Loaded Ground Beef Nachos

The best homemade nachos loaded with juicy ground beef, all-natural nacho cheese sauce and all your favorite toppings!  You will start with one chip and end with zero self-control. 😜

These craveable loaded nachos are the only recipe you’ll ever want – crispy, creamy, juicy, fresh – with the BEST ground beef and nacho sauce! They are the ultimate crowd-pleasing sharable comfort food that can be served as an appetizer, snack or full meal (perfect for Game Day)!  Best of all, this nacho recipe can be prepped ahead for easy assembly with endless variations.  What sets this beef nacho recipe apart is the addicting juicy ground beef blended with homemade taco seasoning, creamy refried beans, punchy salsa and tangy green chilies and the luxuriously creamy, punchy homemade nacho cheese sauce you’ll want to slather on everything – no bland, boring or dry nachos here!  Finish off your mouthwatering nachos supreme with sour cream, guacamole, pico de gallo, olives, pickled jalapenos for the ultimate mouthwatering party food!

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top view of homemade loaded ground beef nachos with ground beef, homemade nacho cheese sauce, guacamole, pico de gallo, sour cream and pickled jalapenos

What makes this the best nacho recipe?

Nachos have to be one of the most addicting comfort foods on the planet from their dig-right-in appeal to their mashup of flavors and textures in each crunchy, juicy, creamy bite.  So, as a nacho connoisseur, it was important for me to get this recipe right. 

I can confidently say homemade nachos do not get any more fabulous than this ground beef nacho recipe.  So, what does it take to make the best loaded nachos? It starts with creamy seasoned ground beef, homemade nacho cheese sauce and fresh toppings along with a few tips and tricks. Let’s take a closer look:

Why this nacho recipe works:

The chips are never soggy.  By using a combination of sturdy tortilla chips and popping them in the oven for 5 minutes, we avoid the pitfalls of many soggy nacho recipes.

It uses homemade nacho cheese sauce instead of shredded cheese.  You just can’t beat shatteringly crispy chips laden with silky, creamy nacho sauce.  It’s 1000X better than baked nachos with all-too-often sad, rubbery shredded cheese.  

The nacho cheese sauce is made with natural ingredients. We may love nacho cheese sauce but we don’t love are processed cheeses.  Thankfully, my quick, easy homemade nacho cheese recipe is loaded with Monterrey and mozzarella cheese so it’s extra silky with a kick of sharp cheddar for flavor.  Sour cream keeps it extra silky and green chilies, pickled jalapenos and seasonings elevate it to the most flavorful nacho sauce you’ve ever tasted.

You’ll want to devour the ground beef on its own. I modified my favorite burrito filling to make this ground beef topping because it’s so good, I always end up eating it with a spoon – and now chips! It’s juicy, creamy, perfectly seasoned and the ideal spreadable consistency without making the nachos soggy.

The ground beef and refried beans are combined.  Too often homemade nachos are a haphazard mashup resulting in beans on one chip and beef on another; you’ll get one creamy bite, one juicy bite and one dry bite. By combining the ground beef and refried beans together along with sour cream and salsa, we’re rewarded with even distribution – no more dry beans, beef or bites!

The loaded nachos are layered for even distribution.  The chips, nacho cheese then ground beef are layered in two rounds to create the most incredible stacks of loaded cheesiness in every bite.  Just try and find a chip that’s plain!

The toppings complete the flavor bomb. You can’t have the best nachos without toppings!  These beef nachos are an intoxicating symphony of flavors and textures from the crunchy tortilla chips, silky nacho cheese, juicy chili ground beef, creamy refried beans and the quintessential toppings of tangy sour cream, fresh guacamole, zesty pico de gallo, spicy pickled jalapenos and salty olives. 

The nachos aren’t baked so everyone can make their own!  Instead of creating a big pile of nachos, you can let everyone make their own bowls with customizable toppings. This let’s everyone make their nachos supreme just how they like! It also makes for easier serving so everyone can sit back and relax while they watch the game instead of swarming one solo nacho platter.

The toppings are flexible – feel free to use shortcuts! While I highly advocate a combination of fresh and creamy toppings, you can use as many or as few as you wish!  You can make the toppings from scratch or use shortcut store bought nacho sauce, pico de gallo and guacamole.

