5 Upgrades That Will Change Your Nacho Game

April 28, 2015

We've partnered with Garden of Eatin' to find the best ways to turn your next bag of chips into an exceptional plate of nachos.

Today: Na-cho average nachos. Here are 5 ways to boost yours above the rest.

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Nachos need a makeover. No, not a head-to-toe closet purge (because we're never not going to be obsessed with avocados), but the kind that freshens up even the most familiar of chip vs. cheese vs. salsa ratio. The pull-apart, layered apparatus of the dish makes it prime for a bit there and bob here—all in the name of marrying flavors and tossing in something just a bit off the beaten path.

So make yourself a margarita, grab a bag of chips, and try these 5 ways to give some oomph to your next pile of nachos:

Ditch the canned beans and make your own.

Refried beans get a bad rap, but they don't have to be mucky or heavy if you use The Splendid Table's recipe. You can whip these into shape in just 20 minutes and, with the soulful combo of cinnamon and cloves mingling with zippy jalapeno and garlic, your nachos will be blanketed in a coat of many (delicious) beans.  

Try an unconventional cheese for maximum melt.

The corner grocery dairy aisle is a daunting and cold place. It's normal to dip in, grab a bag of Monterey Jack, and call it a day. But if you're looking to change up your nacho cheese, try Muenster and Gouda for new flavor and texture—they melt like champs and and are found in most stores.

If you've got a local cheese shop, try Gruyère or Fontina—both have nuttiness and earthy flavors that melt with ease.

Tip: Don't forget to build multiple layers of chips, beans, and cheese—that way there's more surface area—before you top your nachos off.

Pickle some things, and then pile 'em on.

Forgo regular jalapeño pickles (unless you're really craving them) and try pickled red onions, pickled ramps, or even mango pickle on your next batch of nachos. And if you want to try your hand at pickled watermelon rind, we'll be right there with you, cheering you on.

Go wild with market veggies.

Nachos needn't be covered in gobs of gooey meat and sauce (but if you're into that, this is a safe space). Take cues from your farmers market and add spring onions, radishes, corn, and a dusting of fresh herbs.

Spice up your sour cream.

Cool, creamy sour cream is a favorite condiment around here, and it complements crunchy, savory chips like frosting does cake. Try taking yours a level up with these additions:  

  • Sriracha sour cream: Stir in your desired amount for some extra spice.
  • Tequila lime sour cream: Fold in a teaspoon or two of each for a bit of citrus booziness.
  • Caramelized onion sour cream: Try mixing in 1/4 cup of caramelized onions.
  • Mashed avocado sour cream: For those who just can't do it without the green.

More: If you're looking for a vegan option, try dollops of cashew cheese.

A word on baking: While classic vessels include cast iron or baking sheets—on which you can broil nachos at 500 °F—we used a paella pan at 475 °F for 10 minutes and it worked like a charm (and looked good during the oven to table transfer).  

What's your favorite nacho topping? Tell us the good, the weird, and the spicy in the comments below!  

Photos by James Ransom, Alexandra Stafford, and Melina Hammer.

Garden of Eatin' wants to help you overcome entertaining challenges. Join the #ChippedChallenge with them here.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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I love oysters and unfussy sandwiches.


mikedalena May 18, 2015
I like Art's unsalted potato chips smothered with melted blue cheese, bacon or lardons, and green onion.

Serve with a dish of 2/1 ketchup/fresh ground black pepper for the occasional dipping of a cheesy-bacony-oniony chip.
Rose G. May 6, 2015
Love grilled shrimps and roasted corn whoa next level of happiness
Reisa L. May 4, 2015
What a great marriage with Garden of Eatin'. Love the recipes and love Debi's work!
dawn May 4, 2015
Chips with crumbled cooked bacon and blue cheese and to add a little heat some sliced jalapeños
Bridget May 4, 2015
Cindy May 4, 2015
I had cajun nachos in The Big Easy, TO DIE FOR. No meat, hot spicy grilled shrimp instead but everything else atop. It changed the way I think about nachos.
Doreen C. May 4, 2015
Chopped cabbage, scallions and shredded pork topped with a little kimchee
Katie S. May 4, 2015
Lentil nachos! Chips coated in a cheddar sauce with lentils, salsa, and pickled jalapeño layered on top. Recipe here:
Lost_in_NYC April 29, 2015
Another sour cream idea:
SC+cilantro (leaves & stems)+salt+cumin+lime zest & juice+avocado+jalapeno = blitz in a blender (thin out with water to desired consistency) for a nice "green crema" variation.
Samantha W. April 29, 2015
So simple! Love it!
Kristine H. April 29, 2015
I started grilling my nachos and it seriously takes them to another level. It adds a nice subtle smokiness and the chips stay super crisp while the cheese gets all melty and delicious.
Samantha W. April 29, 2015
Wow, yes, wow! Great tip.
Mark F. April 29, 2015
What about flying your own tortilla chips? It's super-easy and a huge upgrade.
Mark F. May 4, 2015
Er, make that *frying* your own tortilla chips. Dang auto-correct!
Jane K. April 28, 2015
ugh the spiced sour cream is such a game changer... About to run home and throw a 28th-o de Aprilo fiesta
Timothy M. April 28, 2015
I make a mean chipotle sour cream. Super easy: A couple chipotles in adobo sauce, a lime, some salt and a thing of sour cream. Throw em in a food processor and BOOM. Put it on anything.
Samantha W. April 28, 2015
Tim, that sounds amazing!
Jane K. April 28, 2015
gonna bathe in chipotle sour cream from here on in
laurenlocally April 28, 2015
I love shrimp on nachos!
Timothy M. April 28, 2015
If I want to get real wild and crazy I'll switch out my chips for tater chips. You'll blow the minds and win the hearts of anyone around.
Timothy M. April 28, 2015
*I mean switch out my chips for tater tots*
Shyeta C. May 5, 2015
whoa. game changer.