A nacho bar is a crowd-pleaser for any party, which is easy to arrange, and gives your guests the fun of customizing their own plate. Everyone will love a table stacked with crunchy chips, melty cheese, and a spread of toppings!
I’ll guide you through setting up a nacho bar that’s sure to be a standout feature at your next event, whether it is a family gathering or a Super Bowl watch party! Setting up a nacho bar is not just fun, but also incredibly straightforward.
- Variety of Ingredients: Stock your nacho bar with key components: crunchy tortilla chips, a mix of freshly shredded cheeses or homemade cheese sauce, and lots of toppings.
- Warming Methods: To serve nachos effectively, especially for a large group, consider baking them to quickly produce a large batch of crispy chips with melted cheese, and keep them warm using a low-temperature oven or warming trays.
- Toppings Management: Offer both classic and unique toppings, maintain their freshness using ice bowls for cold items, and be careful about how long they’re left out.
- Organized Serving: Arrange the nacho bar in a logical order for easy serving and pair the nachos with complementary sides like Mexican rice, salads, or grilled vegetables, along with refreshing drinks like margaritas or iced tea.
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Read my disclosure policy.
Corn tortilla chips are the go-to for nachos because of their crunchy texture and ability to hold up to a variety of toppings. Estimate two of chips per person.
If you’re not serving them immediately, keep the chips in airtight containers. This will help to retain their crunch.
Choose a mix of cheeses for variety. Sharp cheddar, Monterey Jack or Pepper Jack for some heat are all great options.
For the perfect melt, shred your cheese using a box grater. Don’t use the bagged kind, if possible. Freshly shredded cheese often melts better.
You can also prepare a cheese sauce for a smoother, creamier option. Guests can ladle the cheese sauce right on top of their chips.
🥣Prepare the Nachos
Choose either baked chips with melted shredded cheese or a cheese sauce. Each method is a convenient option for your nacho bar.
If you’re serving a group all at once, baking the nachos may be your best bet. It quickly yields a generous batch of chips and melted cheese, ready for everyone to serve and add toppings to. Follow this method for baking them:
- Spread the chips out on a large baking sheet.
- Evenly distribute the shredded cheese over the chips.
- Preheat the oven to 350 F, and bake the chips and cheese for about five to 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t burn.
Once baked, place the baking sheet where guests can help themselves. They can serve themselves by pulling chips directly from the tray.
Preparing a cheese sauce is also a great option. This method is especially handy for guests who prefer to drizzle their cheese or for those who might arrive later and still want warm, melted cheese. Follow this method for making and serving the cheese sauce:
- Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
- Once the butter has melted, add 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour. Stir them together to form a paste, cooking for about a minute.
- Gradually pour in 1 ½ cups of whole or 2 percent milk. Constantly stir to avoid any lumps. Keep stirring until the mixture becomes smooth and starts to thicken.
- Reduce the heat to low. Add 2 cups of shredded cheese and stir continuously until the cheese melts completely. Season with salt, pepper and spices like garlic powder, paprika or cayenne pepper.
- Transfer the cheese sauce to a slow cooker or rice cooker. Set it on a low or warm setting. Place a ladle with the slow cooker so guests can scoop the cheese sauce over their chips.
Keeping Nachos Warm
Keep your nachos warm throughout the party. Here are a couple of easy ways to do that:
- Warming trays: Perfect for keeping a large batch of baked chips and cheese warm.
- Oven method: If you have space, keep a tray of nachos in the oven at a low temperature.
- Slow cooker or rice cooker: Keep the cheese sauce on low or warm in a slow cooker or rice cooker to maintain its creaminess.
⭐Don’t Forget These Complementary Dishes
If you want the nachos to serve as a side or an appetizer, pair them with a main dish. Consider serving:
- Tacos: They’re a great match for nachos and bring an extra layer of variety to your meal.
- Fajitas: Sizzling fajitas with their mix of grilled meats and vegetables add a smoky, hearty element.
- Mexican rice: This flavorful, tomato-based rice dish, infused with garlic, onions, and spices, provides a warm and comforting side.
- Green Rice: A vibrant and herby green rice, often made with cilantro and lime, brings a refreshing and zesty side that balances the rich flavors of nachos.
- Refried beans: A classic nacho side dish.
- Street Corn Soup: A creamy and spicy soup inspired by the flavors of Mexican street corn, this dish adds a unique and indulgent element.
- Tortilla Soup: A classic Mexican soup, rich with tomatoes, chilies, and crispy tortilla strips, this soup is, perfect for rounding out a taco bar spread.
- Fresh salad: Offering a salad is a great way to balance the richness of the nachos with something light and refreshing.
- Grilled or baked vegetables: Consider something like baked sliced zucchini, which can add a light and nutrient-dense element to the meal.
Like a baked potato bar, the charm of a nacho bar is the toppings. Provide a combination of classic and creative choices. Proteins are the star of the show, so make sure you offer multiple choices, including some vegetarian options.
Then add a bunch of extra toppings:
- Veggies: Diced tomatoes, sliced jalapeños, black olives, corn and chopped onions.
- Dairy: Sour cream, guacamole and extra shredded cheese.
- Sauces and salsas: Salsa, queso, hot sauce and green tomatillo salsa.
- Extras: Cilantro, lime wedges, diced avocado and pickled red onions.
Prepare your toppings in advance and keep them in separate containers. Estimate about ¼ cup of each topping per person, adjusting as needed for larger groups.
Food Safety Tips
Place toppings like guacamole or sour cream in a smaller bowl and then set those bowls on top of larger bowls filled with ice or in a large pan full of ice. This helps maintain their freshness.
Be mindful of how long toppings are left out. If they’ve been out for more than two hours, especially if it’s warm, play it safe and swap them out for fresh ones.
“I love to make a good nacho bar. We did this for both my kids for their graduation parties, and it was a huge hit. I placed shallow bowls of cold ingredients like cheese, tomatoes and green onion in roasting pans filled with ice.”— Michelle Price, Honest and Truly
Organize your nacho bar logically: start with the baked chips and cheese or the chips then the cheese sauce, followed by the proteins and veggies and end with cold items and condiments. Consider using labels for each topping to help guests navigate their choices.
Offer plates, napkins and serving utensils, as well. This will ensure a tidy and efficient serving process and let everyone pile their plate high with the ultimate loaded nachos!
🍹Don’t Forget These Complementary Drinks
To complete your nacho bar, choose drinks to go with your meal. Here are some great options:
- Margaritas: A classic choice that pairs well with nachos.
- Beer: Select a variety, like a light lager or a Mexican cerveza.
- Agua fresca: A refreshing and fruity drink that balances out the heat of the nachos.
- Iced tea: Offers a simple, non-alcoholic option that is easy to whip together or buy store-bought.
- Lemonade: A solid choice that’s especially popular if you’re hosting kids.
- Dirty Soda: This non-alcoholic mocktail is a fun, trendy drink.
- Blackberry Limeade: The lime flavor goes perfectly with nachos.
That’s all you need to set up a great nacho bar for your next event. With a simple setup, a variety of toppings and these tips, you’ll be ready to host a fun and engaging party. Just lay out the chips, cheese and extras, and let your guests enjoy making their own creations.
Portions of this article originally appeared on Food Drink Life.