It didn’t occur throughout the whole of my childhood, but there was a season during my middle school years that my family spent a lot of Friday and Saturday nights at home, watching movies and cooking up a variety of homemade treats. Sometimes it was my mom’s amazing caramel popcorn that made an appearance; other times, we would gather around the table for a glass of “Tropical Blood,” a smoothie concoction made with frozen berries and 7-Up and topped with Cool Whip. Still, on other occasions, we would make homemade nachos.

Filling and delicious, there wasn’t anything earth-shattering about these nachos in terms of technique or ingredients. They featured all the usual components – chips, meat, cheese, and various toppings – and were quick and easy to prepare. Yet despite their simplicity, it never felt like a “simple” or lackluster meal. It was always fun to spend time together as a family, coming up with various nacho combinations and enjoying our meal while watching “The Breakfast Club.”

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For years, I had forgotten about the joys of these nacho-making nights, but recently they have been making a comeback in our home. This is not a meal we usually make on a busy weeknight or when we have a lot going on; rather, we save it for those quiet evenings at home when we want to make watching a movie or playing a game with friends into a special event.

These nachos are a bit different from the ones we had growing up, but the spirit remains the same. The key to a great tasting dish, as always, is fresh ingredients. Basic nachos can tend to be a bit heavy, but topping them with Homemade Pico de Gallo and Homemade Guacamole helps bring brightness and nutrition, making it a more balanced meal. The toppings I suggest are of course just a guideline. Feel free to add whatever sounds good to you!

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Beef Nachos with Homemade Pico de Gallo and Guacamole

Makes: 4 servings

Beef Nachos with Homemade Pico de Gallo and Guacamole


  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin seed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon teaspoon dried oregano
  • 10 ounces (approximate) Mexican style tortilla chips (I am in love with these)
  • 14.5 ounce can refried beans, mixed with 3/4 cup water
  • 3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • Homemade Pico de Gallo, recipe follows
  • Homemade Guacamole, recipe follows
  • Sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
  • Green onions, sliced
  • Optional toppings: corn, black beans, shredded lettuce, chopped bell pepper


  1. Cook the ground beef, garlic, and onion in a large skillet over medium high heat until the meat is fully browned, using a spatula or wooden spoon to break the meat into small pieces as it cooks. Once it is cooked, drain off any fat, and stir in the water, chili powder, ground cumin seed, salt, pepper, paprika, and oregano. Simmer the mixture over medium low heat for about 15 minutes to allow the flavors to incorporate. Stir in additional water as needed to keep the meat moist.
  2. Arrange the tortilla chips in a single layer in a large baking pan. Top with seasoned beef, refried bean mixture, and shredded cheese, and then bake at 375 degrees for 7-8 minutes, until the cheese has melted.
  3. Top with Homemade Pico de Gallo, Homemade Guacamole, sour cream, green onions, and additional toppings according to your taste.

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Homemade Pico de Gallo

Makes about 7 cups. This recipe makes more than you’ll need for the nachos, but I’ve never had that be a problem. The leftovers will keep well in the refrigerator for up to a week.

  • 6-8 Roma tomatoes
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 2 large jalapenos
  • 3 cups finely diced white onion
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more to taste

Start by cutting the tomatoes into quarters, lengthwise, and removing the seeds and the soft, white membrane using a knife or spoon. After discarding the pulp, finely dice the tomato flesh. Use enough tomatoes to yield between 3 ½ to 4 cups.

Separate the cilantro leaves from the stems, discarding the stems and finely chopping the leaves.

Cut the jalapenos in half, lengthwise, and remove the seeds and white membrane using a knife. I prefer a milder flavor, so I discard all of the seeds and membrane, but feel free to reserve a few seeds to add into the mixture if you like a bit of heat. Finely dice the jalapeno flesh.

In a medium mixing bowl, stir together all of the ingredients until well combined. Add additional salt and lime juice to taste.

Homemade Guacamole

Makes 1 ½ to 2 cups.

  • 2 large ripe avocados
  • 1 ½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a medium bowl, mash the avocado with the remaining ingredients until smooth. Add additional lime juice, salt, and pepper to taste. (I’ve found that a pastry blender makes for an effective avocado masher.)