These nachos are easy to make and can be prepped in advance. You can make the ground beef/refried bean mixture and the homemade nacho sauce days ahead of time and reheat when ready to assemble. The toppings can also be prepped and refrigerated one day ahead of time.

These homemade nachos can be eaten anytime, anywhere.  While we can all agree loaded nachos are a terrific anytime appetizer, party food, movie food, game night food and big game food, they can also be eaten as lunch or dinner!

side view of nacho recipe with ground beef, nacho cheese and toppings showing how to layer the chips

The History of Nachos

Nachos were created in 1940 in the border city of Piedras Negras, in Coahuila, Mexico.  As the story goes, a group of American army wives stationed at a military base in Eagle Pass, Texas passed the Rio Grande for a shopping excursion.  They stopped in the Victory Club in Piedras outside business hours looking for a bite. 

All the cooks were off duty, but the maître d’hôtel, Ignacio Anaya, nicknamed “Nacho,” was determined to whip something up.  He quickly made an appetizer by topping fried corn tortilla chips with Colby cheese and pickled jalapeños and threw them in the oven.

The women raved about the dish and jokingly called them “Nacho’s special.” A short time later, the dish became a staple on the Victory Club menu, and soon every household in the region was making their very own “nachos.”  Eventually, Mr. Anaya moved to Eagle Pass, Texas and opened a restaurant called Nacho’s.

It wasn’t until 30 years layer in the 1970s that Frank Liberto, a businessman from Texas, introduced nachos to the American masses.   With the invention of emulsified cheese sauce and a pump, Liberto introduced ballpark nachos at a Texas Rangers baseball game in 1977 and later to football fans at a Dallas Cowboys game.  Nachos quickly became the must-have game snack at stadiums with movie theaters following closely behind.   

Today, you’ll find every type of nachos from bulgogi to jerk pork to cheesesteak. My favorite kind, however, remains these classic loaded nachos.   

What Are the Best Chips for loaded Nachos?

Chips can make or break your nachos.  Thin chips can quickly turn soggy and limp and/or break when you lift them.  Instead, look for the thickest tortilla chips you can find.  These will be the sturdiest and won’t get soggy as quickly. 

I recommend checking out your bakery section for chips that were fried in-house or locally.  These are typically made from tortillas which make the sturdiest chips.  I have also had success with La Fortaleza Tortilla Chips, pictured in this recipe.  They are sold at Costco in two 3-pound bags for less than $9.

showing how to serve homemade nacho recipe with ground beef by loading all of the toppings (sour cream, guacamole, pico de gallo, olives) on top of the ground beef and nacho cheese sauce

WHAT IS THE BEST beef for nachos?

I’ve elevated this beef nachos recipe with a juicy, creamy, perfectly seasoned ground beef and refried bean mixture that is stand alone spectacular.  It’s so addicting, I have to stop myself from eating it by the spoonful.  Plus, by combining the ground beef and refried beans, neither element dries out and it’s easier to distribute too!

The swoon worthy ground beef is packed with flavor from browning the meat with homemade taco seasoning, stirring in refried beans, salsa, and sour cream – drool.

 Ingredients for the ground beef

  • Ground beef:  The best ground beef to use for homemade nachos is 85%-93% lean. That means 85% is lean and 15% is fat.  The fat will give the ground beef juicy beefy flavor without all the dripping grease.  You will still want to drain the grease before adding the rest of the ingredients. 
  • Homemade taco seasoning:  The ground beef is seasoned with a delectable homemade taco seasoning consisting of chili powder, ground cumin, smoked paprika, dried oregano, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper.  You are welcome to use more or less of any of the spices to make it your own.  You can also use homemade taco seasoning but I have not experimented with the amount needed.
  • Refried beans:  Adds an irresistible creaminess that is heavenly with the beef. You may also substitute with pinto beans or black beans, but the taco meat won’t be as creamy, cohesive and overall swoon worthy.
  • Salsa:  Adds liquid to blend the refried beans and ground beef together while also adding tons of flavor.  You can use mild or medium salsa and then adjust the cayenne pepper to taste.  I use medium salsa along with ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper for a little kick.
  • Chopped green chiles: These come from a can and add a subtle tang to the loaded nachos.   Take care you choose MILD chopped green chiles because the hot can is HOT. Mild green chiles, however are more tangy than hot so you don’t have to worry about them making your beef spicy.  

