Sunday Night Nachos

Homemade tortilla chips topped with delicious toppings and covered in a homemade cheese sauce. These nachos are a bit more work, but definitely worth it.


Sunday Night Nachos

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Nachos are a frequent occurrence in our house.  They tend to be pretty quick to make and are a great way to use leftovers.  You can put almost anything on nachos and it’ll be good.

Also, I happen to be married to a Tex-mex fanatic.

So yea… we know our way around a chip.

My problem with nachos, mainly restaurant nachos, is that sometimes they are made in a careless way.  Throw some crappy chips on a sheet pan, pile on a metric ton of random toppings, and coat everything with a two inch layer of cheese.  Once you sit down to eat it, it’s like a scavenger hunt: searching through a mound trying to find that one perfect chip.  The chip that is crispy, has just enough of each topping, and some melted cheese.

Sometimes it’s hopeless.

So while nachos are a quick weeknight meal for us a lot of times, sometimes I like to really spend time on my nachos to make them something special.  I call these Sunday night nachos because while you could make them on a weeknight, they are better if you can spend some time with them.

The time you invest will pay pretty awesome Tex-mex dividends.

Sunday Night Nachos

Serves 4
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Homemade tortilla chips topped with delicious toppings and covered in a homemade cheese sauce. These nachos are a bit more work, but definitely worth it.


15 corn tortillas, cut into sixths
1-2 cups vegetable oil, for frying chips
Bean Mash:
2 cans kidney beans, drained and mashed
1/4 red onion, minced
Handful of cilantro, chopped
Salt and pepper
Ground Beef mixture:
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup chopped peppers, poblano, red pepper, jalapeno, etc.
1/2 Cup salsa
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1 Teaspoon cumin seeds
1 Teaspoon paprika
Salt and pepper
Cheese Sauce:
1/4 Cup unsalted butter
1/4 Cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
2 cups grated cheese (I like Monterey Jack)
Salt and pepper
Quick Guacamole:
2 avocados
2 limes, juice only
1/4 red onion, diced
Handful of cilantro


1) For the chips, cut the tortillas into sixths.  Add a cup or two of oil to a large sturdy pan and add chips in small batches over medium-high heat.  Cook the chips, turning occasionally, until they are lightly browned and not bubbling.  Then remove them to a paper towel to drain.  Salt lightly.

2) For bean mash, drain beans and lightly mash together with other ingredients.  It doesn’t have to be smooth.

3) Use any meat or veggie mixed with onions, peppers, salsa, and spices as a second topping for the chips.

4) For cheese sauce, start butter and flour over medium-high heat and cook, whisking frequently, for about 4 minutes.  Roux should turn lightly brown.  Then slowly whisk in milk until smooth.  Once mixture thickens, whisk in cheese.  If mixture is too thick, add more milk a few tablespoons at a time.  Keep on low heat until needed.

5) Take each chip and top with a small amount of bean mash and meat mixture.  Add finished chips to baking sheets.

6) Bake chips for 5-6 minutes at 350 degrees to meld flavors.

7) Stack chips on plates, pour cheese sauce over chips, add a second layer, more cheese sauce, top with guacamole.

Serve immediately!

Making the Chips

Betsy and I burn through a lot of tortilla chips.  We snack on chips and salsa a lot or make quick nacho dishes pretty regularly.

But, when I’m looking to make a serious nacho dish, I spend the time to make my own chips.  For some reason store bought chips are pretty flimsy.  It’s almost like they start with corn tortillas that are 1/2 the thickness as corn tortillas that you buy in the store.  While taste and texture is the main motivator for me, making your own chips is also about 75% cheaper than buying the chips.

To make the chips, you don’t need to really deep fry them as some might think.  I usually just add a cup or two of oil to a large heavy skillet and get it going over medium-high heat.  Then I add my chips in a single layer and cook them, flipping occasionally.

You don’t need a lot of oil.

You’ll know they are done when they stop bubbling and are golden brown (that means most of the water is out of them).

When they come out of the pan, let them drain on a paper towel and season them with a pinch of salt.  These guys will be crispy and sturdy: important for nachos.

Thick and crispy!

The Toppings

For me, the toppings on nachos are almost secondary to the chips and the cheese.  This is because I’ve learned that almost anything is good on nachos.  Any leftover veggie or meat that you have can easily be mixed with some spices and used as a topping.

For this version though, I made a few mixtures that I used for my toppings.  The first was a quick bean mash.  I just drained a few cans of kidney beans and mashed them up with some red onion, cilantro, and salt and pepper.

It’s almost like refried beans, but there’s no need to cook it really because we’ll bake the nachos later.

Doesn’t get easier than mashing beans.

For my meat topping, I cooked my onion and a few diced peppers in a bit of olive oil over medium-high heat until they were soft.  Then I added some spices (cumin, chili powder, paprika, salt and pepper) and finally my ground beef.

Once the beef was completely cooked, I stirred in a tiny amount of salsa just to round out the flavors a bit.

Actually pretty optional.

Meanwhile, I mixed up a quick guacamole.  This isn’t my full-fledged guacamole which normally includes serrano peppers, shallots, and maybe some tomatoes.  This is a quicker version that mainly just has a lot of lime juice which will go great with the nachos.

Not optional.

The Cheese Sauce

A lot of times nachos get in trouble in the cheese department.  Don’t get me wrong, I love cheese as much as the next guy, but sometimes people over-do it.  Restaurants are particularly guilty of this.  They’ll just add pounds of grated cheese to each nacho dish and that works for the first minute or so that you are eating them, but eventually all that cheese solidifies into this strange layer that’s almost impenetrable.

That’s why, when I have time, I like to make a cheese sauce.  It’s easier to distribute over the nachos and will stay liquid and gooey even at room temperature.  So even if the nachos cool down a bit (which they will do), your cheese will stay melty.

