You're not here for a full recipe for Rainbow Nachos because nachos don't require a recipe beyond this: spread out some chips on a baking sheet, shower with shredded cheese, add optional cooked steak and/or chicken for omnivores, heat under broiler until cheese melts, then add all the toppings.
Ok! So this is a shorter post than I thought.
But actually. Those are general directions for nachos, and every time you follow them, you will get good nachos, and even if they're not good, they're still good because they're salty crunchy chips with melted cheese. You can, however, make GREAT nachos, with a little more detail, embedded within the instructions for Rainbow Nachos provided below, followed by a list of my favorite brands and shopping resources for ingredients and tools.
What You Need for Rainbow Nachos
Some nachos work well as layers of chips and cheese piled into a cascading melting mess in a cast iron skillet or on a plate. But not Rainbow Nachos. For Rainbow Nachos, you need to spread the nachos out in a single layer on a sheet pan. This will show each color of the rainbow. Here are the high-level categories of what you need to make Rainbow Nachos:
- Chips in five different colors of the rainbow. The chips can be tortilla chips, potato chips, or something else that works as a "chip." Whatever chips they are, make sure they are their natural color, e.g. blue tortilla chips made from naturally blue corn, or dyed naturally with things like beets or greens. Don't use chips of any kind that use artificial coloring. If you can't find a certain color, better to just use the usual yellow or white corn tortilla chips.
- Beans, chopped vegetables or animal protein in the different colors of the rainbow.
- Two different color cheeses that melt well. I like a mild cheddar which is orange, and Jack, which is white. If you want to use a flavored cheese, you can try to match one of the rainbow colors. For example, pepper jack, which has little flecks of red hot pepper, could melt on the red part of the nachos.
- Other toppings that match the colors of the rainbow like olives, jalapenos, scallions, pickled onions, and julienned radish
- Salsas and guacamole in different colors of the rainbow. You may not want to put salsa directly on the nachos because it will make the nachos soggy, but you can serve roasted dark red, red, and green salsas, pico de gallo, and guacamole alongside the cooked nachos.
Ingredients Notes and Shopping Resources for Rainbow Nachos
- Red Chips: I used these ruby-tinted potato chips, but have also used "red" corn tortilla chips before. This brand of red potato chips is organic and uses beets to naturally tint the chips instead of dyes that make the chips unnaturally bright red. This brand is "natural" and uses naturally red corn that has been sprouted. (note: The link is for a 6 pack of super size bags!). Trader Joe's has red, white, and blue Peruvian potato chips, but the red is only on the edges. Those chips are available seasonally, but I am not sure which season.
- Orange Sweet Potato Chips or Fries: This is the most widely available brand to find in most grocery stores for sweet potato chips. The "ruffled" style is sturdier and holds onto toppings and cheese better. If you want to use sweet potato fries or sweet potato waffle fries, use this frozen brand, which also has organic options.
- Green Tortilla Chips: This brand's green tortilla chips are naturally green because they're made with spinach and kale. Other green tortilla chips are dyed green. I have found them at Bristol Farms, Gelson's, some of the bigger Ralphs markets, and Whole Foods.
- Blue Potato or Blue Corn Tortilla Chips: For blue or purple potato chips (for nachos, caviar or otherwise) I like these blue potato chips the best, and are the easiest to find in grocery stores. Blue corn tortilla chips are generally easier to find than blue potato chips. I always look for "organic" when it comes to corn products.
- Red Kidney, Pinto and Black Beans: I use this organic brand for all canned beans. These are the organic pinto beans and these are the organic black beans.
- Avocados: all avocados from JJ's Lone Daughter Ranch at the Santa Monica Farmers Market (Wednesdays) when avocados are in season in California.
- All other fresh herbs and produce: From either the Santa Monica Farmers' Market on Wednesday, or Whole Foods Market when I can't find what I need at the farmers' market.
Tools and Equipment
- sturdy all-purpose baking sheet
- favorite all-purpose 7-inch chef's knife (expensive but worth it!)
- favorite multi-purpose small condiment bowls for salsa
Rainbow Nachos Recipe
- 2 handfuls red potato or tortilla chips
- 2 handfuls orange sweet potato chips or cooked sweet potato fries
- 2 generous handfuls yellow corn tortilla chips
- 2 handfuls green tortilla chips
- 1 handful blue potato or blue corn tortilla chips
- 1½ cups shredded cheddar or other yellow cheese
- 1½ cups shredded jack mozzarella or other white melting cheese
- ½ cup chopped cooked steak or carne asada
- ½ cup cooked pinto beans
- ½ cup cooked corn
- 1 cup cooked broccoli
- ½ cup cooked black beans
- 1 cup tomato salsa
- ¼ pickled carrots
- 1 cup yellow cherry or yellow tomato pico de gallo
- ½ avocado sliced
- ½ cup guacamole use the other half of above avocado
- ½ cup tomatillo salsa verde
- pickled sliced jalapeños
- pickled onions
Heat the Nachos
- Heat broiler in oven to low.
- Spread the chips in a single layer with slight overlap on a baking sheet in rainbow order: red chips, orange sweet potato chips or fries, yellow tortilla chips, green chips, blue potato or corn chips.
- Top the chips as follows: carne asada on red chips, pinto beans on sweet potato chips or fries, corn on yellow corn tortilla chips, broccoli on green chips, black beans on blue potato or blue corn chips.
- Sprinkle shredded cheddar cheese over the red, orange, and half the yellow chips. Sprinkle the jack or mozzarella cheese over the other half of the yellow chips, green chips, and blue chips. You melt the cheese over the cooked toppings to "anchor" them to the chips.
- Place sheet pan under broiler until cheese melts, and starts to bubble and brown in places. Remove from oven.
Assemble the Nachos
- Top the hot melty cheesy nachos as follows: salsa on red chips and carne asada, pickled carrots on pinto beans and sweet potato chips or waffles, yellow cherry or tomato pico de gallo and sliced avocado on corn and tortilla chips, spoonfuls of guacamole and pickled sliced jalapeño on broccoli and green chips, and pickled onions on black beans and blue potato or blue corn tortilla chips.
- Serve immediately with extra salsas and guacamole in bowls alongside.
- The nachos, once heated with melted cheese, do not keep well. Eat it all now.