16 Ingredients To Use As A Nacho Base Instead Of Tortilla Chips

Static Media / Shutterstock / Getty
Static Media / Shutterstock / Getty - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

Part of the appeal of nachos is their endlessly customizable nature. While melted cheese, sour cream, taco meat, and salsa may be go-to toppings for a lot of people, you can pile almost anything you like on top of tortilla chips and proclaim the resulting dish to be "nachos." From buffalo chicken nachos to Mediterranean hummus nachos, there's a twist to please every possible palate and suit every type of dietary preference.

But what if your preferences don't extend to tortilla chips? Some nacho fans may want to skip the chips because of food allergies, diet restrictions, or simply because they don't like them.  Luckily, the customizing of nachos isn't reserved for just the toppings. There are plenty of creative ingredients you can use as a base for nacho toppings. Even those who do like tortilla chips might want to consider some of these tasty alternatives. Whichever nacho base you choose, your taste buds are the winner.

Read more: The 15 Healthiest Chip Brands, Ranked From Worst To Best

Sliced Potatoes

Sliced potato nachos
Sliced potato nachos - Ezume Images/Shutterstock

A popular switch-up for nachos is to substitute baked, sliced potatoes for the more traditional tortilla chips. The resulting dish is sometimes called "Irish nachos," as a nod to the potato's long association with the Emerald Isle, though the usual toppings are decidedly Tex-Mex. Sliced potatoes make a terrific neutral base for other ingredients, and you can cut them thin for a crispier base, or leave them thick to give more heft to your nachos (though you might need a fork to eat them with).

If you want to get even more creative with your potato nachos, you can go further with the Irish theme. There's no reason you can't top your sliced potatoes with plenty of corned beef and melted sharp cheddar cheese for nachos befitting a St. Patrick's Day celebration, or any time you want a dish to pair with bottles of cold stout. Regardless of how you top them, potato nachos should please party-goers and guests watching the game, or even your family for a weeknight meal.

Wonton Wrappers

Poke nachos on wonton strips
Poke nachos on wonton strips - Elena Veselova/Shutterstock

Wonton chips, also known as wonton crackers, are a fun way to bring new life to the same-old nachos. You might be familiar with their addictive crunchiness if you've ever topped your hot and sour or egg-drop soup with the little crunchy strips often served in Chinese restaurants. Those little strips are made from fried wonton wrappers, and you can make them yourself from wrappers you can purchase (usually found in the refrigerated section of your grocery store).

If you're using wonton chips as a base, you'll find they pair best with Asian or Caribbean flavors. You can make poke nachos with ahi tuna, avocado, cilantro, sesame seeds, and lashings of mayo and sriracha. For Caribbean-style nachos, start with wonton crackers and pile on the pulled pork, plus some juicy pineapple or mango salsa. Think outside the box and come up with your own twists on wonton nachos. Why not try some Korean BBQ, teriyaki chicken, or Cajun shrimp? Combine flavors for fusion nachos that will have everyone talking (and eating).

Tater Tots

Tater tot nachos
Tater tot nachos - Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

Tater tot nachos, or "totchos," as some people call them, have proliferated in popularity in the last few years. They've even turned up on restaurant menus, so you can find them everywhere from sit-down eateries to fast-casual joints. Even Sonic has added pulled pork totchos to the menu at their drive-in restaurants. You don't have to leave the house to enjoy tater tot nachos. They're simple and quick to make at home. You don't have to wait for a party: You can easily make a serving for just one.

If you can bake a pan of frozen tater tots, you can make totchos. After your tater tots have turned hot and golden-brown in the oven, pile them high with your favorite nacho toppings. Chili and cheese are perfect with tater tots (run them under the broiler to get your cheese nice and melty), and you can cool things down with a generous dollop of sour cream. Pulled pork is another favorite topping for totchos, with a sweet and spicy BBQ sauce to top it off.

