By Will Budiaman
The Daily Meal

Nacho perfection, like other kinds of cooking perfection, isn't difficult to achieve. In fact, any home cook can achieve nacho nirvana. It just requires care and attention to detail -- in selecting the right ingredients, in preparing them properly, and in constructing the overall dish. It really is one of those things where you only get out of it what you put into it. With the exception of a few lucky accidents, few cooking masterpieces are ever created by throwing everything into a pot or casserole dish and sending it to the fire.

Such is the case with nachos. A proper plate of nachos has to be constructed. It has to have the right number of ingredients. It can't have the wrong proportion of toppings to chips, and it certainly can't be soggy. And it requires a bit of advance planning and thought. So how do you do it right?

Click here for Ultimate Guide To Nachos
The Daily Meal: Ultimate Guide To Nachos

To find out, The Daily Meal teamed up with Marlon Braccia, author of The Enlightened Cook: Protein Entrées, for some serious nacho advice. Braccia, an avid nacho fan, was passionate and opinionated about the topic and certainly had plenty to say.

What Is a Nacho? The bare minimum when it comes to ingredients, says Braccia, is "a great nacho chip and a great piece of cheese that melts easily." And if that's all you have, there's nothing wrong with that. In fact, if you're a bit of a purist, you'll probably agree.

But, if you would like to have more to munch on, that's great, too. Check out what Braccia had to say about some of the most popular ingredients in the slideshow.

The Ultimate Guide To Nachos Slideshow


Chips: Baked or Fried?

What about baked chips? Well, the jury's out on this one. While it might make for a healthier nacho dish, Braccia says that in her experience, some brands taste like parchment paper. If you do find a baked tortilla chip that you like, go ahead and use it -- just make sure to pick a high-quality, flavorful cheese that will make up for it because oil carries flavor molecules that help bind the dish together.


Cheese: Why Pre-Grated Is Bad

If you're in a pinch and a sudden, uncontrollable urge for a plate of nachos sets in, you may be tempted to use pre-grated cheese. But Braccia finds that manufacturers often don't start with the best-quality cheese when it comes to pre-grated, which is why there often isn't a whole lot of flavor (if any).



Nothing beats homemade salsa and it's really not that hard to do, but Braccia says that if you absolutely must use store-bought, opt for the salsas in the plastic containers in the refrigerated section rather than the jarred ones in the condiments aisle. They'll taste fresher, have superior texture (jarred versions often have the consistency of tomato sauce), have more flavor, and likely contain fewer preservatives. Fire-roasted is a nice twist as well.


Beans: Cut Out the Gas

When using dried beans, Braccia says to soak them overnight in plenty of water, which helps cut down on any sliminess and also helps cut down on the bloat -- a problem that many people often have with beans.



Braccia is a fan of chicken, but whatever meat you use, you'll have to cook it separately, of course. When it comes to chicken breast especially, Braccia says that hand-shredded is the way to go. That's because if you cut it with a knife, she says, you'll probably end up cutting it across the grain, and that's not great from a textural standpoint because it will end up being the last thing to break down in your mouth when you bite into the nacho.


Building the Nacho: Air It Out

Braccia says to first preheat the oven to 450 degrees -- and if you have a convection oven, use it, because the circulating air will only help the chips stay nice and dry as they bake. Arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet, making sure they have room away from each other, kind of like when baking cookies. Again, this helps promote air circulation and prevents the nachos from turning soggy.


Building the Nacho: Parting Advice

If you're using salsa, it's OK to put a little bit on the chip before it goes in the oven, but make sure to dry it thoroughly by letting it drain in a colander first. Most importantly, though, resist the urge to pile on too much stuff on each chip -- nobody wants to be playing Jenga with their nachos.


Nachos de la Casa

These are the perfect nachos for anyone who likes to have all the bells and whistles -- beans, salsa, ranchera sauce, Monterey Jack cheese, crema, guacamole, pickled jalapeños, queso fresco, and cilantro. Click to see the Nachos de la Casa Recipe.


Hearty Nachos

These nachos are practically a meal on their own, and they take on a Middle Eastern twist with a little tahini sauce. Click to see Hearty Nachos Recipe.


'Healthy' 12-Layer Nachos

Executive editor Arthur Bovino has a soft spot for great nachos. Check out his recipes. Click to see the 'Healthy' 12-Layer Nachos Recipe.

previous next

For the complete slideshow
of the Ultimate Guide To Nachos,
go to

More Stories At The Daily Meal:
-- How To Make The Ultimate Buffalo Wings
-- How To Make McDonald's Egg McMuffin
-- Make Your Fast-Food Favorites At Home
-- How To Make Your Own White Castle Sliders At Home

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to read them first!

-- Will Budiaman is the Recipe Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow him on Twitter @WillBudiaman.