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A nacho bar is an easy self-serve option for Superbowl parties, Cinco de Mayo, or a Mexican-inspired dinner party. They are easy to set up and are an affordable delicious option for gatherings. One of the best parts is that everyone gets to build their own nachos with all their favorite toppings. We have a list of topping ideas and our favorite topping combinations.
Setting Up a Nacho Bar
These are a few helpful tips when setting up your nacho bar:
1. Use disposable food trays. These trays are the perfect single-serving size for nachos and they make cleanup a breeze. They are usually sold at restaurant supply stores or you can find them on Amazon. They come in different sizes but the one-pound size will hold enough for a generous serving without being too big that you end up with a bunch of half-eaten nachos.
2. Have a variety of toppings. What makes a nacho bar fun is everyone gets to mix and match all their favorite toppings. You should include a variety of proteins, cheese, and garnishes like avocados, cilantro, onions, and sour cream.
3. Prepare the toppings in advance. A lot of the prep work for a nacho bar can be done ahead of time. Toppings like chili and proteins can be made a day or two in advance and then reheated the day of. Shred cheese and chop veggies in advance and refrigerate until ready everyone is ready to eat. Crock pots (or slow cookers) are the best way to keep queso, chili, and other proteins warm.
4. Assemble the topping bar. Congestion is the enemy of any good potluck or party. Place the chips and plates at the start of the serving line followed by the proteins, garnishes, and then utensils and napkins. Make sure that you have forks and/or spoons for all the toppings and garnishes.
5. Place the cold toppings on ice. For food safety, keep your cold toppings like sour cream over ice. Just place the serving bowl(s) inside a larger bowl with ice.
Nacho Topping Ideas
There are lots of options for nachos so consider offering a variety. This will make sure that there is a little something for everyone.
- Proteins: chili (with beans or without), ground turkey or beef with taco seasoning, chorizo, shredded chicken or chicken fajita, pulled pork or carnitas, and steak fajita (we love using marinated flank steak, too), refried beans, and black beans
- Cheese and other Dairy: shredded cheese, queso (for a little spice use green chile queso), sour cream or crema, ranch dressing
- Veggies: diced tomatoes, pico de gallo, guacamole or avocado slices, jalapenos, green onions, red onions, grilled peppers and onions, radishes, roasted corn, black olives, cilantro, salsa
Favorite Topping Combos
There really are not too many things better than cheesy, melty nachos loaded with all the toppings but sometimes less is better so here are a couple of topping combos that we love.
- Taco Bell Copycat Nacho Supreme: ground turkey or beef, refried beans, shredded cheese, tomatoes, green onions, and sour cream
- Chili Cheese: chili, cheese (shredded or queso), sour cream, and jalapenos
- Loaded Carnitas Nachos: pulled pork or carnitas with radishes, shredded cheese, pico de gallo, sour cream, avocado or guacamole, and cilantro
- BBQ Chicken Nachos: shredded chicken, BBQ sauce, shredded cheese, jalapenos, red onion, avocado
- Cheese Chorizo Nachos: chorizo, green chile queso, jalapenos, avocado or guacamole, sour cream or crema
- Vegetarian Nachos: black beans, grilled peppers and onions, roasted corn, radishes, tomatoes, black olives, avocado, shredded cheese, and cilantro
Best Chips for Nachos
The key to nachos is selecting tortilla chips that are thick and sturdy so they hold up under all the toppings and won’t break when you pick them up. We prefer freshly fried tortilla chips that we make at home from corn tortillas. Here are our tips for frying up your own:
- Use corn, not flour tortillas. Cut corn tortillas into six triangles.
- Use a neutral oil. Pour neutral oil (canola, corn, avocado) to a depth of about 1/4-inch into a skillet with high sides then heat on high until about 350°F.
- Don’t overcrowd the pan. Place tortilla triangles in the hot oil in a single layer. Using metal tongs or a slotted spoon gently push them beneath the oil to get well coated. Fry for about 2 minutes or until they are lightly brown and are no longer pliable. Transfer to a paper towel-lined baking sheet and sprinkle with salt.
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- tortilla chips
- chili, with or without beans
- taco seasoned ground turkey or beef
- shredded chicken or chicken fajita
- pulled pork or carnitas
- steak fajita
- refried beans
- black beans
Cheese and Other Dairy
- shredded cheese
- sour cream or crema
- ranch dressing
- diced tomatoes
- pico de gallo
- avocado or guacamole
- green onions
- red onions
- grilled peppers and onions
- roasted corn
- black olives
- Place tortilla chips on a plate and then top them with all your favorite toppings.