadey says.