make-nachos-are-mathematically-perfect-and-whole-lot-less-messyBy Maria Geokezas, account director and nacho evangelist for Heinz Marketing

Certain members of the Heinz Marketing team (who will remain nameless) really have an affinity for Nachos. They’ve enjoyed A LOT of nachos – either home-made or out at a restaurant.

Over the years they have created somewhat of a best practices guide (some might call it a formula) for the perfect plate of at-home nachos. We hope our “best practices” give you inspiration to enjoy your own homemade nachos as you celebrate Cinco de Mayo this Sunday.

It all starts with the chip
Think of the chip as the foundation for your plate of nachos. They need to be thick enough to hold the cheese and other goodies. They should be arranged with a broad base so you can layer easily. If you want a more authentic chip, try Juanita’s – they are crunchy with just the right amount of grease and salt. If you want to try something a bit more “nouvelle cuisine”, try mixing white, yellow and blue corn chips. You’ll get slightly different textures and levels of crunchiness with each bite.

How much is too much cheese?
We think you can never have too much cheese. From organic Tillamook Sharp Cheddar that you grate yourself to the Kraft Mexican blend of four shredded cheeses (Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Asadero and Queso Blanco), we all agree the more cheese the better. Try adding Havarti to your Cheddar, it’s a great melting cheese.

No matter the type of cheese you choose, be sure to spread it evenly throughout each chip layer. Take your time and be patient with this step. There is nothing more annoying than getting through to the center of the nacho pile and finding it dry and cheese-less.

Toppings make it special
When nachos were first created in 1943, sliced jalapeno peppers were the only topping. For better or worse, we have gone way beyond single-topping nachos to include meat, beans, vegetables, salsa, guacamole and sour cream. Some of our favorite toppings include:

  • Roasted red pepper and corn, layered and baked in with the cheese
  • Freshly chopped tomatoes and sliced green onions tossed on top as the nachos come out of the oven (so they stick to the cheese and don’t roll off as you take your first bite)
  • Fresh, ripe avocado, smashed with a squirt of fresh lime
  • Smashed black beans with lime, layered in with the chips and cheese (be sure to warm then before so they spread easily), top with crumbled Feta cheese
  • Feta cheese (sheep milk), black beans, salsa, olives, jalapenos, cilantro and avocado
  • Any kind of left-over meat: shredded BBQ pork, thinly sliced New York strip steak, smoked chicken, bay shrimp

Served on the side
The right salsa is the final touch for your nacho creation. Make it yourself by chopping ripe tomatoes with onion and garlic in the Cuisinart. Or purchase a prepared salsa from the grocery store. Some of our favorites include:

  • The local San Juan Salsa Company makes a great basic tomato salsa – try it in mild, medium, hot or Afterburner
  • Frontera Grill’s Chipotle Salsa is smoky and has just the right amount of heat
  • Green salsas like Frontera Grill’s Tomatillo Salsa includes roasted tomatillos with Serrano peppers, garlic and cilantro
  • Newman’s Own black bean and corn salsa is an alternative to the traditional tomato-based salsas
  • Fruity salsa like Newman’s Own Mango Salsa brings the sweet along with the heat

Get it done
Bake your perfect plate of nachos in a 350-degree oven for 10-15 minutes. The time really depends on how many layers you’ve created, so keep an eye on it. Don’t broil your nachos, this typically results in burnt cheese on top and unmelted cheese in the middle. Line your baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy clean up.

We hope you enjoy Cinco de Mayo with a good plate of nachos and maybe a little tequila! Tell us about your best practices for home-made nachos. What’s your favorite ingredient, or your tried and true strategy for a perfect plate of nachos?