Near Perfect Nachos

Making perfect nachos is very subjective, but in my opinion this is as good as it gets. Homemade chips and individually topped to ensure good distribution.


Near Perfect Nachos

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If you happen to follow me on Twitter you’ll know the actual meal that Betsy and I had for Valentine’s Day wasn’t the four course deal I posted last week. She asked for nachos and Coronas. Sounds good to me!

She may have asked for this dish because these are my nachos.

Let me start with a warning. If you make and consume these nachos it’s seriously possible that it will ruin all other nachos for you. I’m not saying that I don’t eat other nachos. I definitely do. But when I get them at a restaurant they tend to be more of a mushy chip dish with too many toppings and stale store bought chips. I still eat all of them, but the warning is that this could be one of those instances where ignorance is bliss.

Near Perfect Nachos

Two big plates of nachos
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cast iron skillet Thermometer

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Making perfect nachos is very subjective, but in my opinion this is as good as it gets. Homemade chips and individually topped to ensure good distribution.


Homemade chips:

10 6-inch corn tortillas (or more), cut into sixths
3 cups of neutral oil for frying

Quick refried beans:

1 16-ounce can refried beans
1/2 medium white onion, diced
1 clove garlic
3 tablespoons unsalted butter


Chopped jalapenos
Diced red onion

Serving options:

Sour cream


1) To make homemade chips, chop corn tortillas into sixths. Add a few cups of oil to a large cast iron skillet and heat it over medium high heat until the oil registers 350 degrees. Fry chips in batches and don’t crowd the pan.

2) Fry chips for about 4 minutes until they aren’t bubbling and are slightly browned. Let chips drain on a paper towel and season with a pinch of salt. Repeat until all chips are fried.

3) Spread chips out on a few baking sheets and smear each chip with a small amount of refried beans. (Sautee beans with 1/2 diced onion and some butter in a small pot until softened)

4) Next top each chip with some diced jalapeno, red onion, avocado and a sprinkle of cheese.

5) Bake nachos at 350 degrees until cheese is melted.

Pile high and serve with sour cream, salsa, and guacamole!

Perfect Nachos: Homemade Chips

Once you have these nachos you will want no other nacho. There are two essential tips to making these. First, you have to make the chips yourself. I’ve tried every store bought chip on the market and it isn’t even close. Using real corn tortillas and oil produce a thicker chip than most you’ll find in the store. This is important so you can load them up.

Also, they are super crunchy and whole. You won’t have that problem of having, like, half a chip that breaks in half when you pick it up.

So let’s make some. You can do this a few days before without a problem. They keep great. The only problem with making them ahead is that you will most likely eat them before it is nacho time.

perfect nachos chips
I see very hot oil in your future.

Buy a package of corn tortillas. I bought mine from a local Latino market for 99 cents. There were forty tortillas and you want to chop them into fourths. If you are not math inclined, that is 160 chips.

As far as cooking goes, you will want about 1 liter of oil. I use my cast iron for this which is ideal because it really retains heat. You also want to use a neutral oil like canola or peanut oil. Heat your oil to 350 and throw in a few chips. Be sure not to crowd them. I could only fit about 12 at a time in my pan. If you crowd the pan then your oil will cool off too much and you’ll end up with soggy chips.

It will help if you can get your hands on a decent deep frying thermometer to monitor the heat of the oil.

frying chips perfect nachos
About 4 minutes should do the trick.

These will take about 4 minutes to cook. Flip them once or twice while cooking. You know that they are getting close when they stop simmering. That means the water is all out of the chip and it is crispy.

Move the chips to a paper towel to drain quickly and then throw them in a big bowl with a sprinkle of salt. Once you get in the swing of things you can churn these out. If I’m making chips I like to make a bunch because they keep so well.

Better than any store bought chip I've ever had.
Better than any store bought chip I’ve ever had.

Some people will think that this is too much work. Those people have never had my nachos. That’s all I will say about that. It is so different from using store bought that it isn’t even debatable. Of course, I will eat store bought chip nachos. Because I love nachos. But it’s worth the work in this case.

Ok. now on to the nachos. I’m not a stickler when it comes to toppings. The only thing that is essential for nachos in my mind is cheese. So feel free to go crazy there. What really makes these nachos great is the process and the chips – not the toppings.

Some toppings for perfect nachos
Some toppings. Substitutions are cool.

Betsy and I have a love for refried beans. So even though it was Valentine’s Day, we had to have some beans on these guys. Refried beans out of the can are kind of gross. The way to make them delicious is to sautee some onion (1/2 an onion) and a few cloves of garlic in a few Tablespoons of olive oil. Once that is hot, spoon in your beans and stir them around until everything is heated and combined.

Beans for perfect nachos
Yes. We ate these on Valentine’s Day. What?

Making Perfect Nachos

If making your own chips is step one in making near perfect nachos, step two is to cook them like this:

Topping perfect nachos
This doesn’t take as long as you think.

Yes. Anally lay out each chip on a baking sheet. Why? Because it ensures that each chip stay crunchy and gets an equal amount of toppings. I really hate the dreaded no-topping chip in a nacho plate. Ok. I don’t hate it. But it is unpleasant.

A butter knife is your friend.
A butter knife is your friend.

Now you don’t have to be as crazy as I am distributing toppings on each chip, but I really like having a bite of everything on each little guy.

Beer and nachos
It’s not that much work. Have a beer and relax buddy.

You don’t have to be so careful with the cheese. I used about 8 ounces of shredded cheese for two trays of nachos.

