Nacho average nacho, yo.
Economic Nachos image
Credit: Daniel Agee; Food Styling: Julia Levy; Prop Styling: Kashara Johnson

Nachos are kind of a big deal, guys. Or at least we like to think so. The beauty of said chip-and-topping appetizer is that it can truly be whatever you want it to be. You can opt for a route that involves minimal effort and basic, pre-prepped ingredients, or you can opt for the road less traveled, and devote a little bit more kitchen time to whip up an impressive, intricate nacho display. Either way, nachos are nachos, and they are sure to please a hungry crowd no matter what.

From game day to birthdays to lazy, late-night cooking, there is always a time and place for a beautiful nacho spread, and we picked two of our favorite nacho recipes that exemplify the two polar ends of the spectrum of Nachology (i.e. the study and practice of making nachos; have you ever read a textbook, bro?). Opt for one of these, or find a sweet spot somewhere in between, and then go forth and live your nacho truth.

The Simple Man’s Nacho

Economic Nachos image
Credit: Daniel Agee; Food Styling: Julia Levy; Prop Styling: Kashara Johnson

If adjectives like “quick” and “easy” speak to you at a fundamental level or you’re new to the nacho game (welcome, we’ve been waiting for you), then this is the perfect place to start. Calling for the most basic, run-of-the-mill ingredients, this platter of nachos is as classically low-brow as they come—and that’s why we love ‘em. Forget sweating over a bowl of homemade pico de gallo or seeking out the most perfect avocados in the market to transform into guacamole. There is no shame in a few pre-made shortcuts in your quest to achieve Nachovana (...A.K.A. Nacho Nirvana. Dang, you were really slacking in Nachology 101).

If a Velveeta-esque sauce isn’t your ideal cheese component, feel free to swap out the sauce for shredded cheese (and skip the Ro*Tel). Get the oven cranking, and once you’ve dressed your chips with the ground beef and cheese, set it under the broiler for a couple minutes to get that nice melted layer of greatness. Do you, my friend.

The Intricate Man’s Nacho

Cuban Nachos image
Cuban Nachos image
| Credit: Daniel Agee; Food Styling: Julia Levy; Prop Styling: Kashara Johnson

Cuban Nachos image Photo: Daniel Agee; Food Styling: Julia Levy; Prop Styling: Kashara Johnson

In contrast to the previous nacho undertaking, this one might seem like an absolute doozy at first. Stay with us, here. If you’ve got a little extra time, patience, and a whole lot of TLC, these nachos are well worth it. Homemade, quick-pickled red onions add a tangy zing to every bite while deeply-spiced, freshly made refried beans add an earthy, spicy flavor to the arrangement. Instead of processed cheese sauce, we got a lil’ fancy and went for a homemade sauce with Jarlsberg, which is a mild, yellow, and slightly nutty cheese. Sure, all of these components require a little extra work on your part, but when they all come together, there’s no denying that it was all completely worthwhile.

The recipe also calls for cooked pork shoulder, which you can either make ahead of time and resourcefully use up the leftovers, or buy some pre-shredded at the store. The foundation of these nachos is also a combination of tortilla and plantain chips this point, why not, right? We even went ahead and garnished the platter with pickle chips. PILE! IT! ON!

Whichever nacho destiny speaks more to your cooking level and culinary desires, feel free to improvise and find some happy medium of the two. Perhaps, you make the easy nachos, but go the extra step to pickle red onions and toss those on, too. On the other hand, you could go for the gold and make the more complex Cuban Nachos, but hack it with store-bought refried beans, to lighten some of your load in the kitchen. Like most food categories, there’s a spectrum of dedication with nachos—you just have to find your place within it. And we wish you the best of luck in this endeavor to discover your nacho truth.

By Sara Tane and Sara Tane