Memphis-Style Barbecue Nachos, and Some Thoughts on Sauce

July 29, 2014

Sunday Dinners comes to us from our own chef/photojournalist/farmer/father figure Tom Hirschfeld, featuring his stunning photography and Indiana farmhouse family meals.

Today: Rethink your nachos with a tangy-sweet barbecue sauce straight out of Memphis. 

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Great barbecue is about the cut of meat, the smoke, the rub, and the sauce. But just because sauce is only one part of the equation, doesn't mean it shouldn't be excellent. In fact, barbecue sauce should be so delicious that you can use it for much more than simply dipping or brushing. 

More: Make a mayonnaise-based sauce, and use it in this Genius grilled chicken recipe.

I like my barbecue sauces to be multipurpose: When I make a classic Georgia cracker salad, I like to blend a little Texas-style sauce into the mayonnaise; when I make make a fried chicken salad, I dress it with a vinegar-heavy North Carolina-style sauce. And then there are the fried green tomatoes I serve with a sassy mix of buttermilk ranch and Memphis barbecue sauce. But don't stop there: A good barbecue sauce can lend a helping hand to a number of recipes you don't always associate with barbecue -- like these nachos.


These aren’t your average nachos, and you shouldn't treat them as such: Adding jalapeños or cilantro would be a mistake, as would including beans and tomatoes. These nachos work because there is a balance between the different components: The romaine lettuce catches all the runny cheese and the drops of barbecue sauce; the vinegar in the sauce cuts the fatty meat and balances out the richness of the cheese; and the red and green onions combine to do what only onions can do.

I used a Memphis-style barbecue sauce here solely because the balance of tomato and vinegar plays well with the corn chips, as do the garlic and shallots. But just as there are many sauces to choose from, there are many ways to use each one, and so I often make a double batch of whatever recipe I've chosen. This sauce is dynamite on smoked chicken, turkey bacon burgers, and mixed into ranch dressing as a dip. The best barbecue sauces are always homemade, and can be made in a matter of minutes while your butt is on the smoker. 

Memphis-Style Pulled Pork Nachos 

Serves 6 to 8

For the barbecue sauce:

2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon garlic, grated with a microplane
1 1/2 teaspoons shallot, grated with a microplane

1/4 teaspoon Colman's mustard powder
1 teaspoon hot sauce (I like Crystals brand)
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

For the nachos:

2 pounds pulled pork, smoked or not, warm
2 hearts of romaine, shaved
1 bag yellow corn chips
1 cup heavy cream
16 slices American cheese 
1/2 cup red onion, small dice
1/2 cup green onion, sliced into thin rings
1 cup shredded mozzarella

See the full recipe (and save it and print it) here.

Photos by Tom Hirschfeld

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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Father, husband, writer, photojournalist and not always in that order.


hardlikearmour July 29, 2014
You're killing me with these nachos! Seriously!
Allison T. July 29, 2014
BBQ is amazing, I do not think I have ever had barbecue nachos. I also love your sauce, in my opinion ketchup based sauces are best!
Rachel B. July 29, 2014
So excited to see Memphis BBQ Nachos getting some recognition. It's a true delicacy. One of our favorite local BBQ Nachos is from Central BBQ. I order it with their homemade kettle cooked potato chips with bbq seasoning. You can do this at home with bbq potato chips instead of tortilla chips.

Be sure to top off your nachos with some dry seasoning as well.