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These Loaded Nachos Are Cheesy, Saucy and Fit for Dinner, Too

Layer chips, meaty beans, salsa, cheese and more toppings to create a party-ready nacho platter.

The Washington Post

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(Scott Suchman for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post)

I spent part of the week of Christmas with my partner Joe’s family in central Ohio. A few nights before the holiday, we all went out to a sports bar for dinner. While watching a variety of games on the televisions — as I am not a sports person, I could not tell you who or what was playing! — we munched on nachos, wings and burgers. The nachos were … fine. But that’s when I realized that I hadn’t had a good plate of nachos in a long while, and I decided I needed to do something about that.

Some might say you don’t need a recipe for nachos. It’s a plate or tray of chips, cheese, meat, beans and whatever other stuff you want to layer on top. If you’re looking for a rough formula instead of a specific recipe, here’s a step-by-step guide.

But maybe you want to give my new recipe a try. Maybe you’ll be watching some sort of sporting event in the next week or two (I hear the Super Bowl is fast approaching), and you’re looking for something easy and pleasing to serve to a small and rowdy crowd?

My ideal platter of Loaded Nachos starts on a sheet pan. I line it with foil, to make cleanup easier. I like to make my own pico de gallo, though you could use another type of salsa, homemade or store-bought. Then I make a Mexican-inspired picadillo with ground beef and beans (instead of the usual potatoes). Some of the salsa goes into the meat mixture, along with tomato paste, to ensure it’s saucy, slightly spicy and not dry. While the meat simmers, I shred some cheese — it may look like a lot, but that’s how I like it — and prep all of my garnishes.

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(Scott Suchman for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post)

When I’m almost ready to serve, I’ll start building the nachos. I start with a layer of chips, followed by a still-warm layer of meat and beans. Then half of the shredded cheese gets piled on top before I add a second layer of chips, meat and cheese. The sheet pan goes into the oven for 5 to 10 minutes, until everything is hot and the cheese is melted.

All you have to do then is add a few fresh garnishes. This might be a game-time decision for you, but I like shredded lettuce for a cool crunch, more salsa, pickled jalapeños, chopped cilantro, sour cream, small chunks of avocado and a finishing drizzle of Valentina hot sauce.

Loaded Nachos

8 to 10 servings (makes 16 cups)

Active time: 20 mins; Total time: 30 mins

Layers of chips, saucy meat, beans, cheese and salsa give these sheet pan nachos lots of texture and all the right flavors. To make them vegetarian, omit the beef and double the beans. Add hot sauce or pickled jalapeños for extra heat and top them with sour cream and/or avocado for a little cool creaminess.

This recipe is quite versatile - add or subtract elements as you’d like, but for best results, don’t skimp on the cheese. You can use pre-shredded cheese, but because it’s usually coated in a starch to prevent clumping, it will not melt as evenly. To ensure the dish is gluten-free, check that the chips you use are gluten-free and/or produced in a gluten-free facility.

Storage: The nachos are best right after they’re made, but leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. Reheat in a 350-degree oven, without toppings, until warmed through, but keep in mind that the chips will not be as crispy.


  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil, such as vegetable
  • 8 ounces ground beef, preferably 90 percent lean (optional, see Variations)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt, plus more as needed
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 cups (16 ounces) salsa, homemade (see related recipe) or store-bought, divided
  • 1 (15.5-ounce) can pinto beans, preferably no-salt-added
  • 12 ounces tortilla chips, preferably lightly salted
  • 8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (2 cups)
  • 8 ounces colby or cheddar cheese, shredded (2 cups)
  • 1 cup shredded iceberg lettuce (optional)
  • 1/4 cup pickled jalapeños (optional)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
  • 1/4 cup sour cream (optional)
  • 1 ripe avocado, halved, pitted and sliced (optional)
  • hot sauce (optional)


Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees. Line a large sheet pan with foil, if desired.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil until it shimmers. Add the beef and, using a spatula or wooden spoon, break it up into bits. Stir in the cumin, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, dried oregano and salt, continuing to break the meat up as it cooks until it is no longer pink, about 8 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, allowing it to melt into the meat mixture. Stir in 1 cup of the salsa and let it simmer for 2 minutes. Finally, stir in the beans and their liquid. Taste, and season with additional salt, if desired. Cook until the beans are heated through, another 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Spread half of the chips on the prepared sheet pan, tucking any broken chips into open spaces so you can’t see the bottom of the pan. Spoon half of the meat-bean mixture evenly over the chips and top with half of the shredded cheese. Repeat with the remaining chips, meat-bean mixture and cheese to create another layer, distributing the ingredients as evenly as possible.

Bake for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the chips are heated through.

Garnish the top with the remaining salsa as well as the lettuce, pickled jalapeños, cilantro, dollops of sour cream, slices of avocado and a drizzle of hot sauce, if using. Serve immediately, family-style.

Variations: To make these vegan >> use a plant-based ground meat substitute or skip the meat and double the beans, and use plant-based cheese and sour cream. In place of ground beef >> use ground pork or turkey. Instead of pinto beans >> try black beans or kidney beans. The iceberg lettuce is meant to give these nachos a cool crunch. >> Thinly sliced cabbage, fresh or pickled, would be an excellent swap.

Nutrition (1 1/2 cups), based on 10: 462 calories, 34g carbohydrates, 57mg cholesterol, 27g fat, 6g fiber, 21g protein, 11g saturated fat, 610mg sodium, 3g sugar

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.

Daniela Galarza is a staff writer for the Food section at The Washington Post who also writes "Eat Voraciously," a newsletter offering easy dinner recipes, cooking tips and inspiration.

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This post originally appeared on The Washington Post and was published February 1, 2024. This article is republished here with permission.

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