Best cheese for nachos: nacho cheese vs shredded cheese

When it comes to the best cheese for nachos, which should you use?  Shredded cheese or nacho cheese? I think it comes down to personal preference:

  • Nacho cheese:  My favorite cheese for nachos is hands down nacho cheese sauce. Its undeniable silky creaminess is far more palate pleasing than shredded cheese, in my opinion, it has tons more FLAVOR, doesn’t set as quickly and drapes over every chip with ease. 
  • Shredded cheese: I’m not saying you can’t use shredded cheese, but be aware that it sets more quickly so it has to be eaten pretty instantly to enjoy its ooey gooey appeal. 

what makes the best homemade nacho cheese sauce?

My favorite nacho cheese to use in this recipe is queso blanco. You’ll love that it’s:

  • Made with three REAL cheeses without ANY Velveeta or American cheese!
  • SO luxuriously silky and creamy
  • SO flavorful from green chiles, jalapenos and spices
  • SO easy to make in just 5 minutes
  • Customizable with heat and add-ins
  • Most importantly, it doesn’t curdle, doesn’t get grainy, or harden, or split as it cools thanks to its special ingredients of evaporated milk, cornstarch and sour cream
showing how to make nacho recipe by stirring refried beans together with ground beef in a skillet

Ingredients for nacho cheese

This homemade nacho cheese sauce is made with pantry friendly ingredients.  You will need:

  • Evaporated milk: is canned, stabilized homogenized cow’s milk from which 60 percent of the water has been removed.  This mean it is thicker than just milk and more stable than heavy cream and less likely to curdle or separate.  You can use heavy cream in a bind, but take care NOT to let it boil.
  • Cheeses:  three cheeses are used for flavor and supreme meltability: 1) Monterrey Jack cheese melts beautifully with mild buttery flavor, 2) mozzarella adds the incredible ooey gooey factor but may be substituted with Monterey and 3) sharp cheddar cheese adds the punch of flavor.  Please use SHARP as opposed to MILD cheddar cheese.  I don’t recommend using all sharp cheddar because it tends to be grainier than white cheeses.
  • Cornstarch:  thickens the nacho cheese without having to make a roux.
  • Sour Cream:  add gorgeous silkiness and body to the nacho cheese that can’t be beat. Please use full fat please!  Full fat sour cream melts to luxuriously silkiness whereas less fat or nonfat does not melt as well.
  • Green Chiles:  add a bright, vibrant tanginess to cut through the cheesiness.  Take care you use MILD chopped green chiles for flavor and not heat.  If you use hot green chiles, your dip will be HOT!
  • Jalapenos:  use canned jalapenos instead of fresh because they are soft, boast a spectacular tang and universal spice level.  You will also need the can because we are also going to use 1 tablespoon jalapeno juice from the can.
  • Seasonings:  chili powderchicken bouillon, ground cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper round out the flavor profile.  Use more or less of each to taste. If you don’t keep chicken bouillon stocked, you can skip it.

What Are the Best Toppings for Nachos?

While our seasoned ground beef and nacho cheese make for irresistible nachos, they are further elevated with TOPPINGS!  You can load your nachos with as little or as many toppings as you like. Classic nacho toppings (highly recommend) include:  sour cream, guacamole, pico de gallo, olives, and pickled jalapenos.  But don’t let that limit your imagination!  Here’s the breakdown:

Essential nacho toppings

  • Guacamole: is lusciously creamy, tangy, salty and fresh. I use my favorite guacamole recipe made with avocados, lime juice, cilantro, jalapenos, red onions, and juicy tomatoes. When I am feeling lazy, I will even omit the red onions and garlic and substitute with garlic and onion powder. You may also use your favorite recipe or store bought guacamole is a handy shortcut, usually found in the deli section.
  • Sour cream:  a must in my book for every beef nacho recipe!  Its bright refreshing, silky creaminess compliments and cuts through the richness of the nachos and marries all of the flavors and textures together.
  • Pico de gallo:  is fresh tomato salsa that adds a vibrant, punchy freshness.  You can use my homemade pico de gallo recipe or store bought usually found in the deli section. You can make the pico de gallo ahead of time and store it in an airtight container in the fridge.  Bring to room temperature before serving.
  • Jalapenos: are used to amp up the heat.  Pickled jalapenos are preferred over fresh due to their fabulous pickled tang which compliments the richness of the loaded nachos.  Bonus, pickled jalapenos are also easier to use – simply open the can, drain and use!

