Super Bowl time is nacho time. The big game goes with nachos like bagels and lox, or bacon and eggs. There’s something about reaching for a hot, crunchy chip with all the fixin’s, knowing you don’t have to worry about a double salsa dip. The best nachos have it all in one bite: cheese, pico de gallo, beans, meat. There’s something for everyone in a pan of nachos fresh from the oven, whether it’s a melty cheese, a nubbin of frizzled meat, or a slightly charred tortilla chip.
Not all nachos are created equal, and therein lies the beauty of making nachos at home. Gina Hamadey, who interviewed 50 chefs and celebs for her recent book “Buenos Nachos,” noticed that “when the topic of nachos came up, chefs would be super enthusiastic.” Perhaps, she suggests, “it’s because nachos, ideally, have that balance of texture and taste that chefs are looking for … crunchy and creamy; spicy and savory and tangy and salty. Achieving that balance is what makes great nachos.” (Find even more nacho recipes from “Buenos Nachos” here.)
With that in mind, we expanded our search for great nacho recipes to include not only tortilla chips as a crunchy base, but some interesting takes with pita, bagel, or wonton chips; nachos that find global inspiration from Italy, Israel, New Orleans, New York, Korea, and Japan, as well as from Mexico. It’s a nacho revolution. Have your platter of crowd-pleasing nachos ready for the first snap … and that first great commercial.
Let’s kick it off with a meatless, bean- and veggie-heavy Tex-Mex version, like this one from How Sweet Eats. Grab a sheet pan and cover it with tortilla chips; top with marinated and sautéed veggies (peppers, onions, mushrooms), pinto beans, corn, and shredded Monterey Jack cheese. After it comes out of the oven, you’ll top it with sliced radishes for crunch, some fresh Mexican cheese, cilantro, and guacamole. Squeeze a little lime on top and you are in business.
Elotes — the popular Mexican street food consisting of grilled corn painted with mayo and sprinkled with cheese, spices, and lime juice — are all the rage. Imagine how delish those elements would be as a nacho topping? My friends, THIS IS REALITY. It involves tortilla chips, a creamy cheese sauce made with Monterey Jack (known for it’s supreme meltiness), and aforementioned elotes ingredients, sprinkled with cilantro, and stuffed indiscriminately in your mouth while the Patriots and Eagles duke it out on field.
OMG, you guys. This whole article started with me eating a plate of these at Chicago’s Honey Butter Fried Chicken, and wondering what other nachos were waiting for me out there. How thrilled I was to discover that HBFC’s co-owner Christine Cikowski appeared last summer on WGN and SHARED THE RECIPE. I might never cook anything else again. Watch the video to get inspired, then get cooking.
If you opt not to make this for the Super Bowl on Feb. 4, remember that Mardi Gras is just around the corner, too! Get your NOLA on with this appealing blend of all the Cajun faves: shrimp, smoked andouille sausage, crawfish, okra, and of course green onions and tomato. Add a little Creole seasoning, redolent of paprika, garlic, herbs, and pepper, and top with cheese. I tell you what, that is some fine eating.
This one’s a little off the beaten path, paying homage to that great NYC sandwich, the Reuben. We’re talking bagel chips topped with chopped corned beef, sauerkraut, horseradish, and shredded Swiss cheese. Once it’s all melty and glorious, drizzle it with Russian dressing and a sprinkle of fresh chives (as a nod to good health). Talk about a Hail Mary pass!
Apparently, somewhere out there in America, there is a popular chain of restaurants known as Carino’s, where the Italian Nachos were a VBD (very big deal). Having worked there in her earlier days, Cupcake graciously shared the recipe, which sounds nothing short of heart stopping, perhaps literally. Instead of tortilla chips, the recipe calls for crispy wonton chips, and they’re topped with Italian sausage, chicken, mozzarella cheese, and Alfredo sauce. Once out of the oven, the top is scattered with olives, tomatoes, and pepperoncini. Abbondanza!
This recipe is an umami bomb, but might possibly have the power to bring about détente, so convincing is the case made for cultures collaborating. Thinly sliced bulgogi beef, kimchi, nacho cheese sauce, and more cheese parade atop wonton chips; the finished product is garnished with lime crema, gochujang, and toasted sesame seeds. A flavor touchdown!
Another international nacho recipe that starts with wonton chips on a sheet pan, but from there, it diverges. This is like the nacho version of CPK’s beloved Thai Chicken Pizza, and let me tell you … I am here for it. Throw on some sautéed ground chicken, onions, jalapeños, and both Monterey and Pepper Jack cheeses, then BOOM! Hit it with the spicy peanut sauce. Garnish with green onions, cilantro, shredded red cabbage, and some creamy avocado, and that is one happy crowd.
Oh, my, my. No recipe roundup of mine is complete without a visit from the incomparable Molly Yeh and her sometimes wacky but always spot-on culture mash-ups. This time, she upends the traditional nacho by substituting pita chips, then riffing on the Mediterranean flavors she loves, topping them with flavorful chicken shawarma, homemade hummus, creamy labneh, and tahini sauce, and an Israeli salad composed of chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions dressed with olive oil and lemon juice. Does this still qualify as nachos? Does anyone really care when something is this scrumptious? I know I don’t. Case closed.
Food for Thought: While prepping for your Super Bowl party this year, don’t forget that there are many of our fellow citizens who have to go without. Did you know that the NFL runs a Kick Hunger Challenge, where every dollar raised can provide up to eight meals for someone in need? Each NFL team is paired with a food bank in their community. Learn more about it — and contribute — here.
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Julie Chernoff, Make It Better’s dining editor since its inception in 2007, graduated from Yale University with a degree in English — which she speaks fluently — and added a professional chef’s degree from the California Culinary Academy. She has worked for Boz Scaggs, Rick Bayless and Wolfgang Puck (not all at the same time); and sits on the boards of Les Dames d’Escoffier International and Northlight Theatre. She and husband Josh are empty nesters since adult kids Adam and Leah have flown the coop. Rosie the Cockapoo relishes the extra attention.