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Are nachos Mexican?

My mother (Mexican) always told me they were not, but she was often wrong about such things.

I checked out the supposed "origin" of nachos on Wikipedia and found it dubious, at best:


If anyone possesses nacho knowledge, please step forward.

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  1. I think the story in Wikepedia may be true. In No Reservations on the Travel Channel, Bourdain talked about the origin of the nacho.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Miss Needle

      And I'm certain that story is false and was simply a backboard for Bourdain's disdain for American tastes for certain foods.

      It's very rare (if not impossible) for a dish to have a single origin then to spread nation-wide. In most cases, the dish has to have been served at multiple restaurants or be regionally-motivated (that is, something easily made with ingredients on hand). There is no way the "No Reservations" story represents the true origin of nachos.

      Also, seriously, how much inspiration does it take to think of topping crispy chips with cheese? It's one of those things multiple people thought of, not just one guy catering to a diplomat's wife.

    2. ¡Hay, que vergüenza! ¡Ninguna madre nunca esta equivocada!

      What shame! No mother is ever wrong!

      1. another culinary moment that would be well set to "thus spake zarathustra"

        1. Yeah, nachos aren't strictly authentic... but neither are burritos, actually. Plenty of good stuff (and lots of dreck, too, of course) is the result of cultural "fusion"-- the entire branch of cuisine known as "Tex-Mex," for instance.

          Still, I bet there were slapped-together fried tortilla/cheese/chile/etc. concoctions happening in homes across Mexico for decades before the first plate of nachos hit an American table; it's the natural result of "use what you've got" cooking.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Aunt Jenny

            FYI... burritos were invented in Chihahua and are considered THE state Antojito... more important than anyother. Even in Sonora & Nuevo Leon... while Burritos don't have the same ranking as in Chihuahua, consider it one of their top Antojitos.

            Of course there is a big difference between an authentic version, and the starchy, slop & glop that goes for a burrito NOB.

          2. Gawd... that is one crappily researched & written Wikipedia article.

            To answer your question... yes and no. I have seen Nacho Anaya interviewed... he did invent... a while back... as an afternoon snack for his thriving "Cafe" catering to teeny boppers.... my earliest memories of Nachos in Mexico's interior was at the Danchos Heladeria chain (think of it as a Mexican style Frostee Freeze's) around 1990.... and they were already all over Jalisco & Aguascalientes (I don't remember seeing any in D.F.).

            The no part... is that proper Nachos have to have the following components:

            > Freshly fried homemade totopos (chips)
            > White Cheese Fondue (mostly Chihuahua)
            > Homemade Pickled Onions, Carrots & Jalapenos

            They DO NOT have:

            > Stale Chips
            > Yellow "cheese" sauce
            > Mushy jalapeno rings
            > Chili
            > Beans
            > Sour Cream
            > Carne Asada or Pollo a la Plancha

            etc., etc.,

            The later would represent Authentic... Tex-Mex, the former represents Authentic, respectable after school teeny-bopper snacks.

            7 Replies
            1. re: Eat_Nopal

              > Freshly fried homemade totopos (chips)
              > White Cheese Fondue (mostly Chihuahua)
              > Homemade Pickled Onions, Carrots & Jalapenos

              They're actually vegetarian, Eat Nopal? How interesting.

              They sound good, by the way.

              1. re: dolores

                I even though most adults in Mexico (in places where Nachos can be found) scoff at them (calling them Chatarra = junk food, or Basura)... they aren't half bad and I must admit craving them with a beer every so often (but then again I did grow up eating them)

              2. re: Eat_Nopal

                And never beans? Would we be getting into chalupa's territory?

                I love chalupas; they are veggie.

                1. re: Scargod

                  Do you mean real chalupas or a Tex-Mex version? The authentic Chalupa (derived from the native Popolopa language of Puebla) is a thick tortilla (pliable like a Panucho but thick like a sope).... that is griddled & seared with salsa (in post-conquest times... the searing is done with very hot lard).

