15 Creative Toppings For Nachos

Nachos are a delightfully delicious meal that you can whip up pretty easily for parties, dates, and family functions. You can use plenty of ingredients like meats, cheeses, vegetables, sauces, and more to give you a range of tasty toppings to savor. Whether you're trying to mix up how you make nachos or you want to have a theme like breakfast or vegan, there are a lot of creative toppings for nachos to boost their color, flavor, and texture. There's no need to be bored of nachos with all the variety out there.

Given that you can include loads of different ingredients, it can be a very satisfying meal, not just an appetizer or snack. Don't forget you don't only have to use chips as the base of your nachos. There are other ingredients to use as a nacho base, such as pita chips or French fries, that you could try. These are some interesting topping ideas, why they make such a good topping for the nachos, and other ingredients you might want to pair them with. Get ready to be inspired as you ponder on which of these ingredients to mix and match together.

1. Potatoes

Add diced fried potatoes or hash browns onto your average nachos to give them a pop of potato. Find inspiration from baked potatoes and make loaded potato nachos by chopping and frying potatoes to place on top, along with loads of cheese, bacon, scallions, sour cream, tomatoes, and any of your favorites. You could choose to use tater tots since they're a more bite-sized version than sliced potatoes or hash browns, making them easy to scoop up with a chip. Plus, they also have a satisfying crunch factor.

You could also try Irish nachos made by seasoning and baking potato slices to serve as the base of the nachos, as well as chili con carne, guacamole, and other ingredients. These Irish nachos call for the potatoes to be the base, but you could also include them as a top layer. Potatoes provide an alternative crispy twist to nachos that you can make for brunch with fried potatoes and bacon as a topping. This filling dish is loaded with these starchy root veggies to keep you full.

2. Pickled vegetables

Bring a tangy addition to your nachos with pickled vegetables like red onion, radish, corn, and jalapeños. They're a great way to boost your vegetable intake and provide a punchiness that can cut through the richness of refried beans or sour cream. There are plenty of pickled vegetables you should have in your fridge to bust out for situations like this, where you want a convenient veggie option without a lot of peeling and cutting, not to mention the time needed for pickling.

These are wonderful options to purchase from the store, but you can always make it yourself if you're in the mood. Pickled red onions give a refreshing crisp bite to break up the texture of the nachos, while pickled jalapeños are a mix of tangy and spicy when you want added heat. Pickled radishes can provide a nice crunch, but you don't have to leave them sliced. You can dice them into small pieces and sprinkle them on top of the nachos for both color and crunch.

3. Cashew cheese sauce

Cashew cheese sauce is synonymous with vegan food, but you don't have to be vegan to eat it. Your nachos can be vegan, vegetarian, or include meat when you pair it with your usual toppings. Use blended cashews to make vegan cheese sauce for nachos or double up on the cheesiness with both cheese sauce and cashew sauce. Is there ever a limit to how much cheese is too much?

The carrots mellow out any nuttiness while also providing the yellow-orange color that you often associate with a cheese sauce. The cheesiness comes from nutritional yeast, and you can splash in hot sauce for a spicy touch. It has the texture of a cheese sauce without the dairy, so it's an ideal choice if you're vegan, lactose intolerant, want to cut down on your cheese intake, or are ready to try interesting combinations. If you prefer to keep it vegan, use a vegan ground beef or mash up a vegan burger to mimic ground beef.

4. Mac and cheese

To impress guests or make a captivating dinner for the family, try macaroni and cheese nachos for a crowd-pleasing meal. Start by creating your macaroni and cheese separately and set it aside when it's all cooked and ready. Assemble your chips on the bottom as you would any nachos, and then top it with the macaroni and cheese. Keep it meat-free, add in ground beef, additional cheeses, tomatoes, or jalapeños. This combination of nachos with mac and cheese will likely please kids and adults alike since you wouldn't necessarily expect this cheesy pasta dish along with chips.

The chips make everything scoopable and easy to handle. You can use your average tortilla chips or blue corn chips for a contrast. Instead of ground beef, you could do mac and cheese with chicken apple sausage, or sliced hot dogs. This mixes a couple of comforting dishes in one for an elevated nacho night. Keep the macaroni simple or flavor it with other ingredients like spinach for a vegetable addition or butter crackers to act as a crunchy topping.

5. Bell peppers

Bring a rainbow of color to nachos with a range of bell peppers. For the most color, do a mix of green, red, orange, and yellow bell peppers for a veggie-forward sheet pan nachos. You don't have to use whole bell peppers to get the look: Just use half each or simply narrow it down to two bell pepper colors. To upgrade the flavor even more, grill or roast the bell peppers so they have a smokiness to take the taste to new heights.

Roast them whole and then chop them into small pieces that you can sprinkle on top of the nachos. Cut them into strips for a different look. Pick mini peppers if you prefer a smaller version, which is a great way to get more colors without leaving leftover bell pepper halves. Whichever shape you go for, be sure to keep the size uniform so you can get an even bite when scooping the toppings. Season with cayenne, smoked paprika, or garlic powder to give the bell pepper and nachos layers of flavor.

