Posted by: A Part of the Solution | February 6, 2011

Real Nachos, no really

We’ve probably all eaten the unspeakable goop-laden container of ‘nachos’ at a movie theater or ball park. We’ve probably all ordered the ‘nachos’ at some strip-mall chain restaurant and received a deconstructed chili over chips. We’ve probably all absentmindedly eaten more than one handful of those tortilla chips covered with an anonymous reddish orange powder and labeled ‘nachos’ on the bag.

Not one of those experiences is anything like (and I mean anything at all like) having a real nachos sauce, with or without the tortilla chips. My version of nachos sauce is derived from the classic, first Moosewood cookbook (which is no longer available, unless you can find it used–but the revised versions will do in a pinch). At present, I’m restricting wheat in my diet pretty heavily. This recipe works just fine without being wheat thickened–and may even be improved by the cornmeal used in its stead.

This is rich, lovely and wholesome. It’s great on any winter Game Day, or after any outside activity cycle this time of year. It goes fast, too. Make a double batch, and you can even freeze half for later (right up to adding the cheese at the end, that is). You’ll thank me when you taste this.

Nachos Sauce

2 TBSP olive oil

1 1/2 cups chopped onions

3-7 cloves of garlic, crushed or minced with

1 tsp salt

3/4 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 large bell pepper, chopped–or a handful of cherry bombs, or Hungarian Wax or Jalapeños, or whatever you like/have on hand

2 chopped tomatoes, or 1 cup canned diced tomatoes

3 TBSP cornmeal (not cornmeal mix, just plain cornmeal–I use a ‘roasted cornmeal’ for extra flavor)

12 oz. beer (could be Mexican, or maybe just what you happen to have around as long as it’s not Wintergreen Porter or some such silly nonsense)

8 oz grated mild, white cheese (Monterey Jack, Brick, Yogurt, mild cheddar &tc)

In a heavy bottomed pan, sauté the onions in the hot olive oil for 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic and continue cooking until the garlic becomes fragrant (about another minute). Add the spices and let them blossom and release their flavors fully. When the onions are translucent, add the chopped pepper and the tomatoes. Cook about ten minutes more, then stir in the cornmeal and cook about five more minutes, stirring frequently. Add the beer and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring often (so that the cornmeal doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan and burn there). Turn the heat way down, cover the pan and let it cook a minimum of one hour, but two or three is better. Stir the sauce every so often as you’re in the kitchen. Allow the pan to cool at least half an hour.

Store refrigerated at this point if you’re not going to use the sauce immediately. If you want it now, reheat it and stir as you sprinkle in the grated cheese. Serve very hot, right away with lots of plain tortilla chips. Or pour the nachos sauce over burritos, or rice and beans, or your finger…. You get the idea.



  1. Yum.

    Didn’t know the first Moosewood is out of print. I think I’ll go write my name in mine right now.

    • Good idea. All the veggie classics from the seventies are revised and re-printed.
      I went through heck to get a copy of Laurel’s Kitchen with the bread section intact (since they did a revision which made a separate book of their baked goods). Thx to Mark Gorman for tracking down my copy of the Original Laurel’s!

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