To make the sauce, you need to start with a basic roux, which is just butter and flour whisked together in a pot.  I usually cook mine over medium heat for about 4 minutes.  It’ll turn a light brown color and that’s when you know it’s done.

You’ll roux the day you don’t try these.

At this point, slowly whisk in the milk.  If you whisk well and start slowly, you shouldn’t develop any lumps in your sauce.  If you do have a few lumps, you can usually whisk them out as the sauce heats up.

Once your milk is whisked in and the sauce is thick, go ahead and add in your grated cheese.

cheese sauce
What’s sunday night without cheese sauce?

Once the cheese is melted, keep the sauce on low and stir it occasionally.  If it gets too thick, add a bit more milk to thin it out.  Keep it warm until you need it.

Baking the Nachos

The next step for these nachos might be considered a bit overkill by some, but I like it.  When I have the time, I like to literally top each chip individually.

This might sound crazy, but what you have to remember is that these chips are way sturdier than normal chips.  They are way more filling.  When we are done, 15-20 of these nachos will be a very good meal.

And once you get the hang of it you can top them really quickly.  It’s takes me under five minutes to do.  I just pick up a chip, add a small amount of bean mash, followed by a small spoonful of the beef topping, and add it to a sheet pan.  Repeat.

A little OCD never hurt…

The benefit of this is that there isn’t any one perfect chip.

They are all perfect.  Every single chip will have the perfect amount of every topping.

Once you get all your chips topped, I recommend sticking them in a 350 degree oven for about 5-6 minutes just to heat them up nicely and meld the flavors.

Plating the nachos

FINALLY!  It’s time to eat.

Now that you have your cheese sauce done and your chips topped, you can stack them up!

first layer
Layer one.

Once you have one layer of chips and cheese on a plate, you can add a second right on top.

Again, the great part about this is that the toppings are perfectly distributed.  Even when you get down to the bottom layer, the chips are just as crispy and just as good as the top layer.

layer two
Stack ’em up!

Top the second layer with more cheese sauce and a good dollop of guacamole.

These are ready to eat!

There’s no good chip here. They are all good.

I get that these might be too much work for some people.  Nachos are supposed to be easy right?

But seriously, you’ll be well-rewarded if you can find the time to make these happen.  Make them on a weekend when you can pop open a cerveza and take your time with them.

What do you think?  Worth it or crazy talk?

18 Responses to “Sunday Night Nachos” Leave a comment

  1. Totally agree that the cheese sauce makes all the difference.
    The best part about nachos is that my husband usually eats 3/4 of the plate before I can even grab one (and hopefully not lose a finger in the process.) Troux story. (see what I did there?)
    My recent post It’s Getting Chili Out There

  2. Your cheese sauce recipe changed our household forever. We used to buy those little packets of cheese sauce. Since I started reading your blog (maybe two months ago), we have made cheese sauce from scratch maybe four times. Seriously life-changing.

  3. 100% worth it! Did you ever try the restaurant Ceiba when you lived in DC? They have rock shrimp and crab nachos during their happy hour that they individually top, and it really makes all the difference. I want toppings with every bite!
    My recent post Sweet Potato Ice Cream

  4. Nick, I've never fried up my own tortilla chips but we happen to have a bunch of left over corn tortillas in the fridge right now so I'd like to give it a try!

    Question for you: have you ever had your home-made chips last long enough to know whether they are still crispy and tasty a day later, or more? I'm wondering whether we could fry up a bunch and have them as chips throughout the week, or if they really need to be fried day-of.

    1. Good news! They will keep beautifully for days (mine have never lasted more than a few days). Just make sure you drain them well on a paper towel when they come out and then let them cool completely. Once they are cool, you can store them in a plastic bag without an issue!

  5. I made chips before, for my super bowl party last year, and they're really really awesome, but kind of a pain, but worth it at least once…
    Oh and Nick – I've been following you for a few months now, and you're stuff is great…keep up the good work

  6. I'm kicking myself right now for never having thought to make my own chips for nachos. I make my own chips for taco salad, and it always makes the family happy; it seems silly to not do it for nachos, where chip stability is key. I never get nachos at a restaurant if there are less than five people eating because they sog up so fast and are straight-up inedible as leftovers. As for the individual toppings, I don't know that I'd ever do that step, but it sounds like something I could delegate to my wife-she's meticulous like that.
    My recent post Fish on Fire

  7. I completely agree on the individual chip toppings and have done it on multiple occasions. I have never made homemade cheese sauce, but it looks amazing. Honestly, I don’t think I’d take the time to fry my own chips. I actually like Frito-Lay’s Santitas brand of chips quite a bit. They’re crunchy and have just the right amount of salt. The only ingredients are corn, vegetable oil, and salt, as they should be. Since you all eat tex-mex so often, do you have a favorite store bought tortilla chip or do you always make your own?

    1. I like those also actually. When you have the time though, I recommend hunting down your local Latin market. Most have homemade chips that they sell for pretty cheap that are really good.

  8. Just found your site! Love it so far! Made the Egg “Mc”Muffins this morning and they were greeted with much joy around here! I, too, am an individual nacho maker. We usually just do bean and cheese around here (unless there is some leftover taco meat), but my hubs says that my nachos are the best ever! Looking forward to making some more of your recipes! Thanks for what you do!

  9. Oh my! You have made us one happy family! We always loved nachos but hated the rubbery cheese. I have been using your cheese sauce method and it is amazing! I also have converted my Hubby to a “Guac” lover with your simple recipe. It’s so delicious! Thanks again!

    1. Awesome Paulette! I definitely consider this one of my fight-ender meals. If Bets and I are having a scuffle, this is the meal that makes amends. Glad you liked it! :)

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