Recipes & Tips

Ultimate Spicy Beef Nachos Photo: Keller + Keller

Ultimate Spicy Beef Nachos

Presented by America's Test Kitchen

Serves 8

Why this recipe works:

Too often, nacho recipes produce soggy chips loaded down with bland, greasy beef; dry beans; and cold strings of cheese. To avoid this, we created an Ultimate Spicy Beef Nachos recipe that turns out crisp, flavorful, and fresh. Boldly seasoning our beef with a mixture of spices and other flavorings caused the flavor to pop. While many nacho recipes call for cheddar cheese, we found it didn't melt nearly as well as pepper Jack, which melted well and added a kick, too.

NOTE: Top with our One-Minute Salsa, sour cream, chopped cilantro, and diced avocado.


Refried Beans

  • 1/2 cup refried beans, canned
  • 3 tablespoons shredded pepper Jack cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped pickled jalapeño chile

Spicy Beef

  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped fine
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound 90% lean ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 medium canned chipotle chili, chopped, plus 1 teaspoon adobo sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons lime juice


  • 1 bag tortilla chips (9 1/2 ounce)
  • 4 cups shredded pepper Jack cheese
  • 2 jalapeño chiles (medium), sliced into thin rings


  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. For the beans: Pulse ingredients in food processor until smooth. Transfer to bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
  3. For the beef: Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Cook onion until softened, about 4 minutes. Add garlic, chili powder, cumin, oregano, and salt and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add beef and cook, breaking meat into small bits with wooden spoon and scraping pan bottom to prevent scorching, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste, sugar, chile, and adobo sauce and cook until paste begins to darken, about 1 minute. Add water, bring to simmer, and cook over medium-low until mixture is nearly dry, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in lime juice and transfer mixture to plate lined with several layers of paper towels. Use more paper towels to blot up excess grease.
  4. To assemble: Spread half of chips on large serving platter or 13 by 9-inch baking dish. Dollop half of bean mixture over chips, then spread evenly. Scatter half of beef mixture over beans, top with 2 cups cheese and half of jalapeños. Repeat with remaining chips, beans, beef, cheese, and jalapeños. Bake until cheese is melted and just beginning to brown, 12 to 14 minutes. Serve with salsa and other suggested garnishes.