Pork Rinds

Fried pork rinds
Fried pork rinds - Fabian Montano Hernandez/Shutterstock

Tater tots aren't the only nacho base that pairs well with pulled pork. Pork rinds (or chicharrónes as they are known in Spanish) make for a nacho base that is savory, crunchy, and perfect for folks who want to avoid flour, corn, or grains in general. Add pulled pork and you can double the pork flavor. The commercial availability of pork rinds makes it easy to pick up a bag at the store and give them a quick heat-up in the oven before adding toppings of your choice.

Of course, fresh fried pork rinds would be even better, and if you're willing to make your own, you'll have the beginnings of a plate of nachos worthy of a gold medal. If pulled pork isn't your jam, hot pork rinds are just as good with the more traditional toppings. You can even go for a pared-down nacho dish, with just bubbling-hot melted cheese and jalapeños. With a base this tasty, you don't need a ton of toppings. Serve with ice-cold agua frescas or a pitcher of margaritas.


Roasted cauliflower slices
Roasted cauliflower slices - Tatiana Volgutova/Shutterstock

Thanks to the enduring appeal of low-carb diets, people are getting used to cauliflower versions of almost everything. From cauliflower pizza crusts to cauliflower-based mashed potatoes and rice, there's seemingly no end to the cruciferous vegetable's uses as a culinary stand-in. A case in point: cauliflower nachos. If you like cauliflower, you'll love it as a base for nacho toppings. All it takes is roasting seasoned slices or florets of cauliflower in the oven until they're done. (A drizzle of olive oil, garlic, salt, and chili powder is a good start).

While you can top your cauliflower nachos any way you like, they're such a great choice for vegans (and other vegetable lovers) that you might as well continue the theme and load them up with plant-based ingredients. Black beans or vegetarian chili, avocado, onions, tomatoes, corn, and scallions are all apt choices. You can keep it vegan with a non-dairy sour cream topping, or place dairy ingredients on the side and let folks choose according to their own dietary choices.

Potato Chips

Potato chip nachos
Potato chip nachos - Hope Phillips/Shutterstock

If tortilla chips can be a part of nachos, there's no good reason a potato chip couldn't do the same job. A lot of people have had the same epiphany, and potato chip nachos are enjoying their own popularity in people's homes and on menus. You'll sometimes see them called "redneck nachos," which seems like an insult to both the dish and to the folks who enjoy them, but most Southerners seem to take it in stride. (Redneck nachos are a feature on the menu at Blake Shelton's Ole Red restaurant, though at some point the potato chips were ditched for tortilla chips.)

Potato chip nacho recipes often call for southern ingredients to keep up the theme, so you'll often find them loaded with BBQ chicken, pulled pork, or even baked beans. If you're making them at home, be aware that potato chips make a superb base for traditional nachos, as well. Don't skimp on the sour cream because it's perfect for dipping stray chips. Add even more flavor by using your favorite variety of flavored chips.

Pita Bread

Pita bread chips
Pita bread chips - Tetiana_chudovska/Getty Images

Pita bread crisps up so easily in the oven that everyone should try making their own pita chips at least once. (For the crispiest chips, split the layers of the bread into two before baking.) Once you've made your chips, they're ready to be turned into nachos with toppings of your choice. Of course, you can always purchase ready-made pita chips, and they even come in several varieties and flavors.

If you want to continue the Mediterranean theme, pile your nachos with toppings like hummus or baba ghanoush, Greek tzatziki sauce, roasted red peppers, feta cheese, and kalamata olives. You can also make more of a fusion nacho with lemony baked chicken and roasted vegetables, while still topping the dish with plenty of melted cheese in traditional nacho fashion. For a real twist, use sugar-cinnamon pita chips as a base for dessert nachos. Other types of bread can be used as a nacho base, too. Try Indian naan bread or a batch of bruschetta and see where it leads.

Lettuce Leaves

Lettuce leaves with toppings
Lettuce leaves with toppings - Carey Jaman/Shutterstock

If you've ever eaten Asian chicken lettuce wraps (the type served at some popular restaurants, like PF Chang's), you know that the crisp, cool lettuce is the perfect foil for saucy, spicy flavors. The question is: Why don't we use lettuce leaves for more things? It stands to reason that what lettuce brings to chicken, it can also bring to seasoned taco beef. You owe it to yourself to pile some nacho toppings on top of lettuce.