Nacho topping substitutes

  • Tomatoes: quartered cherry tomatoes or seeded, chopped Roma tomatoes can be used if you skip the pico de gallo.  Combine the tomatoes with some fresh cilantro.
  • Cilantro:  add in addition to or instead of the pico de gallo for a fresh, zesty flair.
  • Avocados: chopped or sliced avocados are the easiest avocado option instead of guacamole. Toss them with a splash of lime juice and some freshly cracked salt and pepper.
  • Greek yogurt: is a great creamy alternative to sour cream if you are trying to save some calories. 
  • Hot Sauce: spice up your loaded nachos with hot sauce instead of jalapenos.

Nacho toppings

More nacho topping options

  • Green onions: especially important if you skip the pico de gallo for their mild onion-y flavor.
  • Black olives: are a favorite for their salty bite. 
  • Pickle onions: are tangy, punchy fantastic and one of my favorite nachos supreme toppings. Use my super simple pickled red onions recipe and they’ll be ready in 30 minutes!
  • Radishes: thinly sliced add a spicy, zesty, crispy crunch.
  • Corn: sweet drained canned corn or corn straight off of the cob.  You can also grill or char your corn like I do in my corn salsa for a tantalizing charred smokiness.
  • Black beans:  can be added in addition to the refried beans.
  • Lettuce: chopped Romaine lettuce or iceberg lettuce – anything with a nice crunch and neutral flavor to add a fresh contrasting crunch.  
  • Cotija cheese:  a showering of Cotija for a salty finish.  Cotija is known as “Mexican Parmesan” because it is wonderfully salty, hard, and crumbly. It is traditionally found with the specialty cheeses and should be readily available.  You may also use queso fresco.
  • Salsa: you can completely change the flavor profile of your homemade nachos with a salsa. Some of the best nachos I’ve had were doused in salsa verde! You can choose from store bought salsas (I love Mateos from Costco) or get fancy with my homemade restaurant salsa salsa verdeblack bean corn salsaavocado salsa, charred corn salsa, mango salsa, or pineapple salsa.
  • Mangos: it might sound odd, but I love mangos on my nachos, especially with carnitas or chipotle pork.

what other beef or chicken can I use for homemade nachos?

These loaded nachos don’t have to be made with ground beef – that’s the beauty of making them from scratch!  You can use any protein you like then combine the refried beans, salsa and sour cream mixture without the protein (except if using ground turkey).  Here are some ideas:

chicken options

beef and pork options

  • Mexican Shredded Beef:  spoon tender braised beef (in the crockpot, oven, stove or instant pot) with a caravan of rich, earthy, fiesta seasonings, punchy salsa, tangy green chilies, savory beef broth and smoky liquid smoke.
  • Beef Barbacoa (Crockpot): crazy juicy beef slow cooked until melt-in-your-mouth tender infused with a tangy, chipotle sauce.  Barbacoa Beef is known for its intense flavor and perfect balance of chipotle peppers, cumin, oregano and lime juice.
  • Beef Birria: an explosion of complex earthy, smoky, savory, slightly spicy, juicy, addictiveness in each and every saucy bite.  The beef is stewed until fall apart juicy tender in a from scratch rich broth made from chilies, onions, garlic, tomatoes and toasted spices including peppercorns, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cloves, bay leaves and cinnamon. 
  • Carne Asada: is the quintessential Mexican steak marinated in orange juice, lime juice, soy sauce and a splash of liquid smoke then spice rubbed with cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika, garlic and onion. It’s juicy, flavorful and crazy good.
  • Carnitas (Crockpot):  juicy pork smothered in a dynamic fiesta spice rub then slow cooked with orange juice and lime juice then finished in the oven to create glorious caramelized crispy burnt ends. 
  • Chipotle Sweet Pulled Pork: a Cafe Rio Copycat that’s juicy, tender, melt-in-your-mouth with the perfect balance of saucy sweet heat.

Mexican Proteins (Scroll to See!)

Cheese variations

Cheese sauce:  If you don’t have time, ingredients or the desire to make your own nacho sauce, it’s also sold in the jar.  I particularly like the Tostitos brand queso.  It comes in a variety of flavors such as salsa con queso, queso blanco and southwest cheese corn dip.   

