[Photographs: Robyn Lee]

What does it take to make an incredible plate of bar-style, fully loaded nachos? For starters, at least three kinds of cheese, two kinds of beans, and two different applications of creamy, tangy dairy. It may sound like overkill, but there’s a method to this madness.

Why this recipe works:

  • Drizzling the tortilla chips with cheese sauce and then topping with grated cheese guarantees both silky cheese sauce and chewy, stretchy melted cheese in every bite.
  • Thinning the refried beans to a just barely pourable consistency prevents dryness in the finished dish and ensures even distribution of the refrieds.
  • Drizzling the tortilla chips with Mexican crema and then serving sour cream alongside offers the benefit of both.
  • Spreading the tortilla chips in two layers on a baking sheet or baking dish makes it easy to top each one without overloading any of them; a space in the center provides a place for the guac and sour cream without having to mound it on top of the tortilla chips.

Note: You can use as many or as few of the toppings as you wish. High quality store-bought tortilla chips can be used in place of the fresh, but the chips will not stay crisp as long.

This recipe requires that you complete many other recipes before you begin. All recipes except for the guacamole can be completed several days in advance, leaving only the guacamole, fresh radishes and cilantro, and construction for the final day just before serving. If using chilled pre-made toppings, warm them up in the microwave or on the stovetop before applying, adding a little water if necessary to the cheese sauce or refried beans if they are too thick.

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  • Yield:Serves 2 to 3 as a main course or 6 to 8 as an appetizer
  • Active time:15 minutes once ingredients are assembled (see note)
  • Total time:20 minutes
  • Rated:4
  • Ingredients

    • 1 1/2 quarts peanut, vegetable, or canola oil
    • 16 fresh corn tortillas, stacked in groups of 8 and cut into 6 wedges each
    • 1 1/2 cupsNacho Cheese Sauce (1 full recipe), flavored with 2 minced pickled jalapeños as per the recipe note
    • 2 cups refried beans (1/2 recipe), thinned with water to a just-pourable consistency
    • 1/2 cup sliced pickled jalapeños
    • 1/2 cup cooked black beans from one (15-ounce) can, drained and rinsed
    • 8 ounces cheddar and/or Monterey Jack cheese, grated
    • 2 cups pico de gallo (1/2 recipe)
    • 1/4 cup Mexican crema
    • 1/4 cup cotija cheese
    • 1/4 cup picked cilantro leaves
    • 1 large radish, very thinly sliced on a mandoline
    • 1/2 cup sour cream
    • 1/2 recipe The Best Basic Guacamole


    1. 1.

      Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat oven to 375°F. Heat oil in a large wok or Dutch oven to 350°F. Add 1/3 of tortilla chips and cook, agitating and flipping them constantly with a wire mesh spider until bubbles slow to a trickle and chips are pale golden brown, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined bowl, season with salt, and toss. Allow to drain for 30 seconds, then transfer to a second bowl. Repeat with remaining chips in two more batches.

    2. 2.

      Layer 1/2 of chips in the bottom of a rimmed 9-by-13-inch baking sheet or baking dish, leaving a large space in the center. Drizzle with 1/2 of cheese sauce and 1/2 of refried beans. Top with 1/2 sliced pickled jalapeños and 1/2 black beans and sprinkle with 1/2 grated cheese.

    3. 3.

      Layer with remaining 1/2 of chips, maintaining the space in the center. Drizzle with remaining cheese sauce and refried beans. Top with remaining jalapeños and black beans and sprinkle all over with remaining grated cheese. Bake until grated cheese is completely melted, about 5 minutes.

    4. 4.

      Top with pico de gallo and drizzle all over with crema. Sprinkle cotija on top and garnish with cilantro leaves and radish slices. Mound sour cream and guacamole side-by-side in the space in the center of chips. Serve right away.

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