I love me some nachos. I’ll rephrase that though and say that I love me some really good nachos. You might think I don’t have much to say about the subject—because how much can a person really talk about chips loaded with cheese and topped with everything—but you’d be surprised. I have many opinions when it comes to this dish. I’d like to think they are very valid opinions, mostly about what it takes to make a really good nacho. There are multiple components that must be checked off in order to meet my high nacho expectations. The first most important step is homemade tortilla chips. You want a good firm tortilla chip that will hold up to all of the toppings. Jules and I once went to a “nice” bar where they had their “famous” nachos on the menu and so we ordered them, but before we did we asked the waitress how they were, and she said they were absolutely delicious and one of her favorites on the menu. So we ordered them and out comes this sad looking pile of chips (on a paper boat plate thing) and the chips, I kid you not, were those store-bought round bright yellow Mission tortilla chips, but probably not even Mission brand at a all and just some bootleg version of them. It was the saddest sight I’ve ever seen in my life. I went from being very excited to extremely disappointed in a split of a second, all because of the chips. Like I said, chips are very important. P.S. I was hesitant to order anything else, and before I ordered the chicken croquettes I asked her again what she thought of them and she responded with “they’re just like the nachos, SO GOOD.” Just like the nachos.
The second most important step is the cheese. NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER give me nachos with shredded cheese on top that has been melted with like lightly burned chips because they’ve been placed under a broiler to melt the cheese. Which by way, the cheese never gets fully melted and it upsets me very much. Nachos should always be made with a queso sauce. Plain and simple, and I don’t want to hear anything else about it. The cheese sauce coats the chips better and holds up to the toppings. The next statement is fully subjective, but I believe that nachos should always be made with a seasoned ground beef. Steak nachos are good yes, but I find that sometimes the steak is hard to chew on a chip (unless it’s carne asada that has been chopped up). Chicken is good too but I find it too boring. As for the toppings my rule is simple, there should be many and there should be plenty.
Let’s get started with the seasoned beef. In a large skillet hot skillet, drizzle in the olive oil and then the ground sirloin. Break it up with a wooden spoon and cook until it is no longer pink and begins to brown, about 8 to 10 minutes.
**Note: Whenever you cook ground beef, make sure you have a very large skillet and that the pan is very hot before adding in the beef. This will ensure that it doesn’t release too much moisture and ends up steaming your beef instead of browning! If it does release too much liquid, just drain it return the beef to the skillet.**
Add in the onion and cook until it just begins to soften. Then stir in the drained and rinsed black beans, tomato paste, chicken stock, salt, pepper, and taco seasoning.
**Tip: You can use store-bought taco seasoning mix if you want, but it’s so easy (and a lot better) if you make it from scratch yourself. It’s just garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, oregano, paprika, crushed red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper.**
Give it a big stir and cook until the liquid has evaporated. I used a bit of chicken stock because I had some in the fridge, but if you don’t have any on hand or just don’t want to buy some for the little amount it requires, feel free to use water instead! I like adding the liquid because along with the tomato paste, it creates a sauce of sorts!
In the meantime, you can quickly whip up a quick batch of pico de gallo and guacamole for topping! In a medium bowl, stir together chopped tomatoes, onion, cilantro, jalapeño, lime juice, salt and pepper until well combined. For the guacamole, in a separate bowl, mash the avocados until smooth, then stir in chopped onion, tomatoes, cilantro, jalapeño, lime, juice, salt and pepper. You’re good to go!
**Tip: You can make these up to 4 hours in advance. Well, the pico can be made earlier than that and will hold up in the fridge. The guacamole you don’t want to make more than 4 hours or else it’ll start to turn brown. But a good trick is to cover the guacamole with plastic wrap so that it directly touches the surface. Try to get rid of any air trapped under it and then cover tightly with a second piece of plastic wrap.**
To make the cheese sauce, in a medium saucepan add the butter until it has melted. Whisk in the flour and cook for about 30 seconds to remove some of that raw flour taste. We’re making a roux and it’s used to thicken our sauce!
Slowly whisk in the milk and cook until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Season with a bit of garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, salt and pepper. Then remove from heat and stir in the shredded Cheddar and Pepper Jack until completely melted through.