Lettuce leaf nachos hold toppings even better than tortilla chips, and you can wrap the leaves as you eat them to hold in the toppings even better. For those watching calories, lettuce leaf nachos are an easy way to make things lighter. Fresh lettuce lets the flavor of your nacho toppings shine through, while also providing a cool contrast to the spicier elements. You won't miss the crunch, as fresh lettuce has just enough crisp texture to fit the bill. You can spoon toppings like nacho cheese onto each leaf, or wrap and dip as you go.


Frito pie
Frito pie - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

If you're not familiar with Frito pie, you're missing out. The chili, cheese, and corn chips dish can be eaten right out of a chip bag or made in a skillet, but the premise is still the same, and it raises an important question. If Fritos (or similar corn chips) are so good with toppings, why not take it one step further and use them for full-on nachos? If you happen to like Fritos more than regular tortilla chips, then there's no good reason not to make them your go-to nacho base.

Take things a step further by turning up the heat and choosing Flamin' Hot or Chili Cheese Fritos, though you can always add jalapeños, sriracha, or hot salsa for additional heat. You'll find that the thickness of Fritos stands up to nacho toppings a bit better than tortilla chips, and they don't get as soggy. That makes them an ideal nacho base for parties or events where the nachos might be consumed over a longer period of time.

French Fries

French fry nachos
French fry nachos - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

French fries and toppings are nothing new. People have enjoyed chili cheese fries for many decades, sometimes with additional toppings like jalapeños and diced onions. Canadian poutine, traditionally made with cheese curds and gravy on top of fries, has taken on a life of its own, with variations from turkey and stuffing to fried eggs and breakfast gravy. Carne asada fries are popular in the Southwest, with juicy hunks of steak and creamy cheese.

With all these popular ways to top french fries with meat and cheese, it stands to reason that french fries also make a great base for nachos. Any kind of french fry works well, bringing its own qualities to the table. Shoestring french fries are nice and crisp, while waffle fries make a nice base for scooping toppings. Steak fries add substance and lots of potato flavor. Whichever you choose, make sure the fries are piping hot, and don't be stingy with the cheese. This is junk food at its absolute best, and there's no shame in taking it to the limit.

Fried Plantains Or Tostones

Plantain nachos
Plantain nachos - quiony navarro/Shutterstock

When green plantains are fried until crisp, they're known as tostones, and the staple dish of the Caribbean and Latin America is a delicious and novel base to use for some unforgettable nachos. Sweet fried plantains or plantain chips are just as good, and while you can make them on your own, they're also available in bags commercially. (Check for them at your local grocery or specialty foods store, depending on where you live). Pile on your choice of protein, whether it's ground beef, saucy pulled pork, chunks of juicy marinated chicken, or seasoned black beans.

Plantains pair well with tropical ingredients, so consider Caribbean toppings like avocado crema, grilled pineapple, hot peppers (especially Scotch Bonnet), and fresh mango. Plantain nachos would be great to serve as part of a themed cookout. You can cook the meat on the grill, marinate with chili and lime juice, and assemble the nachos after the meat is cooked. Serve with a zippy, fruity rum punch and a tropical cole slaw.


Grilled zucchini with toppings
Grilled zucchini with toppings - Kolpakova Svetlana/Shutterstock

Grilled zucchini may seem like a surprising suggestion for a nacho base, but it's a great choice for anyone looking to make their meals healthier and more nutritious. Substituting a vegetable for chips makes for a lighter meal, and it's a particularly good choice for those who need (or want) to avoid grains and starches. Grilled, sliced coins of zucchini cook quickly (whether in the oven or on an outdoor grill) and they hold up well, making a substantial base for any toppings you want to pile on.

Zucchini slices pair well with seafood nachos, so try them with succulent shrimp or blackened mahi mahi, topped with a flavorful fruit salsa. If you're keeping things healthy, you might choose to forego the cheese and let the vibrant flavor of the veggies do their thing. If you do choose to cheese it up, black beans and cheese are a super combination for zucchini nachos, and they don't need a lot of extra adornment (except perhaps a dollop of sour cream).

