Ultimate Nachos


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Not going to lie, this is the best nachos recipe ever. It’s an exciting appetizer layered with savory Mexican ingredients. But it also leaves plenty of room to add all the creative nacho toppings your heart desires.

A tray filled with nachos and toppings.

There’s nothing quite like a tray overflowing with nachos for an entertaining and playful appetizer. The base starts with everyone’s favorite – crunchy tortilla chips. The chips then get layered with all the savory Mexican fixings you can imagine – spiced meat, gooey cheese, beans, pickled jalapenos, avocado chunks, salsa – you name it!

It’s one of my favorite finger foods for feeding a crowd, right up there with my 7 layer dip. So if you (and any friends or family) love Mexican food as much as I do, this ultimate nachos recipe (or these carnitas nachos) ought to be on the dinner table soon. Along with a chilled margarita of course.

Ingredients for the best nachos on a table

What’s Needed For the Ultimate Nachos

This is a basic formula for a solid tray of loaded nachos – tortilla chips, meat, cheese, beans, and simple, fresh taco toppings. It may seem like a lot, but once you start adding everything onto the sheet pan, it’s a cinch. Here’s what you’ll need.

  • Ground Beef: Beef is my default for a classic nachos recipe. But you can also use ground pork or chicken if you’re not big on beef. Alternatively, shredded or diced meats taste amazing as well (which I’ve listed out later in this post).
  • Taco Seasoning: I’m an advocate for homemade taco seasoning. It’s so easy to mix yourself, with ingredients you’re confident in.
  • Beans: Nachos often use refried beans to mix in with the ground meat, making it easier for scooping with a tortilla chip. But if solid black or pinto beans are more your jam – go for it!
  • Tortilla Chips: Any type of chips works here – whether it be corn, plantain or cassava chips. Just make sure to grab a bag that’s close to 13 ounces so that there’s an even amount of ingredients.
  • Cheese: The key here is to use shredded cheese for the perfect melted, gooey texture. But the type of cheese is up to you. I personally like a mix of cheddar and Monterey Jack.
  • Pickled Jalapenos: This is completely optional, but I do find that pickled jalapenos add a deliciously tart and moderately spicy contrast.
  • Fresh Toppings: I’m using a combination of diced tomatoes, red onion, avocados, and sour cream. But keep reading for more fun and tasty ideas!

Find the printable recipe with measurements below.

How To Make Nachos For a Party!

Some of the best appetizers don’t require a lot of effort. And this ultimate nachos is one of them. The only cooking you need to do is to saute the ground beef and refried beans. Then everything else goes into the oven for baking as you prep the fresh toppings. But first, get your oven preheated to 400°F (200°C).

Cooking ground beef in a pan for nachos

Cook the ground beef. Add the ground beef to a skillet over medium heat and cook for about 5 minutes. Then add the taco seasoning and cook for 5 extra minutes until it’s browned.

Cooking refried beans in a pan for nachos

Cook the refried beans. Add the refried beans and water to the skillet and stir everything until combined.

Layering nachos on a sheet pan

Layer on a sheet pan. First, spread out the tortillas on a rimmed sheet pan, and layer on the ground beef mixture, cheese, and jalapenos. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the edges of the tortilla chips are golden.

A sheet pan loaded with nachos next to sour cream.

Add the toppings. Immediately add the diced tomatoes, onion, avocado, sour cream, and cilantro. Your nachos recipe is ready to serve!

A Few Tips For The Best Nachos

  • Avoid soggy nachos by making these on the fly. As the tortilla chips sit under the cheese and juicy meat, they’ll slowly soften and become soggy over time.
  • Make sure to have an even amount of ingredients. Nothing is worse than grabbing a tortilla chip that barely has any toppings on it. Let alone no cheese or beans. So when you’re layering everything on top, keep an eye out for any missing spots that need to be filled with extra toppings – especially the cheese!
A sheet pan with nachos next to cilantro

Make Your Nachos Even Better With These…

Mexican favorites! Swap the ground beef for shredded carnitas, or add spoonfuls of fruity salsa for a refreshing twist. Treat this tray of nachos as a blank canvas and let your creative juices flow!

  • Switch up the meat. Aside from ground beef, you can also add diced up carne asada, or shredded carnitas and barbacoa. Just keep in mind you’ll need to make these the day before to save time!
  • Add more pickled ingredients. Aside from jalapeños, pickled red onions are a great way to add a sweet punch of sour and tangy flavor.
  • Spoon on your favorite salsas. Aside from pico de gallo or blended red salsa, try adding some fruits into the mix! My mango salsa or mandarin orange salsa are always hits.

Complete Your Mexican Spread

Whether it’s Cinco de Mayo or fiesta night for dinner, I’ve got tons of Mexican recipes to round out your table spread. Here’s a few favorites that you can’t go wrong with.

You can never ever go wrong with a tray of loaded nachos. Especially when it comes to a party (like the Super Bowl!). Once you make it, let me know how everyone likes this recipe in a comment below!

