What's not to love about nachos? Crunchy chips, savory meat and beans, fresh toppings like salsa and guacamole, and of course, smothering it all with a thick layer of melted cheese. This party food is shareable, easy customizable to your personal tastes, and just so hard to turn down.
While it's not a hard dish to put together, there are a few things to avoid when nacho building so that your homemade nachos are constructed perfectly.
1. Buying the wrong kind of chips
Thinner, restaurant-style tortilla chips will crack or get soggy when loaded up with toppings. Nachos are enough of a messy affair to eat without worrying that the chip will fall apart as it makes its way to your mouth.
→ Follow this tip: Go for thicker, sturdy chips that will hold up well, but beware of super-thick chips, which I feel can tear up the roof your mouth. While I like corn tortilla chips for their flavor and the fact that they're gluten free, flour or corn is up to you.
2. Buying the wrong kind of cheese
Fancy Gruyere cheese has no place on nachos, and neither does feta. Hard cheeses contain a lot of oil that separates out, and strongly-flavored cheeses dominate too much over other toppings, so don't experiment here.
→ Follow this tip: You can go one of two routes. This first is to buy cheeses that melt well (cheddar and Monterey Jack are nacho favorites), but make sure you shred them yourself, as pre-shredded cheese can be dried out and filled with anti-clumping agents. Or the second, more ambitious route? Make your own dreamy cheese sauce from scratch.
3. Skimping on toppings
While cheese and chips are all you really need for basic nachos, the fun comes with all the things you can pile on top, so don't be lazy on this front. If you're going to make homemade nachos, go all out!
→ Follow this tip: Make sure that you have toppings from each of these categories so that every bite of nachos is exciting. You need depth (meat, chili, beans), freshness (cilantro, onions, scallions, tomatoes, guacamole), and acid (lime juice, salsa, pickled jalapenos).
4. Not layering evenly
While a mountain of chips with all the ingredients piled onto the top layer may look appealing, it's no fun when all the goodies are gone from the top and you're just left with a pile of naked chips.
→ Follow this tip: Make it a goal to have as many ingredients on each chip as possible. To achieve this, put one layer of chips on a baking sheet, then cover with cheese and toppings. Repeat until you've used everything up so that every bite is the same from beginning to end. Sprinkle on fresh toppings like cilantro, scallions, tomatoes, and pickled jalapenos on after the nachos come out of the oven.
5. Smothering it with sour cream, salsa, and guacamole
I don't like nachos served with big dollops of sour cream, guacamole and salsa on top. The heat from the nachos turns everything into a gross puddle that drips down and makes the chips soggy, and if you grab the wrong chip, you can be stuck with a big mouthful of sour cream. These wet toppings also end up cooling the nachos down too quickly.
→ Follow this tip: Any sauce-like thing that you wouldn't top the nachos with when they are baking, like sour cream, salsa, and guacamole, should be served on the side. Place them in little bowls with spoons so that people can serve themselves.
(Image credits: Nealey Dozier)