Cheese varieties:  Feel free to mix and match cheeses for your homemade nacho cheese sauce or if using shredded cheeses instead.  Keep in mind, I always recommend at least two different kinds of cheese for optimal flavor.  If you swap the nacho cheese for shredded cheese, you’ll need about 8 ounces of freshly shredded cheese (4 cups).  Here are some cheesy ideas to mix:

  • Monterrey Jack
  • Pepper Jack
  • Colby Jack
  • Sharp cheddar
  • Habañero cheese

HOW TO MAKE the best nachos

This nacho recipe can be broken into four parts:

  • Make nacho cheese sauce
  • Make ground beef and refried bean mixture
  • Assemble chips, beef and cheese
  • Add toppings

Let’s take a closer look at how to make this beef nacho recipe (full recipe with measurements in the recipe card at the bottom of the post):

Step 1:  how to Make Nacho cheese

Start by preparing the queso blanco according to recipe directions.  You get to the recipe by clicking “queso blanco” in the directions.

  • Combine evaporated milk and cornstarch.  Frist whisk the evaporated milk and cornstarch together in a medium saucepan. Once it’s combined, bring to a simmer, whisking constantly.  Once it begins to bubble on the sides, reduce heat to low.
  • Add cheeses.  Whisk in sour cream until completely smooth, followed by the cheeses, a little at a time, whisking constantly until smooth/melted before adding more cheese.
  • Add seasonings. Once cheese is entirely melted, stir in seasonings, green chiles, diced jalapenos and jalapeno juice.
a four picture collage showing how to make nacho cheese for nachos by 1) whisking evaporated milk with cornstarch in a sauce pan, 2) adding sour cream, 3) adding shredded cheddar, 4) adding green chilies, pickled jalapenos and chili powder

Step 2:  how to make ground beef

  • Brown beef:  Brown the beef in a large skillet until almost cooked through.  Drain any excess grease (or keep it for more flavor – your call!).
  • Add the refried beans:  Stir in all of the spices/seasonings, followed by refried beans and salsa until well incorporated, followed by sour cream. Heat through then stir in water 1 tablespoon at a time until it reaches a thick but spreadable consistency.
a four photo collage showing how to make ground beef for nachos by 1) browning beef with seasonings, 2) adding refried beans and salsa, 3) stirring in sour cream, 4) thinning with water

Step 3:  how to assemble nachos

  • Layer:  Spread half the tortilla chips in a single layer on a large platter or baking pan. Drizzle about ⅓ of the nacho sauce over top; top with half of the beef mixture. 
  • Repeat: Repeat with the remaining chips, ⅓ nacho sauce and remaining beef mixture; top with remaining cheese sauce.  
a four photo collage showing how to assemble nacho recipe by 1) adding tortilla chips to a platter, 2) adding half of the ground beef and beans and ⅓ of the nacho cheese, 3) adding the rest of the tortilla chips, 4) adding remaining ground beef, beans and cheese sauce

Step 4:  Add toppings

  • Toppings:  Top with desired toppings such as sour cream, guacamole, pico de gallo, olives and green onions.
  • Serve:  Immediately dig in!
showing how to serve homemade loaded beef nacho recipe by topping chips with guacamole, sour cream, pico and olives with a hand taking a chip

How to avoid dry or soggy nacho recipe

Nachos should be perfectly crispy, juicy and creamy, never soggy or dry.  Here’s how to make them perfectly every time:

  • Prepare toppings first.  Have all the toppings ready to go so you can quickly garnish the homemade nachos as soon as you add the nacho cheese – otherwise your nachos will be sitting for a good 15 minutes before you’re ready to dig in.
  • Use sturdy chips.  Set yourself up for success and use the thickest, sturdiest chips you can find.
  • Toast the chips in the oven for a few minutes.  Honestly, I don’t always do this but it’s great insurance if you don’t have the thickest chips or you know the nachos won’t be devoured quickly.  Spread the nachos on a large baking sheet or two baking sheets and bake at 350 degrees F for 5 minutes or so until you begin to smell their nutty aroma.  This helps to crisp them up a bit more by drying them out. 
  • Use nacho cheese sauce and ground beef with refried beans.  This ensures the nachos are loaded with creamy deliciousness: no risk of dry nachos ever!

more tips for the best nacho recipe

Here’s a few tips and tricks to ensure your loaded nachos are a homerun every time:

