5 Upgrades That Will Change Your Nacho Game

There's never a bad way to eat nachos — but there are certain recipe hacks to improve your nachos experience. Keep your basics in place, but then feel free to go a little wild. We're talking spiced sour cream, unconventional cheese, and beans that put the canned stuff to shame. Let these five genius upgrades by Food52 change your nacho eating game for the better.

By Samantha Weiss Hills

We've partnered with Garden of Eatin' to find the best ways to turn your next bag of chips into an exceptional plate of nachos.

Today: Na-cho average nachos. Here are 5 ways to boost yours above the rest.

Nachos need a makeover. No, not a head-to-toe closet purge (because we're never not going to be obsessed with avocados), but the kind that freshens up even the most familiar of chip vs. cheese vs. salsa ratio. The pull-apart, layered apparatus of the dish makes it prime for a bit there and bob here —all in the name of marrying flavors and tossing in something just a bit off the beaten path.

So make yourself a margarita, grab a bag of chips, and try these 5 ways to give some oomph to your next pile of nachos:

1. Ditch the canned beans and make your own

Refried beans get a bad rap, but they don't have to be mucky or heavy if you use The Splendid Table's recipe. You can whip these into shape in just 20 minutes and, with the soulful combo of cinnamon and cloves mingling with zippy jalapeno and garlic, your nachos will be blanketed in a coat of many (delicious) beans.

2. Try an unconventional cheese for maximum melt

The corner grocery dairy aisle is a daunting and cold place. It's normal to dip in, grab a bag of Monterey Jack, and call it a day. But if you're looking to change up your nacho cheese, try Muenster and Gouda for new flavor and texture — they melt like champs and are found in most stores.

If you've got a local cheese shop, try Gruyère or Fontina — both have nuttiness and earthy flavors that melt with ease.

Tip: Don't forget to build multiple layers of chips, beans, and cheese — that way there's more surface area — before you top your nachos off.

3. Pickle some things, and then pile 'em on

Forgo regular jalapeño pickles (unless you're really craving them), and try pickled red onions, pickled ramps, or even mango pickle on your next batch of nachos. And if you want to try your hand at pickled watermelon rind, we'll be right there with you, cheering you on.

4. Go wild with market veggies

Nachos needn't be covered in gobs of gooey meat and sauce (but if you're into that, this is a safe space). Take cues from your farmers market and add spring onions, radishes, corn, and a dusting of fresh herbs.

5. Spice up your sour cream

Cool, creamy sour cream is a favorite condiment around here, and it complements crunchy, savory chips like frosting does cake. Try taking yours a level up with these additions:

  • Sriracha sour cream: Stir in your desired amount for some extra spice.
  • Tequila lime sour cream: Fold in a teaspoon or two of each for a bit of citrus booziness.
  • Caramelized onion sour cream: Try mixing in 1/4 cup of caramelized onions.
  • Mashed avocado sour cream: For those who just can't do it without the green.

More: If you're looking for a vegan option, try dollops of cashew cheese.

A word on baking: While classic vessels include cast iron or baking sheets — on which you can broil nachos at 500 °F — we used a paella pan at 475 °F for 10 minutes and it worked like a charm (and looked good during the oven to table transfer).

Photos by James Ransom, Alexandra Stafford, and Melina Hammer.