Cheese for perfect nachos
No need to over-cheese. But okay if you do.

These only need about 5 minutes in the oven, at 350, and they are done. Basically, you just want to melt the cheese.

I served mine with salsa, sour cream, and homemade guacamole.

Betsy fell in love with me all over again.
Betsy fell in love with me all over again.

So why do I call them “Near Perfect”? Well, because I’m a firm believer that everything can be improved upon. And I never claim to present the absolute best version of dish. This is one time though where I feel I can claim at least near perfection.

While these might be more work than throwing some store bought chips in a dish with tons of toppings and baking the whole thing like a cassarole, it produces a different level of nacho. If you give it a shot, I promise you will not be disappointed.

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24 Responses to “Near Perfect Nachos” Leave a comment

  1. These look delicious! Have you had the fajita nachos @ Chevy's? They do the same thing where they individually prepare each chip. Totally so much better than the mess o' chips and stuff where you get some that are overloaded and some that are empty.

  2. I am a huge fan of nachos and these look awesome!! I agree with you on the doling out of ingredients, that is a great idea to make sure each chip is as good as the next. The only bummer is you dont get the overly loaded up chip that cant support its topping weight, those nacho chips are my faves!

  3. Looks delish! Thanks for sharing. The last time I made nachos, we didn't have any refried beans in the pantry. So, I sauteed a little garlic, onions and a jalapeño, added a drained can of black beans and heated. Pureed it in the food processor, it was a good substitute.

  4. Thanks for the chips – I made them last night and they were so good! I don't fry much so it took me a few batches to get the heat/timing down but we had plenty of good ones!!

  5. Can I make the whole recipe of the nachos ahead of time. I talking about 1 day ahead and day of just insert in the oven? Please advise.

    thanks recipe and pics look fabulous!


    1. I wouldn't actually put the chips together until you are ready to eat them… the nachos would just get really soggy I think. You could get all the individual pieces ready though (chips, beans, salsa, etc) in advance without a problem.

  6. THese look ammmazing! Good nachos are always worth the effort. My friends make fun of me, becuase I’m such a huge nacho fan, yet I refuse to order them at restaurants – this sounds really pretentious, but I tell them that I make them better than most restaurants, because I don’t LOAD mine up with all kinds of crazy unnecessary ingredients! I can’t stand soggy overloaded nachos. :o(

    I make mine pretty much the same, though I haven’t tried them with refried beans..nice touch! The cubed avocado is an absolute must. I grow a ton of jalapenos, so I usually end up using my own pickled pepper slices. I think the one thing that you could use to make this recipe *perfect* is to fancy up the sour cream a bit! I always add a bit of lime juice, lime zest and homemade taco seasoning to my sour cream…sooo tasty!

    Thanks for sharing!!

      1. They look incredible too! It’s so nice to find other ‘nacho snobs’ who understand me! :o)
        THanks for the great ideas – I love the site!

  7. I love your blog, read it every day. Silent stalker style. Ten year line cook, and I have to say, your nachos are on the money. However, it’s easier like this: cook the tortillas whole, tostada style. Spread on the beans, add toppings, etc to the whole tortilla and then bake. After baking, cut into fourths and serve. Makes the whole ‘getting each nacho equal’ thing WAY easier!

  8. Through in some Chipotle Tabasco with the refried beans. It makes a huge difference. And don’t be shy with it. The sour cream and cheese will mild down the heat later.

  9. While these look amazing, I think we have lost sight of the true nature of nachos, it’s supposed to look like something that was made by someone under the influence. Having each chip be perfect is like never experiencing a rainy day. How can you truly enjoy the sunshine if you’ve never seen the rain? I ask you all, how can you enjoy the overloaded nacho if you’ve never tasted the dry, salty, and slightly burnt nacho with the one piece of grated cheese hanging off the edge? When you taste that delicious nacho with the perfect amount of ingredients on it, consider what you’ve lost.

  10. About using refried beans from can. Don’t.
    So much better to do it your way and puree whole canned beans.
    Even better if you cook up a mess of beans on weekend,– five mindesss seconds of work and that great smell on the stove–and freezer package a whole bunch. Also lots cheaper.
    But the most important thing of all with refried beans is pork fat. meaning some bacon dripping. Teh surprising thing is really don’t need very much. I’ll prove it. Just add a teaspoon at a time the next time you make them. It only takes a few teaspoons to give the beans that incredible creaminess it doesn’t have without. And it’s too easy to make great ones if you just load it up. Discrettionits the better part of refried beans.

  11. I have been preparing and eating nachos like these since the early 1980’s. A group of friends had gone to Mexico and when they came back were raving about “Nacho’s” and then they made up a huge batch …. I was hooked from my first bite!

    About refried beans …. there is a brand with jalapeno peppers by Rosarita and it is quite good! We also like to put on a bit of seasoned ground taco meat on the individual chips as well.

    I’m sorry, but those piles of chips with ingredients tossed on top and heated are NOT a true nacho. True nachos, such as you have provided instructions for, are highly addictive and well worth the extra effort.

    Hmmm, wonder why I am craving nachos???? 8)

  12. Lived a long time in Texas from 1975-1998. These are pretty much the type of nachos you get at the Tex-Mex places in Ft. Worth of the time period. Individual nachos. Not a mound of chips with dribbles on them. What would make these over the top-perfect is a little dollop of sour cream on top of the melty goodness of cheese. I like to do paper plates of nachos ahead of an evening of noshing and mike them, finish them off before getting another plate hot. Yep. The craving is setting in.

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