6. Balsamic vinegar

Switch up the way you make nachos by adding a tangy element with balsamic vinegar. This dark-colored vinegar has sweet, tart, and acidic notes that will vary based on the brand that you use, but you can expect a fruity and caramel taste overall. Balsamic vinegar may be one of the more unexpected and creative toppings for nachos, but it can provide an almost gourmet factor when paired with other fresh ingredients.

Make colorful caprese nachos with tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil inspired by the classic caprese salad. This vibrant green and red version of nachos is a little more refreshing with the salad-like ingredients. Balsamic vinegar adds complexity to your nachos and can elevate them into a scrumptious date night meal. You could add grilled chicken and burrata cheese instead of mozzarella, but this cheese tends to have more liquid, which can cause the chips to get soggy. If you know you'll devour it after assembling burrata, it is a creamy choice. Use classic tortilla chips or corn chips, or go a different direction entirely by using toasted or grilled bread.

7. Shrimp

Make seafood nachos with shrimp, which doubles as a good source of protein, potassium, and phosphorus. Marinate the shrimp or grill it for the most flavor. For simplicity's sake, purchase shelled and deveined shrimp or prep it beforehand. Nachos can be messy enough without extra work slurping beans or sour cream and then trying to remove the shrimp shell. To prep the nachos, grill or saute the tiny crustacean with salt, pepper, garlic powder, or paprika.

Open a can of small shrimp that are ready to eat and not too large for ultimate ease. If you use a larger shrimp, cut it into pieces so it's more uniform when you add them to your nacho topping. Shrimp nachos are a fantastic idea for those who love seafood but want something other than shrimp scampi. Give it additional seafood elements by including crab meat, whether lump meat or imitation crab is up to you, or opt for canned seafood like scallops or mussels that are small enough to stay on your tortilla chips.

8. Refried lentils

Vegan refried lentil nachos are a wonderful meat-free option for nacho night. While refried beans can undoubtedly be made or purchased as a vegetarian or vegan option, sometimes you want to switch up your protein intake. Instead of beans, try refried lentils. This process involves simmering the brown lentils until tender and then mashing them to have a refried bean-like consistency. Brown lentils are a good source of protein, fiber, calcium, potassium, and other nutrients.

This is an innovative way to mix up your protein for the nachos, and they are entirely seasoned with cumin, garlic powder, and other seasonings, so they do not lack taste. You could use these instead of beans on your average nachos with cheese, shredded chicken, or ground beef. While the recipe is vegan, you can customize it however you wish. It doesn't hurt to have alternative ingredients and ways to cook things to ensure you aren't feeling bored. The lentils have a similar texture to refried beans but with a mellow, earthy flavor that is heavenly with all the seasoning.

9. BBQ sauce

You'll be hard-pressed to find nachos without cheese sauce, and that's because a sauce can make or break a dish. Swap the cheese with BBQ sauce, which you can drizzle on the nachos themselves or use to season various meats or vegetables. Use your favorite standard barbecue sauce or try a flavored version for depth, such as hickory brown sugar, honey barbecue, or smoked chipotle. There's a world of barbecue flavors out there that you can drizzle directly onto your nachos or mix with meat to make barbecue chicken or pork nachos.

While it is a liquid component, it isn't wet enough that it will overpower your chips to turn them into a soggy, floppy mess. Squeeze some barbecue sauce into the sour cream for a barbecue sour cream topping. If you have a regular barbecue sauce that you want to use but want to integrate more flavor, add roasted garlic, maple syrup, or chopped chili peppers that you might find in store-bought options. Add shredded cheese, black beans, and corn, and then squirt some barbecue sauce on top of your BBQ nachos for added measure.

10. Pumpkin queso

If you're like us, you have a few cans of pumpkin purée tucked away from last autumn. They are still perfectly delicious and well within their best-by date, but you don't want to wait until fall to use them and you're looking for ways to use them other than pumpkin pie. Pumpkin queso and black bean nachos are not only delicious but also a wonderful way to use canned pumpkin purée other than your average autumnal favorites. These don't necessarily give off a fall vibe since cheesy sauce, even one mixed with pumpkin, can be eaten all year round.

Turn your average queso into a fancy one with the addition of a convenient can of pumpkin purée. These nachos will turn heads as your guests attempt to guess what's in them. Thanks to the Velveeta cubes, the pumpkin is wholly disguised in color and flavor. Nobody would know it's in there. Pumpkin can be earthy and sweet yet mild, which becomes unnoticeable with the acidity of the diced tomatoes, the spice of green chilies, and the creaminess of Velveeta. This is loaded with mashed avocado and seasoned black beans to make a fresh and fun movie night snack.