To assemble the nachos, pile the tortilla chips onto individual plates or onto one large serving platter.
**Note: You can definitely make your own tortilla chips if you’re feeling up to the challenge, which isn’t that complicated at all. Just cut up tortillas into wedges and fry in hot oil until crispy and golden, drain and transfer to paper towels, and season with salt while still hot. OR you can just buy store bought chips, just make sure they look like the homemade kind!**
Then pour the cheese sauce over the chips, adding as much or as little as you’d like, but when it comes to queso I couldn’t imagine only adding a little. Spoon the seasoned beef and black beans over the cheese.
After that you can go wild with all of your topping choices. Add some of the homemade pico de gallo and guacamole! Then I like to also add sour cream, pickled jalapeños, scallions, cilantro and lime wedges.
If you don’t have time to make your own pico de gallo or guacamole, you can definitely use store bought salsa. I’ve never really found store bought guacamole that I like so I wouldn’t recommend. But you can definitely just top with diced avocado and that would be just as good.
I normally give you tips and tricks on how you can make certain dishes ahead of time, but with nachos you really want to make, serve and eat right away so that the chips don’t get too soggy under all of the delicious toppings.
But if you want to set yourself up for the ultimate success, then you can make the beef filling ahead of time and keep in the fridge until ready to assemble. Just rewarm in a skillet right before you plan on using it. Again, the pico and guacamole can be made up to four hours in advance and kept in the fridge. Then all you have to do is make the queso and assemble and you’re all set.
Nachos are the perfect appetizer for a crowd, or just a delicious dinner to make when you want to watch TV or a movie on the couch after a long work week. They’re quick and simple, yet so complex in flavor. If you’re having some friends and family over this Memorial Day weekend, I recommend a big batch of these loaded beef nachos because they’ll go crazy for them and you’ll be an American hero.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pound ground sirloin
- 1 large yellow onion, finely diced, divided
- 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 tablespoons taco seasoning (or 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon paprika, ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper)
- salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- ¼ cup chicken stock or water
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1½ cups whole milk
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
- 1 cup shredded Pepper jack cheese
- 2 medium ripe avocados
- 4 medium tomatoes, diced (divided)
- ½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped (divided)
- 1 large jalapeño, seeded and finely diced (divided)
- 1 lime, juiced
- 10 ounces tortilla chips
- ½ cup sour cream
- ½ cup pickled jalapeños
- ¼ cup sliced scallions
- To make the seasoned ground beef, place a large skillet over medium-high heat with the olive oil. Once hot, add the beef and begin breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Cook until the beef is no longer pink, and it begins to brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add in half of the onions, and cook until they soften, about 2 to 3 minutes longer. Stir in the black beans, taco seasoning, a pinch of salt and pepper, tomato paste and chicken stock or water. Stir until well incorporated and let cook until the liquid has evaporated. Lower flame and keep warm.
- To make the cheese sauce, set a medium saucepan over moderate heat. Add in the butter, and once melted, whisk in the flour. Cook for about 30 seconds. Then slowly whisk in the milk, continuing to stir until the mixture has thickened and coats the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes. Season with garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne pepper. Remove from heat and stir in the cheeses until fully melted through. You can keep warm by covering. If the sauce gets cold, return to a very low heat, stirring often until warmed through.
- To make the guacamole and pico de gallo, divide the remaining onion between two bowls. Divide the tomato, cilantro, jalapeño, lime juice, salt and pepper between the two bowls as well. Give the pico de gallo a stir and adjust seasoning as needed. Then add the avocado to the second bowl and mash with a fork until everything is well incorporated. Give the guacamole a taste and adjust the seasoning as well. The guacamole and pico de gallo can be made up to 4 hours in advance and kept in airtight containers until ready to use!
- To assemble the nachos, pile the tortilla chips onto plates or one large platter. Spoon as much of the warm cheese sauce as you'd like over the chips, and then top with the seasoned beef and black beans. Then add whichever toppings you'd like! I love guacamole, pico de gallo, sour cream, pickled jalapeños, scallions, and cilantro. Serve with lime wedges and of course some cold beer and you're good to go. Enjoy!