Truly Ultimate Chicken Nachos Recipe

Nachos — the ultimate game-day food — can be so much more than just chips and cheese. These truly ultimate chicken nachos are made with a variety of ingredients and a few little secrets that bring a depth of flavors to this humble snack. Try them the next time you watch the game with friends or even make them for a fun and easy dinner.

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According to Ksenia Prints of At the Immigrant's Table, Nachos were first served in 1943 at a restaurant in Piedras Negras, Mexico by Ignacio "Nacho" Anaya. As the story goes, Anaya invented the dish when a group of women came into his restaurant after closing time and asked for a snack. He improvised by cutting and frying tortillas and topping them with shredded cheese and sliced jalapeños. The dish was a hit that quickly became known as "Nacho's special," and soon thereafter the inventor moved across the border to the United States where he brought nachos to Texas.

While the original nachos were simple, today there are endless ways to customize them. For these ultimate chicken nachos, we have a secret sauce that goes in between all the nooks and crannies and gives this dish an unforgettable aroma: garlic oil. The nachos are topped with a blend of salsa, mayonnaise, sour cream, and fresh garnishes, for a combination of spices, textures, colors, and flavors that make this a party pleaser or a fun meal any night of the week.

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Gather the ingredients for loaded chicken nachos

First, grab the tortilla chips to form the base. To make the ultimate melty bed for the toppings, you'll need several cheeses such as mozzarella, cheddar, Monterey Jack, and cotija to melt over the chips. Shredded rotisserie chicken provides the meat of the meal, while a mix of black beans, corn kernels, and diced tomatoes provides pops of color, earthiness, sweetness, and acidity. Onions and pickled jalapeños deliver crunch and spice. We use a special blend of garlic, olive oil, and salt to make a secret garlic sauce that is out-of-this-world good. For the creamy, saucy aspects, we use a trifecta of hot sauce-laden mayonnaise, salsa, and sour cream. Finally, chopped cilantro on top adds freshness. 

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Step 1: Preheat the oven

Preheat your oven to 375 F.

Step 2: Prep a baking sheet

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Step 3: Spread the tortilla chips

Arrange a layer of tortilla chips on a large baking sheet.

Step 4: Mix the cheeses

Mix together the 4 cheeses in a bowl.

Step 5: Top the chips with the cheese

Sprinkle the cheese blend over the tortilla chips.

Step 6: Add the toppings

Distribute the shredded chicken, black beans, corn, diced tomatoes, onions, and pickled jalapeños evenly over the chips.

Step 7: Make the garlic oil

In a small bowl, mix the minced garlic with olive oil. Season with a pinch of salt.

Step 8: Drizzle the garlic oil

Drizzle garlic oil over the chips.

Step 9: Bake the nachos

Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 10 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the edges of the chips start to turn golden brown.

Step 10: Make the spicy mayo

In a small bowl, mix together Cholula hot sauce with mayonnaise.

Step 11: Remove the nachos from the oven

Take the nachos out of the oven.

Step 12: Top with the sauces

Add dollops of salsa, sour cream, and spicy mayo on top. Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro.

Step 13: Serve the chicken nachos

Serve immediately while warm.

How can you make these chicken nachos less spicy?

Though the bit of spice in this dish makes it much more interesting, you can customize the amount of heat to suit your tastes. To make these chicken nachos less spicy, consider reducing or removing the pickled jalapeño peppers. You can also use fresh diced jalapeño with the seeds removed, which cuts down the acidity and provides the pepper flavor with less spice. For a milder version, use only a tablespoon or two of diced seeded jalapeño. You can skip the jalapeños entirely or you can replace them with milder fresh peppers like Anaheim or poblano peppers instead. 

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You can also reduce the amount of hot sauce or use a milder variety like Cholula Chipotle to cut down on spice. Finally, you can keep the spice level as it is but provide a cooling contrast by topping the nachos with more sour cream, adding guacamole, or making your own lime crema. The cooling ingredients will balance out any heat, and you won't lose any of the recipe's flavor and complexity.

What kind of cheeses work best in these chicken nachos?

Although it's possible to buy a pre-packaged Tex-Mex cheese mix for the melted cheese layer, the best, truly ultimate result comes from creating your own blend. We suggest starting with a mix of mozzarella, cheddar, and Monterey Jack, and then adding salty, slightly grainy cotija cheese on top of it all. If you can't find all the cheeses, you can still put together a fantastic nacho spread with just a couple of cheeses. 

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Good melty options include Monterey Jack, cheddar, queso quesadilla, or Asadero. Aim for a combination of cheeses that gives both a stretchy melted texture and a bold flavor. Cotija adds a different texture from the melted cheeses and provides a nice salty, crumbly contrast to the more traditional American cheeses. You can add cotija even if you use a pre-packaged mix. If you can't find cotija, you can substitute feta or queso fresco, but avoid hard cheeses like parmesan that won't melt properly. The key is balancing melted cheeses for texture with crumbled cheeses for flavor.

How do I keep the nachos crispy?

The beauty of nachos lies in the contrast between the chips that stay crispy and the gooey, toppings-laden ones in the middle. But sometimes those chips become too mushy. There are a couple of tricks you can use if you prefer crispier nachos. To make the nachos extra crispy, bake them in a single layer on a sheet pan before adding any toppings so they crisp up in the oven and hold up better to the layers of other ingredients. 

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Don't overload the tortilla chips with too many moist toppings in one place or they'll become soggy. Instead spread all the toppings out as much as possible. As the recipe instructs, it's best to add the wet ingredients like salsa, sour cream, and mayo after baking. And finally, take the nachos straight from the oven to the table for serving immediately. The less time the nachos spend between the oven and table the more they will maintain that fresh-from-the-oven crunch.

Truly Ultimate Chicken Nachos Recipe

4.9 (18 ratings)

Ultimate chicken nachos, made with layers of ingredients that give them a special depth of flavor, are perfect for game day or as a fun and easy dinner.

Prep Time
15
minutes
Cook Time
10
minutes
servings
6
Servings
Nachos with spicy mayo, salsa and orange napkin
Total time: 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • ½ (12-ounce) bag of tortilla chips
  • ⅔ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ⅔ cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • ⅔ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • ½ cup grated cotija cheese
  • 2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup corn kernels (canned or frozen and thawed)
  • ½ cup diced tomatoes
  • ¼ cup diced onions
  • ¼ cup pickled jalapeño slices
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt, to taste
  • 2 teaspoons Cholula hot sauce, or more to taste
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup salsa, for topping
  • ½ cup sour cream, for topping
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped, for garnish

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 375 F.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Arrange a layer of tortilla chips on a large baking sheet.
  4. Mix together the 4 cheeses in a bowl.
  5. Sprinkle the cheese blend over the tortilla chips.
  6. Distribute the shredded chicken, black beans, corn, diced tomatoes, onions, and pickled jalapeños evenly over the chips.
  7. In a small bowl, mix the minced garlic with olive oil. Season with a pinch of salt.
  8. Drizzle garlic oil over the chips.
  9. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 10 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the edges of the chips start to turn golden brown.
  10. In a small bowl, mix together Cholula hot sauce with mayonnaise.
  11. Take the nachos out of the oven.
  12. Add dollops of salsa, sour cream, and spicy mayo on top. Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro.
  13. Serve immediately while warm.
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