                  ... that is it... no ground beef, lettuce or taco bell hot sauce.

                  1. re: Eat_Nopal

                    OK, Ya got me! I'm thinking Tex-Mex, but only in the sense that it is a crisp tortilla with a bean base and pico de gallo lettuce and cheese on top.
                    BTW, I can't stand the glop that so many places serve for nachos.I use monterrey jack and the pickled onions, carrots and jalapenos, only. Each one is dressed seperately so they are easy to pick up and eat.

                2. re: Eat_Nopal

                  Exactly. Were they called nachos? I was mostly in DF when I lived there, and never saw that term that I remember. However, what you describe as proper nachos could be found, though never served in the American-style "pile it all on to a plate and dig in" variety. It would be totopos served with pico de gallo offered along side them. When served with the cheese, the cheese was on the side (queso fundido), and the totopos were merely a means to deliver the gooey goodness to one's mouth.

                  1. re: Cachetes

                    Well the Danchos chain called them Danchos (for obvious reasons).... but they are one & the same... and yes in Southern Mexico whenever they could be found would be given different names.

                3. I think that the wikipedia article can be discredited just based on the fact that at the bottom of the article one of the links is to Taco Bell! Another point being that he was making them for a bunch of Americans, after closing, so he dumbed it down.

                  1. One other thing Yaqo.... I should point out that Nachos (even in the authentic form) are not ubiquitous throughout Mexico... they are ubiquitous enough to be considered a Mexican tradition... but only a small fraction of Mexicans have ever been exposed to them... and that is the thing about Mexico... there are so many regional variations. Did you know that:

                    > The area around Ciudad Chihuahua - Delicias is known for its Apple Pies & Apple Tarts?
                    > The area around Huachinango, Pueblo is know for its Trout in Macadamia, and Macadamia Enchiladas?
                    > Cuernavaca specializes in Tacos Acorazados (a type of rice lined taco?)
                    > The communities in the Huasteca region of Hidalgo, Veracruz, San Luis Potosi & Queretaro have traditional made cheese from Sheep & Goat milk and not from Cow milk.

                    Of course you talk to the average Mexican about this.... hell ask those that think they are knowledgeable about the country, its history, culture & gastronomy (I remember rolling my eyes the first time I saw a recipe for Trucha en Macadamia)... and chances are they will tell you these aren't authentic Mexican traditions.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Eat_Nopal

                      No surprise, considering Mexico's population is pushing 110 million and derives from several sophisticated Indigenous cultures, as well as the Spanish colonial influence and other presences and immigrations. I have heard of some of those foods, from different Mexicans I know, including one who is a professional chef, but not all of them. I'd love to try trout in macadamia...

                    2. Ultimately, I can't really see the difference between Nachos and Chilaquiles. Unless you define them so strictly... I would consider Chilaquiles to be the authentic version of Nachos.


                      7 Replies
                      1. re: Steve

                        Chilaquiles implies the tortillas are aged & bath in a Chile sauce.... neither of which is true of Nachos.

                        1. re: Eat_Nopal

                          Well, by aged do you mean old and stale? I am curious....

                          And when I go to the 7-11 for nachos and jam down on the plunger as the chili squirts out onto my chips, is that not bathing them in a chile sauce? Of course, it's disgusting compared to a good plate of chilaquiles, but it does seem like it was 'inspired' by them.

                          1. re: Steve

                            Yes... old & stale.... that is how you get the proper nutty flavor & chewy (doesn't disentegrate) texture

                            1. re: Steve

                              Which form of nachos are we talking about. The Piedras Negras style described in the wiki article (and demo'd by Alton Brown) are a finger food snack - individual chips topped with cheese and hot pepper, heated till the cheese melts. The chips should still be crisp. I recall having something like that in a south Texas restaurant years ago, before they became a national rage.

