Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes one ingredient at a time.
Who Did This?
Some foods have a long history—years, centuries, even millennia; spanning the globe and undergoing numerous iterations. And then, there’s the nacho, a simple food with a simple story. Here’s how it all began.
Once upon a time, Ignacio Anaya (or Nacho, as he was known to his family and friends) was maitre d’ at the Victory Club in Piedras Negras, Mexico. One day, in 1943, a few officers’ wives from Fort Duncan Air Base traveled across the border for a day of shopping and sightseeing. That evening, they arrived at the Victory Club for a bite to eat, and so according to Anaya’s son:
He said ‘Let me go quick and fix something for you.’ He went into the kitchen, picked up tostadas,’ grated some cheese on them–Wisconsin cheese, the round one–and put them under the Salamander (a broiling unit that quickly browns the top of foods). He pulled them out after a couple of minutes, all melted, and put on a slice of jalapeño.”He called the snack Nacho’s Especiales.
— Igancio Anaya's son
Popularized in Los Angeles?
In 1954, that concept of tortillas with melted cheese and jalapeños hopped across the border to Eagle Pass, Texas. The ladies of the Church of the Redeemer published St Anne's Cookbook, which documented the original recipe.
After that, the scent gets cold. Perhaps that cookbook by the Ladies of the Church of the Redeemer was a best-seller? We pick up the trail once again in San Antonio, Texas, a distance of about 140 miles from Eagle Pass. This is where Carmen Salas lived with her parents. We are told that she learned of nachos there, and carried memories of that dish with her when she wed and moved to Los Angeles in 1959. Carmen Rocha (her married name) became a waitress at the El Cholo Restaurant. And according to the L.A. Times:
For a special treat Rocha sometimes went into the kitchen and made her customers an order of nachos, an item not included on the menu. She followed a recipe she learned in San Antonio, where she grew up, layering tortilla wedges, shredded cheddar cheese and slices of jalapeño pepper, warming the dish in the oven. Before long she had requests from all over the dining room and her nachos were added to the menu.
— Carmen Rocha
A Baseball Connection?
Another legion of fans claims that the fame of nachos spread not in Los Angeles, but at a 1976 Texas Rangers game at Arlington Stadium. Two years later, Howard Cosell sang their praises during a Monday Night Football telecast.
As they say, the rest is history.
I'll give you a basic recipe, and then let's explore and see how many different variations on a theme exist out there in Google land.
Recipes in This Article
- The Original Nachos Recipe
- Buffalo Chicken
- Mexican street corn
- Pulled pork
- Chicken Doritos
- Jalapeño shrimp
- Black bean
The Original Nacho Recipe
The recipe is adapted from a 1969 interview with Ignacio Anaya. The nachos that are made today are a pile of chips heaped with ingredients; this original version is beauty in simplicity.
Ingredients (makes 12 wafers)
- 3 corn tortillas
- 1 cup shredded longhorn cheese, about 3 ounces by weight
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 12 pickled jalapeño slices
- Preheat oven to 350º F.
- Brush the oil on both sides of each tortilla, cut each into quarters, and bake them in a 350º F oven for 15 to 20 minutes. They will turn a darker brown, but do not let them burn.
- Shred the cheese and distribute it among the tortilla triangles. Place a slice of jalapeño on each.
- Bake the triangles in a 350º F oven for about 5 minutes until the cheese is bubbly. Alternatively, you can place them under the broiler for a minute or so. Keep a close watch so that they do not burn.
Buffalo Chicken Nachos
There is no doubt that Buffalo chicken holds a place of its own when we list regional tastes that have gone viral. Everyone recognizes the name and loves the flavor. How could we not put it on a chip as done here with these Buffalo chicken nachos?
Mexican Street Corn Nachos
Mexican sweet corn has so many amazing flavors. First, of course, there's the sweet corn, but then you have the butter, mayo, crumbled cotija (or feta), cilantro, chili powder, and lime juice. It's a mouth explosion of flavor. Could anyone be brave enough to put that on a chip? Well, Kevin did, and here is his recipe for Mexican street corn nachos.
Pulled Pork Nachos
Pulled pork is a guilty pleasure of mine. Those crispy bits on the edge, the succulent juicy strands of meat from the interior—greasy, sweet, buttery pork. Don't make pulled pork simply for the sake of this recipe. But do plan ahead and save some so that you can make these nachos from the blog CrunchyCreamySweet.
Marla Meridith blogs about fashion, beauty, travel, lifestyle, and (lucky for us) food. Her recipe for Greek nachos replaces the tortilla chip with pita chips. When I make this I use ground turkey instead of ground lamb but make this to suit your own tastes. The tzatziki sauce and fresh tomatoes are a must.
Andrea is a former restauranteur and shares her wonderful recipes with us on her blog TaylorMadeMarket. Her recipe for pizza nachos starts with marinara and a creamy garlic sauce. Toss on cheddar and mozzarella cheeses and then, the sky's the limit. Adapt this recipe to include all the flavors you love on a pizza.
Chicken Doritos Nachos
I still haven't quite figured out what the staff of Shared do; they are located in Ottawa and magically (my word) make things go viral, like this recipe for Chicken Doritos nachos.
Be warned, Doritos are addictive; these nachos are addictive. Don't blame me if you can't stop.
Despite the famine of the mid-19th century, we still associate potatoes with Ireland. DinnerAtTheZoo has turned the love of potato chips and traditional baked potato toppings into a great Irish nacho.
Jalapeño Shrimp Nachos
The shrimp are briny and sweet, the jalapeños spicy, and the queso and Monterey jack cheeses are rich and creamy. WillCookforSmiles puts them all together perfectly for us in these shrimp nachos.
Black Bean Nachos
Last but not least are these vegetarian-friendly black bean nachos from Olena and her iFoodreal blog. Olena is originally from Ukraine but now lives on the West Coast. Her nachos are invitingly colorful and tasty.
© 2018 Linda Lum