Sure, the classic Mexican combo of tortilla chips and cheese is pretty perfect as-is, and adding meat, beans, salsa, and guac makes for a fabulous meal, yet why limit yourself to the same old ingredients (however delicious)? Tortilla chips are just neutral enough to accept any sort of spin on toppings, so your imagination is about the only limit. You can easily capture the flavors of, say, Greece or China or Morocco, in the beloved nacho format.
Once you realize this, it opens up new noshing possibilities for the rest of your life. But it also happens to be a timely revelation that dovetails perfectly with the upcoming Winter Olympics. What better way to express your team spirit through food than to whip up a batch of internationally-inflected nachos before you settle in for the figure skating championships? And if you’re hosting a party, make multiple batches of smothered chips and see which nation’s nachos win gold, silver, and bronze by guest consensus.
If you want to get a bit more elaborate, you can ditch the tortilla chips and use fried wonton wrappers, plantain or sweet potato chips, pappadums, or prawn crackers, depending on your toppings’ country of origin. It may be a bit more of a stretch, but you can even try more interpretive takes, like these:
1. Fry pierogis and top with kielbasa, sauerkraut, and dark mustard to rep your Polish pride.
3. Smother crisp, thin French fries (call ’em frites) with steamed mussels (taken out of their shells, if you please) and a mayo-based sauce if you’re rooting for Belgium.
4. Make baked “chips” from a super-skinny baguette sliced thin and blanket them with shredded duck confit and melted raclette for a Gallic treat (Frenchos?); hold the confit and replace the bread with small rounds of rösti and it’s Swiss.
6. Remove sticks from several corn dogs, slice into rounds, deep-fry, and top with American cheese and chili while chanting USA! USA! (Mostly kidding about that one…although it could totally work! After all, chili-cheese dog totchos do exist.)
As long as you have a big pile of crunchy bite-size bits topped with flavorful, preferably saucy, and possibly gooey ingredients, you’re still embracing the spirit of nachos, and probably enjoying every moment of it too. Try coming up with your own combos to honor your favorite country’s cuisine, or follow one of these inspired international nacho recipes:
These Korean nachos involve frying wonton wrappers and topping them with sweet-salty bulgogi, spicy kimchi, and a white cheddar sauce thinned with juice from the kimchi jar. Brilliant. Get the recipe.
Okay, so maybe California rolls are not anywhere near the best representation of Japanese food, but you can’t escape most sushi joints without being tempted by them—and these nachos loaded with crab, avocado, nori, and Kewpie mayo do look amazing. Get the recipe.
You can buy the light, crispy lentil flour Indian snacks called pappadums in stores or online, or you can make your own at home. If you can’t do nachos without cheese, add some shredded paneer to these and warm under the broiler for a minute, but don’t expect it to get gooey. And if you’re really hungry, consider adding chicken tikka masala (but eat fast before sogginess sets in)! Get the recipe.
Pita chips also make great Middle Eastern nachos, but here they’re going Greek (and vegan) with Mediterranean salad ingredients and an herbed tahini sauce. Feel free to add feta, and maybe meat, like ground beef or chopped gyro meat. Get the recipe.
Chermoula-spiced lamb, roasted chickpeas, and a harissa cheese sauce lend pita chips North African flavors. (If you can’t find or don’t want to buy the specific products mentioned in the recipe, just follow any basic queso blanco recipe but leave out the spices like cumin and jalapeño and stir in some prepared harissa instead.) Get the recipe.
Fried plantain chips and pineapple-kiwi salsa conjure general tropical vibes without getting too place-specific, but switch out the beef for jerk chicken and call them Jamaican. Get the recipe.
Maybe these are more Italian-American, and yes, they use wonton wrappers instead of pasta, but whatever. They’re a new and glorious way to deliver grilled chicken, mozzarella, and Alfredo sauce to your system. If that’s not enough for you, this version adds hot peppers and sausage. Get the recipe.
Since hardcore authenticity is already out the window, consider these Chinese nachos with ginger-sesame wonton wrappers, shredded cabbage, juicy garlic pork, and a tangy soy-based dressing…or call them deconstructed egg rolls if that feels better. Get the recipe.
Header image courtesy of Dinner with Julie.