                              The version in where a pile of chips is drowned in a cheese and chile sauce may be closer to chilaquiles, but is best viewed as a mass-produced version of the earlier nachos.

                              Chilaquiles are cooked to a degree after adding the liquid. The ideal texture (to some) is a mix of the crisp and soft. There are even long cooked versions in which tortillas have completely softened.


                              1. re: paulj

                                Yeah... I actually liken Chilequiles to Pasta... it should have an Al Dente noodle like character.

                                1. re: paulj

                                  A FN Unwrapped segment on ball-park foods, talked about 'concession nachos'. That is a good name of the type that involves pouring a cheese sauce over a basket of chips.


                            2. re: Steve

                              If a plate of chilaquiles is left out, dries, is it now, a plate of nachos? I suspect this was the first plate of nachos. My Mexican dad laughed when we ordered nachos, while he ate menudo on Sundays, in Santa Ana.

                            3. No,the story on Nachos at Wikepedia is true about the origins.It is the same story told in Tex Mex by Robb Walsh who even spoke to the inventor of the dish.
                              This maybe how it got the name. I'm sure someone else might have thought of it,but it never had a name before,since at home some mother just called it leftovers,or it was a dish for Lent for the family.
                              The ladies who came in again to the place,asked for nacho's and so through word of mouth the name spread. In Robb Walsh's book,they weren't diplomat's wives as someone here called them,they were just military wives.
                              In the story,there were just some left overs,so that's what Ignacio threw together.
                              Chop Suey is said to have been invented in San Francisco or out in thegoldfields,when a chinese cook just threw together some left overs to feed the hunery miners and called it chop suey,meaning a chopped shreds or mess.
                              My german grandmother sometimes made a dish called " Come Again in the Morning".
                              My dad told me the german name,but I can't spell it.It's a dish of leftovers,and I think daddy said she rolled it into pancakes. Anyhow,the Germans on the board know what I'm talking about.
                              It most likely started out as a way to use leftovers, but you can find it in German restaurants because my dad had it in Frankfort back in the late 1950s,when he was TDY for the AirForce.He asked the chef at a restaurant for it,and the chef told my dad to come
                              back the next day for it,as it has it had to be ordered in advance,at least that's what they said at the RosenHaus where my dad ate.I asked,was it good,he said yes, but not as good as his mother's.
                              This appears to be a dish that started at home,but somehow spread to become restaurant fare. There is even a dispute about where the standard hamburger got it's start and several places claim to be the original home of the burger.
                              The Piedras Negras style of nachos are common around San Antonio.
                              Chalupas are boat shaped massa,but around here they are fried flat corn tortillas
                              topped with beans,cheese,etc.
                              And what Taco bell calls a gordita is not the same as what I get in restaurants around here.There is even a chain from Mexico called Dona Torta's Gorditas on San Pedro in San Antonio.Want to try it some time.
                              The nachos with the Pico's cheese sauce,round tortilla chips and jalepenos is called ball park nachos in Robb Walsh's book.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: HollyDolly

                                Piedras Negras style nachos is a restaurant dish, requiring an oven or broiler to melt the cheese. Home style Mexican cooking makes greater use of a stove top and/or a gridle (comal) over a wood or charcoal fire.

                                Years ago I lived for a month with a relatively poor family in Piedras Negras as part of a cross-cultural experience program. I don't recall eating anything like nachos. We had fresh store bought corn tortillas for the noon meal, and home made flour ones for supper and breakfast. Lots of soup, chicken, and egg. And barbacoa on Sundays. And beans and rice. But not much cheese, or crisp-fried tortillas.

                                Another point, Piedras Negras is a border town, properly Mexican, but also part of the regional Tex-Mex culture. Tony Bordain has a good segment on this border country.

                                The snack that comes to mind when I remember this Piedra Negras time is cucumber with lime and salt, which some oil field workers shared while testing a well for flow rate.