11. Kimchi

Many of the sauces you'll find on nachos (and items that season them) can be rich and heavy, like queso or sour cream. When you want something different with a punch of flavor, kimchi can offer a unique profile to an otherwise heavy dish. This Korean dish might vary per family, but homemade kimchi generally has Napa cabbage, carrots, radishes, red pepper flakes, scallions, ginger, fish sauce, and other ingredients that make it a powerhouse of spice and tang.

Given that this is a vegetable-heavy dish, it is a refreshing addition to nachos when you desire a way to break up the monotony of heaviness in standard nachos. Make kimchi nachos by draining the kimchi because you don't make your base chips soggy before you get to eat them. Toss the liquid or pour it back into your kimchi jar for a different dish. Spread out the layer of chips, then spoon on the kimchi. Enhance the spiciness that you'd find in the ginger and red chili pepper flakes by adding pickled or fresh jalapeño to the nachos. Use Bulgogi beef for a meat component and sprinkle on black beans and scallions.

12. Pesto

Nachos are all about the toppings and flavors, so pesto is an all-in-one component because you can drop it onto the chips to give it a boost of nutty richness. You can make your Nonna's classic pesto or buy it ready-made and then add flavor to store-bought pesto. Rather than using jalapeños or pickled jalapeños, give it an uptick in spiciness by using red chili pepper flakes in your pesto. If you want a runnier pesto that can replicate the liquid nature of a cheese sauce, try shaping the pesto with some heavy cream to give it a looser consistency that you can drizzle on your nachos.

Pesto goes well with shredded mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, goat cheese, and chicken, so you can load up your nachos in a new fashion. Add some pine nuts for an added touch of Italian-inspired nachos that's a fun date night instead of going to an Italian restaurant. You can most certainly use corn or tortilla strips or keep with the Italian theme by toasting sliced pieces of focaccia to act as your base. Give the pesto nachos a fresh component with fresh basil leaves and enjoy.

13. Buffalo chicken

Spice up your nachos in a different way by adding vinegary buffalo chicken. Of course, you can add buffalo chicken wings, as those are delicious and classic for a reason, but you might be better off using diced roasted chicken, shredded chicken, or even canned chicken and then flavoring it with buffalo sauce. Buffalo chicken wing nachos are an amazing mishmash of foods for a game day snack, but if you're not in the mood for the mess that ensues with chicken wings, opt for chopped chicken instead.

Cook your chicken (or use already roasted chicken), cut it up, and then add your buffalo wing sauce using a mixture of hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, apple cider vinegar, and butter. The spicy and tangy mixture of flavors can evolve with each bite of your buffalo chicken nachos. This adds a protein element to leave you feeling more satiated. Make your standard nachos and simply swap whatever meat you normally include with the buffalo chicken. It goes well with beans, jalapeños, corn, red onions, and sour cream, but you can make it extra day inspired with chopped carrots, celery, and ranch dressing. Tortilla or corn chips make a crunchy base, but plain potato chips would be an added delight.

14. Tzatziki

Consider making a hefty batch of loaded Mediterranean nachos when you want the convenience of throwing ingredients together but don't want to whip up an entire meal from scratch. This has the essence of a Mediterranean meal but in a different vehicle, and you can dig into it at home rather than at a restaurant. Use pita chips as your base rather than tortilla chips. Buy them premade or cut the pita into eight triangles and then bake them in the oven until crispy. Make tzatziki from scratch or buy it from the store or local market; we don't judge whichever way you choose to go.

There's an invigorating tanginess from the yogurt and lemon juice, while the dill and cucumber offer a refreshing, herbal element. Spread tzatziki onto the chips and then load them up with feta cheese, tomatoes, Kalamata olives, and freshly chopped parsley. You can add hummus for an additional Mediterranean component, and you may choose to boost the flavor of store-bought hummus with pickles or lots of fresh herbs. It's a fantastic way to elevate a plain variety into something that can complement your dish. These Mediterranean nachos showcase fresh new notes into nachos when you want to mix things up.

15. Eggs

Nachos can get relegated to being an appetizer or the second thought to a meal, but you can give it an upgrade by making it the star of breakfast. Breakfast nachos can involve many ingredients like scrambled eggs, bacon, breakfast sausage, pinto beans, avocado, and other standard nacho toppings. Instead of the apparent brunch choice of bacon, you could choose to use sliced steak or corned beef. Use tortilla or corn chips, either are delicious and go well with the rest of the toppings.

The great thing about this version of nachos is that you make everything first and then compile it. Scramble your eggs and make them to your liking, whether adding fresh cracked pepper or a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese. Then, it's time to assemble everything. Add a layer of your tortilla chips, then place your scrambled eggs, your choice of meat, and other toppings. Fried or over-easy eggs might be harder to enjoy since you likely need cutlery to cut them into small pieces. Find inspiration from chilaquiles and other Mexican food by adding enchilada sauce, guacamole, diced green chilies, or cotija cheese.