The secret to making the perfect plate of nachos

Plate of nachos

This article was originally published in the Winter 2015 issue of Cottage Life magazine.

The strategy

Start with a bag of tortilla chips—our pick is hearty and  flavourful Tostitos Cantina Extra Thick. For each 220 g bag, you’ll need 3–4 cups (750 ml–1 L) shredded cheese (we like old cheddar). Add pickled jalapenos ( 1/2 cup/125 ml) and whatever else you like on nachos. Scout your fridge for tasty leftovers.

The play

The best nachos start off with a two-tiered formation. Preheat the oven to 400˚F (200˚C). Line9″x 13″(23 cm x 33 cm) cookie sheet with parchment paper. Layer half of the chips, half of the cheese, and half of the other ingredients on the paper. Repeat. Bake until cheese is melted, 8–10 minutes. Serve nachos with sour cream and your favourite salsa and guacamole. 

The players

Jalapenos, olives, tomatoes, and onions are nacho all-stars. Try some other free agents in your lineup:

  • Shredded left-over grilled chicken or pulled pork
  • Paper-thin slices of chorizo or pepperoni
  • Chopped sun-dried tomatoes
  • Capers
  • Black beans
  • Refried beans
  • Chili con carne
  • Bacon bits
  • Shrimp, crab, or lobster

Refried Beans with Bacon

Dollop refried beans on nachos before baking, or serve on the side. Leftovers make a great side for fried eggs at breakfast.

  • 1 can (19 oz/540 ml) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup water (125 ml)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin (5 ml)
  • 4 slices bacon, cut into 1/2″ (1 cm) pieces
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped jalapeno (15 ml)
  • Salt and lime juice

1. In a food processor or blender, purée beans, water, and cumin.

2. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook bacon until crisp, about 15 minutes. Remove bacon and set aside. Sauté garlic in bacon fat until golden, 3 minutes. Add jalapeno and puréed beans. Reduce heat to low. Stir often until mixture is pudding-like, about 15 minutes. Stir in bacon, salt to taste, and a squeeze of lime juice. Makes 2 cups (500 ml).

Smoky Queso Dip
Serve this addictive dip with plain tor-tilla chips, or use it to replace shredded cheese in nachos.

  • 1 chipotle pepper with adobo sauce clinging to it
  • 1/4 cup tequila or white wine (60 ml)
  • 2 cups grated old cheddar cheese (500 ml)
  • 2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese (500 ml)
  • Chopped cilantro and chorizo, optional

Mince chipotle and sauce. In a non-stick skillet over medium-low heat, let tequila or wine, chipotle, and adobo sauce bubble for about a minute. Stirring slowly with a wooden spoon, sprinkle in cheese a handful at a time. Wait until most of the cheese is melted before adding more. Remove from heat. Sprinkle cilantro and chorizo overtop, if you like. About 2 cups (500 ml).

Tip: Freshly grated cheese melts better than pre-grated, and old cheddar works better than extra old. A miniature slow cooker is ideal for keeping queso dip warm.