  • Please use evaporated milk in your nacho cheese. It’s the solution to your sauce not curdling or separating or splitting when reheating.
  • Whisk cornstarch until smooth. Whisk the cornstarch until smooth BEFORE heating the evaporated milk. If your cornstarch isn’t whisking completely smooth, then use your fingers to pinch the clumps until smooth.
  • Don’t boil evaporated milk.  Evaporated milk itself has a high heat threshold, but the cheeses do not.  If your evaporated milk is too hot when you add your cheeses, they can separate or become grainy. Take care you reduce the heat as soon as your evaporated milk starts to simmer – NOT boil. 
  • Use FRESHLY shredded cheeses.   Use only freshly shredded cheeses because they not only taste far superior than pre-packaged shredded cheeses but melt far better. Pre-shredded cheeses are coated with anti-clumping chemicals so they don’t clump in their packaging which also prevents them from melting as seamlessly.
  • Whisk in cheeses gradually. Take care to whisk cheeses in a little at time – this helps the cheeses melt smoothly and not dramatically lower the temperature. Also take care to whisk constantly so the cheeses don’t clump.
  • Keep the nacho sauce warm or reheat it. You have two options while preparing the ground beef: 1) Keep the sauce on the lowest setting on the stove while you prep the ground beef, stirring occasionally to mix in the film that forms on top. 2) Let the nacho sauce cool then gently reheat on the stove when ready to use.
  • Thin or thicken nacho sauce to desired consistency.  The nacho sauce will stay creamy but thicken some as it cools while you’re prepping the ground beef because it is made with REAL cheese. For a thinner sauce, simply whisk in additional milk.  For a thicker dip, stir in additional Monterrey Jack cheese over medium-low heat until it melts completely.
  • Add the essential toppings. There are a handful of toppings I consider essential (see list) for the best ground beef nachos with the ideal balance of flavor and texture.
  • Eat loaded nachos immediately.  No matter if you use the thickest chips on the block, beef nachos will still get soggy if they sit around for very long.  Only assemble the nachos once your crew has arrived and is ready to chow down. 
  • Prep ingredients ahead of time.  To that end, the nacho sauce and the ground beef mixture can be made ahead of time and gently reheated when you’re ready to assemble the nachos.
  • Scale the recipe.  Whether you’re looking for an easy lunch or for serving a party of 30, this beef nacho recipe can easily be scaled up or down by using the sliding scale next to the servings in the recipe card.
homemade nachos piled on a plate with nacho sauce and ground beef

Prep Ahead for Easy Assembly

These loaded homemade nachos are best served fresh, as soon as they’re assembled – but don’t let that stress you out!  You can prep all of the ingredients ahead of time and reheat when ready.   If you want to keep the prep extra easy, top your nachos supreme with store-bought ingredients (pico de gallo, guacamole, nacho cheese etc.).

  • Ground Beef/Refried Beans:  can be made up to 3 days ahead of time and stored in an airtight container.  Reheat gently on the stove, stirring in additional water as needed to thin to desired consistency. Remember to keep the mixture pretty thick, however, to avoid soggy nachos.
  • Nacho cheese:  can be made 5 days ahead of time and stored in an airtight container. To reheat, transfer the sauce to a small sauce pan and heat over medium-low until warmed through, stirring often – do NOT let it boil. Add milk to thin to desired consistency.
  • Toppings:  prep all of the toppings up to 2 days ahead of time. Drain the pico of any excess moisture and serve at room temperature.  The guacamole will keep well for up to a day without changing color very much – just make sure to store in the refrigerator with a piece of plastic wrap pressed directly against the surface of the guacamole to prevent oxidation. Bring to room temperature before serving.

How to serve loaded nachos

If you know your nacho eaters don’t all like the same toppings, you can top the chips with the cheese sauce and ground beef then create a nacho toppings bar with the rest of the toppings. You can also let everyone create their own from-scratch nachos by serving everything separately – including the ground beef and the nacho sauce. This is particularly useful to avoid soggy leftovers.

What About Leftover Nachos?

The best nachos are freshly assembled nachos boasting the crunchiest chips and silkiest nacho sauce; leftover nachos inevitably turn soggy. While many people detest leftover nachos, I think of them more like chilaquiles, and don’t mind them at all – you just can’t think of them as nachos!  If you are a chilaquiles fan, consider adding some enchilada sauce to your reheated leftover nachos and topping with a fried egg like in this chilaquiles recipe.

