Nachos from scratch

Why from scratch?

I grew up on the East Coast, where I never had nachos or any other Mexican-type food, so I’m not like a native nachos-eater. I like nachos, but I find it disturbing that people say they “made nachos” when all the ingredients are foods that are already heavily processed like corn chips and canned beans and bottled salsa and grated cheese. Nachos in this form are expensive, and seem like something invented by processed food companies to get you to buy more processed food, instead of like a healthy heritage recipe of native people.

So I set out to see if I could make acceptable nachos from scratch. The result’s not exactly like the processed food nachos, but I like it. It does take about an hour and a half instead of fifteen minutes though. And even this isn’t really from scratch – you’re not making your own cheese or yogurt, though you could.

How to make nachos from scratch:

Hopefully you have already made salsa ahead of time and can just get the salsa out of the freezer. At breakfast-time, put 1/2 cup of pinto beans in 3 cups of water and leave them to soak all day. About an hour and a half before dinner, pour off what’s left of the water, add 3 new cups of water, and set the beans on to boil in a medium-size saucepan.

Now get to work on the tortilla chips. Preheat the oven to 425 F. In a medium-size mixing bowl, mix two cups of masa harina (a fine-ground cornmeal) with 1 1/2 cups of water. Form the dough into golf ball size balls. Put the balls on baking sheets, spaced about six inches apart, and smush them flat with the palm of your hand. The tortillas should be about six inches in diameter. Bake until they begin to brown and turn crispy, about fifteen minutes. Let cool and then break the tortillas into chip-size pieces (but keep the oven hot).

While the beans are still cooking, make the guacamole and grate a pound of cheddar cheese (unless you want vegan nachos).

When the beans are soft, mash them with a potato masher or an immersion blender. Pour some vegetable oil in a frying pan, put the beans in, and stir them around for a while (that’s the “refried” part.) Put a layer of tortilla chips on a baking sheet, and cover it with a layer of the refried beans. Over that scatter a layer of the grated cheese, and then another layer of chips, another layer of beans, and another layer of cheese. Bake the nachos for about ten more minutes, or until the cheese is melted. Serve with guacamole, salsa, full-fat Greek yogurt, and plenty of green salad (chopped lettuce).

Vegetarian or vegan?

Naturally vegetarian. You can make it vegan by leaving out the cheese and yogurt, or you can make it carnivore-food by adding a layer of chopped chicken or sauteed ground beef.

And will it keep?

No, it will get soggy. Eat your nachos right away.

Published by Karen Carr

Dr. Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.

Leave a comment