Sharing this recipe for cheese nachos with ranchero sauce has been on my mind for a couple of reasons. First, I wanted to write down my recipe for ranchero sauce. This red Mexican sauce is my go-to for all manner of recipes including enchiladas and tortilla soup. Because I make it often, It’s a recipe I always just throw together without much thought. I wanted to measure, taste, and get the right ratios down on paper for posterity—and to make it easier to share.
These nachos also flood my taste buds with the very best food memories. I created this recipe to mimic a favorite menu item at a Mexican restaurant my parents and their friends went to often when I was growing up. Luckily, they often took me and my sister with them to join in the fun.
♥ Related: Restaurant-Style Salsa in Just 10 Minutes
When we went, it always seemed like a celebration. The margaritas flowed freely for the adults while my glass was always filled with sweet Shirley Temples. It’s the kind of must-visit place that we came back to even after we moved south for many years—every trip back home included a celebratory meal at Tortilla Flat in Merrimack, NH.
Everyone had their own favorite, reliable dishes and mine was the crabmeat enchiladas. But the first course was shared: several round pizza pans filled with the best cheese nachos covered in a savory red sauce. It was always exciting when they arrived at the table rocket hot from the oven. Tortilla Flat is still there, but the menu has changed quite a bit and I would dare say it’s not a family favorite anymore.
♥ Related: Sweet Potato and Black Bean Quesadillas
Cheese Nachos Copycat Recipe
But, now I can always have a taste of my childhood with this copycat recipe—I nailed it. And the best part about it, is that it’s pretty easy to make. One batch of my ranchero sauce also makes several batches of nachos.
Sean makes a great margarita. But maybe next time I whip up a batch of these nachos I’ll have a Shirley Temple for old time’s sake.
Cheese Nachos with Ranchero Sauce | A Simply Perfect Plate of Nachos
- ½ tbsp neutral oil canola, vegetable, or light olive oil
- ½ large onion roughly diced
- 1 medium red bell pepper roughly diced
- 3 cloves garlic roughly chopped
- 1½ tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- 1 tbsp chili powder
- ½ tbsp smoked Spanish paprika
- ½ tbsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ancho chili powder
- 1 tsp granulated garlic
- ½ cup chicken stock
- 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
- ½ tsp apple cider vinegar
Cheese Nachos with Ranchero Sauce
- 4-5 oz tortilla chips see note
- 4 oz Monterey jack or pepper jack cheese grated
- Add the olive oil to a medium pot and heat it over medium heat. Add the onion, red bell pepper, and salt. Cook for about 5 minutes until the vegetables have softened and the onion turns translucent. Add the garlic, chili powder, paprika, cumin, ancho chili powder, and garlic powder to the pot. Cook for a minute to lightly cook the garlic and toast the spices.Add the chicken stock and diced tomatoes. Bring to a heavy simmer and cook uncovered for about 15 minutes.Once cooked, blend the sauce with an immersion blender until smooth. If you don't have an immersion blender, you can use a stand blender, just be careful to keep the lid open a little to allow steam to escape. Use a kitchen towel over the slightly opened lid to keep the sauce from spraying everywhere. Really, just get an immersion blender.Once blended, stir in the apple cider vinegar.
- Preheat the oven to 375F.
- Spread your tortilla chips out on a quarter sheet pan or a pan of similar size, about 9×13 inches. Try to keep the chips in one layer.Ladle the ranchero sauce over all of the chips making sure each chip gets a bit of sauce.Evenly sprinkle the grated cheese over the chips.Bake in the hot oven for about 10 minutes until the cheese has melted into gooey pools and the sauce has browned just slightly. Enjoy with a margarita on the rocks with salt if you're into that sort of thing.
- This recipe serves about 2 people. It’s easy to double though and there’s enough ranchero sauce for at least 3 batches.
- This makes 3 cups of ranchero sauce. Keep leftovers in the fridge for up to a week. It’s great for on-the-fly enchiladas.
- Choose a decently thick chip for this recipe meaning do not choose a chip specifically labeled as thin. The ranchero sauce makes these chips slightly soggy (in a good way, I think!), but a thin chip will not hold up to the sauce.
Things You Might Need For This Recipe
- Immersion Blender: You’ll use an immersion blender a ton and they’re easier than dealing with hot liquid and a stand blender.
- Quarter Sheet Pans: I love these pans for making small portions of things—and the pans are really inexpensive and will last forever.
- Spices: This is a recipe where good quality spices shine and I love Penzey’s for their quality and excellent prices.
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