If you’d like to preserve the integrity of your ground beef nachos and think you might have leftovers, you may still make a full batch of nacho sauce and ground beef, but only dress some of the chips. Another alternative is to keep all the ingredients separate and create a nacho bar.  This way, you can save whatever you don’t use and remake the nachos, or use the fixings in taquitos, flautas, tacos, burritos, etc.

a hand picking up loaded nacho recipe with ground beef, cheese sauce and pico de gallo on the chip

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showing how to serve homemade loaded beef nacho recipe by topping chips with guacamole, sour cream, pico and olives with a hand taking a chip

Loaded Ground Beef Nachos

These craveable loaded nachos are the only recipe you'll ever want – crispy, creamy, juicy, fresh – with the BEST ground beef and nacho sauce! They are the ultimate crowd-pleasing sharable comfort food that can be served as an appetizer, snack or full meal (perfect for Game Day)!  Best of all, this nacho recipe can be prepped ahead for easy assembly with endless variations. What sets this beef nacho recipe apart is the addicting juicy ground beef blended with homemade taco seasoning, creamy refried beans, punchy salsa and tangy green chilies and the luxuriously creamy, punchy homemade nacho cheese sauce you’ll want to slather on everything – no bland, boring or dry nachos here!  Finish off your mouthwatering nachos supreme with sour cream, guacamole, pico de gallo, olives, pickled jalapenos for the ultimate mouthwatering party food!
Servings: 8 -12 servings
Prep Time: 30 mins
Cook Time: 15 mins

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Ingredients

GROUND BEEF AND BEANS

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 tsp EACH ground cumin, onion powder, garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp EACH smoked paprika, dried oregano, salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • dash -¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional, to taste)
  • 1 16 oz. can refried beans
  • 1/2 cup salsa (medium for more of a kick)
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup water

CHEESE

  • 14 ounces thick/sturdy tortilla chips
  • 1 recipe Queso Blanco or favorite store-bought cheese sauce, warmed

SUGGESTED TOPPINGS

  • Sour cream
  • Guacamole
  • Pico de gallo or chopped tomatoes and cilantro
  • Sliced olives
  • Pickled jalapenos
  • Green onions
  • See post for tons more ideas!

Instructions

  • Prepare toppings: Have all the toppings ready to go so you can quickly assemble the nachos as soon as you add the cheese sauce.
  • Cheese Sauce: Prepare Queso Blanco (click HERE) according to recipe directions; remove from heat. It will thicken as it cools. When ready to use, gently reheat on the stove, stirring in milk, 1 tablespoon at a time if needed to thin.
  • Brown beef: Brown beef in a large skillet over medium heat until almost cooked through; drain grease. Stir in all of the spices/seasonings, followed by refried beans and salsa until well incorporated, followed by sour cream. Heat through then stir in water 1 tablespoon at a time until it reaches a thick but somewhat spreadable consistency. You don't want it thin or it will make the nachos soggy.
  • Assemble: Spread half the tortilla chips in a single layer on a large platter or baking pan. Drizzle about ⅓ of the cheese sauce over top; top with half of the beef mixture. Repeat with the remaining chips, ⅓ cheese sauce and remaining beef mixture; top with remaining cheese sauce. Garnish with desired toppings; serve immediately.

Toppings Bar Option

  • If you know your nacho eaters don’t all like the same toppings, create a nacho toppings bar. You can even let everyone create their own from-scratch nachos by serving everything separately – including the ground beef and the nacho sauce; this is especially useful if you know there will be leftovers to avoid soggy nachos.

