Last updated on December 8th, 2020
If there’s one area in which I consider myself an expert, it’s definitely how to make the best nachos.
This is a subject with which I have lifelong experience—at least 25 years of nacho platter practice under my belt.
So it was with simultaneous glee and horror that I received the following text from a fellow food professional friend (who will remain anonymous to protect her rep):
“Can you share any nacho-making tips with me? I thought it wasn’t possible to make a bad batch, but I don’t make them often (if ever) and my recent batch was meh. Maybe it was the chips? Not enough cheese? Maybe I overbooked them so the cheese was congealed? Or maybe I need to broil…”
Hang in there, girl. I got you.
If you’ve ever suffered from a mediocre nacho platter—beyond the horror of sports concession stand nachos, which deserve an intervention on a whole ‘nother scale—help is on the way.
Here are my three top tips for building the best homemade nacho platter you’ve ever tasted.
How to Make the Best Nachos
1. Go Wide, Not Tall
Despite the towering platters of ‘chos at brewpubs and sports bars across our fair land, the key to getting every single chip coated with melted cheese is to think prairie instead of mountain.
I make my nachos on rimmed baking sheets or cast iron sizzle platters—wide serving plates that give the chips room to breathe. You may want to line yours with foil to catch any bits of burned cheese.
Once I’ve spread a wide, flat spread of chips across the sheet, I add a mix of shredded cheeses: sharp Cheddar for zing, Monterey Jack or Colby Jack for melt.
2. Divide Up Your Toppings
By this, I mean that you shouldn’t pile all your toppings on at once right before serving.
Instead, you should use the cheese layer’s meltiness to its full advantage, and sprinkle some toppings on before you cook your nacho platter, letting them adhere to the ‘chos.
This way, when it comes time to dig in, you’re not trying to scoop everything up while it falls off and around your nachos.
I like to add toppings like meats (pulled pork, ground beef, diced chicken), diced bell peppers, sliced olives, scallions, and pickled jalapeños or banana peppers before my nacho platter hits the heat.
I leave other toppings like diced avocado, salsa, sliced radishes, lettuce, sour cream, and a squeeze of lime until after the nachos are cooked.
These are all items which benefit from remaining cold or crisp, providing much needed contrast to the sizzling chips and cheese.
3. Broil, Don’t Microwave
This is probably the most crucial step, building on the other two to culminate in a stellar stack of nachos.
Broiling the best way to achieve a nacho platter with truly toasty chips and melty cheese.
I make my nachos in my beloved Breville toaster oven, though you can always do them under the traditional oven broiler as well with the same results.
And I’ll also make a case for grilled nachos in summer months.
Watch the video and read the recipe below for more details, though how you top your nachos is entirely up to you. Let the chips and cheese guide you to nacho perfection!
- 1 16-ounce bag tortilla chips (we are partial to Late July or Xochitl)
- 1 8-ounce block sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1 8-ounce block Monterey Jack or Colby Jack cheese, shredded
Toppings to Bake On
- meats like pulled pork, diced chicken, or ground beef
- drained, rinsed beans like black or pinto
- diced bell peppers
- sliced black olives
- thinly sliced scallions
- chopped pickled jalapeño peppers or banana peppers
Toppings for Finishing
- diced avocado
- thinly sliced radishes
- shredded iceberg lettuce
- sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
- lime wedges for squeezing over the nachos
- Line an oven-safe pan such as a large rimmed baking sheet with foil, if desired. Or use 4 individual oven-safe dishes such as square ceramic baking pans for personal servings of nachos.
- Spread the tortilla chips in an even layer on the pan(s), taking care to fill as many open spaces as possible so the chips completely cover the pan surface.
- Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the chips, alternating handfuls of Cheddar and Monterey Jack to get a good blend of cheeses on each chip.
- Top with any of the ingredients you'd like to bake on with the cheese, as noted above.
- Preheat the broiler to high heat.
- Place the pan under the broiler and cook, watching carefully to make sure the chips don't burn. Total broil time should take no more than 5 minutes.
- If you're doing individual nacho servings, you'll have to broil them one at a time or in batches.
- Carefully remove the pan from the broiler.
- Top with any of the additional cold toppings as desired and serve immediately.