Potato Skins

Potato skin nachos
Potato skin nachos - BongkarnGraphic/Shutterstock

Potato skins are already a game day favorite, and millions of them are consumed at sports bars and at Super Bowl parties across the country. If you already enjoy potato skins with their typical toppings of bacon, cheese, and green onions, imagine how amazing they could be when topped with the full gamut of nacho toppings. Crisp potato skins are a perfect vessel for nacho toppings, as the scooped-out shell does such a great job of holding everything in. Plus, there's plenty of room to pile tons of toppings on every single potato half.

You can follow a recipe for potato skin nachos (this one has plenty of queso), or wing it with your own favorite nacho toppings. If you're entertaining a lot of people, consider a nacho bar. Bake the potato skins, and let your guests choose from a selection of toppings and customize them to their own taste. Seasoned ground beef, pulled pork, bacon, chili, a selection of cheeses (shredded cheese and cheese sauce), chopped veggies, sour cream, guacamole, and a choice of salsas are all must-haves to allow for mixing and matching.

Bell Peppers

Bell pepper nachos
Bell pepper nachos - JeniFoto/Shutterstock

Bell peppers pair so well with southwestern flavors that many people choose to top their Tex-Mex dishes with strips of roasted peppers or chopped peppers. Where would fajitas be without green and red peppers? Bell peppers stuffed with seasoned ground beef are a delicious dinner dish. Why not bring that flavor to a plate of nachos? You don't even have to cook the peppers ahead of time. Putting them under the broiler to melt the cheese will soften them a bit, but you'll want them to be substantial enough to help scoop up the toppings.

Bell peppers are a great start for a dish of vegan nachos, but they'll add color and intense flavor to any type of nachos. Choose peppers in a variety of colors for plating that will look like it belongs in an art gallery. Green avocado provides a gorgeous contrast along with its creamy texture. For meat eaters, try bell pepper nachos with ground beef and jack cheese, which will taste a lot like a stuffed green pepper.

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes with nacho toppings
Sweet potatoes with nacho toppings - JeniFoto/Shutterstock

You might have noticed that a lot of nacho bases involve potatoes. Each of the potato-based nacho dishes has its own set of charms. Potato chips have their crunch, potato skins have their fill-ability, waffle fries are perfect for scooping, and so on. Now consider that for every one of these potato types, there's a sweet potato version. Sweet potato fries, sweet potato skins, sweet potato chips, and sliced sweet potatoes are also amazing nacho bases, and they have all the benefits of their regular potato counterparts, with the added sweetness and flavor of a sweet potato.

Because sweet potatoes have their own flavor profile, they won't work with every conceivable topping (they lack the neutrality of Irish potatoes). They do pair well with smoky flavors and those who love the combination of sweet and spicy will love piling on the heat when they make sweet potato nachos. Black beans are a particularly good topping for sweet potato nachos, topped with a smoked Gouda or crumbled cotija.

Apple Slices

Apple nachos
Apple nachos - Elena Shashkina/Shutterstock

Don't balk at the idea of apple nachos. This isn't a case of piling meat and cheese on top of fresh fruit. If you haven't heard, dessert nachos are gaining in popularity, taking the basic concept of savory nachos, and giving it a dessert twist. Basically, dessert nachos start with a base, then you pile on the sweet toppings just as you would with regular nachos. Apple nachos start with slices of crisp, tart apples, which are crunchy and firm enough to hold up under an avalanche of goodies.

Popular toppings for apple nachos are caramel drizzle, peanut butter, granola, raisins, chocolate chips, banana chips, chocolate sauce, almonds, pecans, berries, and whipped cream. The combinations are up to you. Some people like to serve their apple nachos with the sauces heated, letting the warm caramel or chocolate sauce (or both) contrast with the cool apples. Apple nachos would also be a great dish to let people assemble on their own at a dessert bar with an array of topping choices.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.