Video

Notes

Ingredient Tips and Substitutions

  • Tortilla chips: I recommend checking out your bakery section for chips that were fried in-house or locally.  These are typically made from tortillas which make the sturdiest chips.  I have also had success with La Fortaleza Tortilla Chips, pictured in this recipe.  They are sold at Costco in two 3-pound bags for less than $9.
  • Toast the chips in the oven for a few minutes: I don’t always do this but it’s great insurance if you don’t have the thickest chips or you know the nachos won’t be devoured quickly.  Spread the nachos on a large baking sheet or two baking sheets and bake at 350 degrees F for 5 minutes or so until you begin to smell their nutty aroma.  This helps to crisp them up a bit more by drying them out. 
  • Ground turkey or ground chicken: Can be evenly swapped for the ground beef. If you really want the ground turkey to taste like beef, I suggest adding 2 teaspoons beef bouillon while cooking and crumbling.  I use this trick in my turkey tacosturkey chili and turkey meatballs and it is AMAZING!  If you do use beef bouillon, then omit the salt and add salt to taste to the filling.
  • Refried beans: Adds an irresistible creaminess that is heavenly with the beef. You may also substitute with pinto beans or black beans, but the taco meat won’t be as creamy, cohesive and overall swoon worthy.
  • Use FRESHLY shredded cheeses:   Please grate your own cheese because they melt better (and taste better!) than pre-packaged cheeses. Pre-shredded cheeses are coated with anti-clumping chemicals so they don’t clump in their packaging which also prevents them from melting as seamlessly.
  • Store bought cheese: If you don’t have time, ingredients or the desire to make your own queso, it’s also sold in the jar.  I particularly like the Tostitos brand queso.  It comes in a variety of flavors such as salsa con queso, queso blanco and southwest cheese corn dip.   
  • Shredded cheese substitute:  You can swap the cheese sauce with layers of 4 cups of FRESHLY shredded cheeses such as Colby Jack and Monterrey. Bake the nachos with the cheese and ground beef for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees F.

More protein options:

  • Shredded Mexican Chicken (Crockpot):  simmered with Mexican spices, salsa and green chilies for chicken that’s dripping with flavor and SO tender.  
  • Mexican shredded chicken: shortcut chicken with robust fiesta seasonings made with rotisserie chicken.
  • Mexican Shredded Beef:  spoon tender braised beef (in the crockpot, oven, stove or instant pot) with a caravan of rich, earthy, fiesta seasonings, punchy salsa, tangy green chilies, savory beef broth and smoky liquid smoke.
  • Beef Barbacoa (Crockpot): crazy juicy beef slow cooked until melt-in-your-mouth tender infused with a tangy, chipotle sauce.  Barbacoa Beef is known for its intense flavor and perfect balance of chipotle peppers, cumin, oregano and lime juice.
  • Carne Asada: is the quintessential Mexican steak marinated in orange juice, lime juice, soy sauce and a splash of liquid smoke then spice rubbed with cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika, garlic and onion. It’s juicy, flavorful and crazy good.
  • Carnitas (Crockpot):  juicy pork smothered in a dynamic fiesta spice rub then slow cooked with orange juice and lime juice then finished in the oven to create glorious caramelized crispy burnt ends. 
  • Chipotle Sweet Pulled Pork: a Cafe Rio Copycat that’s juicy, tender, melt-in-your-mouth with the perfect balance of saucy sweet heat.

Prep Ahead for Easy Assembly

These loaded homemade nachos are best served fresh, as soon as they’re assembled – but don’t let that stress you out!  You can prep all of the ingredients ahead of time and reheat when ready.   If you want to keep the prep extra easy, top your nachos supreme with store-bought ingredients (pico de gallo, guacamole, nacho cheese etc.).
  • Ground Beef/Refried Beans:  can be made up to 3 days ahead of time and stored in an airtight container.  Reheat gently on the stove, stirring in additional water as needed to thin to desired consistency. Remember to keep the mixture pretty thick, however, to avoid soggy nachos.
  • Nacho cheese:  can be made 5 days ahead of time and stored in an airtight container. To reheat, transfer the sauce to a small sauce pan and heat over medium-low until warmed through, stirring often – do NOT let it boil. Add milk to thin to desired consistency.
  • Toppings:  prep all of the toppings up to 2 days ahead of time. Drain the pico of any excess moisture and serve at room temperature.  The guacamole will keep well for up to a day without changing color very much – just make sure to store in the refrigerator with a piece of plastic wrap pressed directly against the surface of the guacamole to prevent oxidation. Bring to room temperature before serving.

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6 Comments

  1. Alyse says

    I love nachos and these look amazing!

    • Jen says

      Thanks Alyse, I’m SO excited for you to try them, they are crazy good!!!

  2. Lauren says

    I made these for the Super Bowl and they were the first to go! Everyone couldn’t get enough of them!

    • Jen says

      Thanks so much Lauren, I love hearing they were a hit!

  3. Tammy J. says

    Oooooo, I made these for supper last night, and they were a hit! We make nachos pretty regularly, and these will become the new staple!

    • Jen says

      Awesome, I love hearing that Tammy, thank you!

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