A metal sheet pan with the ultimate nachos

Ultimate Nachos Recipe

5 from 7 votes
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
Total: 40 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Author: Lisa Bryan


There's nothing quite like a tray overflowing with the best nachos loaded with savory Mexican ingredients for an entertaining appetizer!


For the Nachos

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons taco seasoning
  • 1 (16-ounce/454g) can refried beans
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 (13-ounce/368g) bag tortilla chips
  • 2 cups shredded cheese (I used a mix of cheddar and Monterey Jack)
  • ¼ cup pickled jalapenos

For the Toppings

  • 3 roma tomatoes, diced
  • ½ cup diced red onion
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves


  • Preheat the oven to 400°F(200°C).
  • Add the ground beef to a skillet over medium heat and cook for about 5 minutes, using a spatula to break up the meat as it cooks. Drain any fat. Then add the taco seasoning and cook for 5 minutes more, until browned and slightly crispy.
    A pan with cooked ground beef for nachos
  • Add the refried beans and water to the skillet and stir until combined.
    Cooking meat and refried beans in a pan for nachos
  • On a rimmed sheet pan, add a layer of tortilla chips and top with the ground beef mixture, cheese and jalapenos. Bake for about 10 to 15 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the edges of the tortilla chips are golden.
    Baked nachos on a sheet pan
  • Remove from the oven and add the diced tomatoes, onion, avocado, sour cream, and cilantro. Serve while warm.
    A sheet pan with loaded nachos

Lisa’s Tips

  • Alternatives for refried beans: swap in pinto beans or black beans.
  • Alternatives for tortilla chips: use cassava chips or plantain chips.


Calories: 632kcal | Carbohydrates: 57g | Protein: 33g | Fat: 30g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 8g | Monounsaturated Fat: 11g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 65mg | Sodium: 1088mg | Potassium: 665mg | Fiber: 10g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 749IU | Vitamin C: 10mg | Calcium: 281mg | Iron: 4mg
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: Nachos, Nachos Recipe
Did you make this recipe?Mention @downshiftology or tag #downshiftology!

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About the author

Lisa Bryan

Lisa is a bestselling cookbook author, recipe developer, and YouTuber (with over 2.5 million subscribers) living in sunny Southern California. She started Downshiftology in 2014, and is passionate about making healthy food with fresh, simple and seasonal ingredients.

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Recipe Rating


  1. Awesome and delicious. I did substitute a few items based on what was in my fridge and cupboards.

    Organic kidney beans instead of refried, and mild green chilies added.5 stars

  2. These nachos look amazing! My only question is, some of these recipes include ingredients that I can’t have on the Whole30? Like refried beans/black beans, sour cream, cheese and I saw rice as an ingredient on another? So you have recommendations for what to use as a substitute for the beans and rice?

    1. Hi Tricia – Those are items you’ll have to exclude to make it Whole30 approved. As for rice, I usually substitute for cauliflower rice or my cilantro lime cauliflower rice.

  3. Loved this recipe! So tasty, absolutely delicious. Really brightened up a dreary, winter evening here in the UK. Thank you, Lisa!

    1. This is comfort food at its finest! Loved this recipe Lisa. So many fresh flavors in one bite! Thanks for another tasteful recipe!

  4. I used blue corn chips but followed the rest of the recipe exactly as written. . So easy and delicious. Would def make this again. Many compliments on the nachos.5 stars

  5. Great recipe. I used diced green chiles instead of jalapeños and it was very very good .
    My husband and I love this recipe.
    Thank you5 stars

  6. Making this tonight! The grandkids just called and we’re having game night. Their 17 and 13.
    Thanks for the idea.❤

  7. Hi I’m going to try this recipe looks delish. Just curious do you track calories – if you had something like this planned for dinner would you be mindful of your other meals/calorie intake during the day?
    Thanks Carol 

    1. I don’t track calories, but I am mindful of what I consume throughout the week. If I had nachos, I would probably choose something a little healthier for other meals in that day. But, I always remind myself that it’s okay to splurge every once in awhile – including weekdays!

  8. I always throw some street corn or some of the frozen tex-mex frozen corn bags with peppers, beans and onions on there. I usually use refried beans because they really are good, I like the spicy jalapeno can. But I usually just swirl a fork around the top of the can and get small clumps to fall out. I can’t wait to try this method as mine is a pain! Black olives and cotija are the only other things I must have.

    And the chorizo. You should try it once in your life.

    1. Love the idea of adding chorizo instead of ground beef! I’m sure that added tons of flavor :)

  9. Hi,
    I love all of your recipes. You are a Breath of fresh air. Keep up the exceptional work. Thanks for everything talk to you later. Bill

    1. The one I’m using is 18″ L x 26″ W x 1″ H. You can find it linked in my Shop page as well :)

    2. I am going to try this today but I will do more like a nacho dip with the chips on the side. That way I can keep leftovers without the chips getting soggy. Can’t wait! Looks so good!