My Dad’s Beer and Cheese Fondue Nachos

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sheetpan of nachos at a table

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

My dad was a good cook when it came to things like expertly grilled bratwurst, Buffalo chicken wings, and gooey beer-infused nachos. We spent a lot of time together at sporting events, and the first order of business was always stopping off at the concession stand for tortilla chips drenched in liquid cheese that came out of a pump. He added extra jalapeños, which I learned to love. The neon “cheese” gloop? Not so much.

Leading up to one particularly important Super Bowl (go Packers!), he decided to turn his attention to making his own pump cheese at home. After a few swings and misses, he arrived at a beautiful nacho cheese sauce that started with my grandma’s recipe for cheddar cheese sauce, adding a little American cheese for a nod to stadium nachos, and beer, because that’s what dads do when let loose in the kitchen. He finished the sauce with his secret weapon: a splash of pickled jalapeño juice.  

I can’t watch The Big Game now without making “Dad’s nachos,” although I’ve made a few tweaks over the years. I warm the chips in the oven, just like the best concession stands do, for a nice toasty flavor and I’ve switched from my dad’s watery mega-brewery beer to a craft IPA for the sharp, citrusy hop flavor it lends to the sauce.  

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

I also make sure to grate the cheese myself (pre-grated cheese is often coated with anti-caking agents that can prevent it from melting smoothly) and let the cheese come to room temperature before making the sauce (about 1 hour), which helps it melt smoothly and evenly. I also take my time while stirring in the cheese. If the heat is too high, the cheese may seize, leaving you with a grainy mess instead of a smooth, creamy sauce.

In addition to dad’s jalapeño juice, I also add a little Tajin to the sauce. The Mexican red chile-lime seasoning makes everything from mac and cheese to margaritas tastier. And while dad loved soggy chips drowning in toppings, I prefer a balance of crunchy and gooey nachos, so I drain the salsa and pat the olives and jalapeños dry before putting them on top of the cheese-cloaked chips. I serve these on the foil-lined sheet tray used to heat the chips, just like dad used to do. The hot pan helps keep the sauce warm and flowing, although it’s highly unlikely they’ll be around long enough to get cold.

A homemade take on stadium-style pump cheese. Go team!

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces

    sharp cheddar cheese (not pre-grated)

  • 2 slices

    American cheese singles

  • 8 ounces

    corn tortilla chips (about 7 cups)

  • 1 (2.25-ounce) can

    sliced black olives

  • 1/2 cup

    chunky tomato salsa

  • 1/2 cup

    sliced pickled jalapeños

  • 2 tablespoons

    pickled jalapeno brine (from the jar)

  • 3 tablespoons

    unsalted butter

  • 3 tablespoons

    all-purpose flour

  • 3/4 cup

    whole milk, divided

  • 1/2 cup

    India Pale Ale (IPA or Hazy IPA)

  • 1 to 2 teaspoons

    Tajín or taco seasoning

  • Salt

Instructions

  1. Grate 6 ounces sharp cheddar cheese on the large holes of a box grater (about 2 cups). Tear 2 slices American cheese into small pieces, set aside at room temperature for 1 hour ideally, but at least while you’re preparing the other ingredients.

  2. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 300°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Arrange 8 ounces corn tortilla chips on the baking sheet in an even layer.

  3. Drain 1 (2.25-ounce) can sliced black olives and pat dry with paper towels. Place 1/2 cup chunky tomato salsa in a fine-mesh strainer to drain off the excess liquid. Coarsely chop 1/2 cup sliced pickled jalapeños and pat dry with paper towels.

  4. Melt 3 tablespoons unsalted butter in a medium (3-quart) saucepan over medium heat. Add 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour and cook, whisking constantly, for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat. While whisking constantly, slowly pour in about 1/2 cup whole milk and whisk until smooth.

  5. Return the pan to medium heat and gradually whisk in the remaining 1/4 cup whole milk and 1/2 cup IPA. Cook, whisking frequently and scraping down the sides and bottom of the pan, until the mixture is thick, bubbly, and no floury taste remains, about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, place the tortilla chips in the oven to warm.

  6. Reduce the heat to low. While whisking constantly, add the cheddar and American cheeses one big pinch at a time until all the cheeses have been added and the mixture is smooth, about 5 minutes. You will initially be able to see bits of grated cheese in the sauce; keep stirring over low heat, and eventually the cheese will melt fully and the sauce will become smooth (it should coat the back of a spoon). Do not let it come to a boil.

  7. Add 2 tablespoons pickled jalapeño brine and 1 to 2 teaspoons Tajín or taco seasoning (adjust according to your taste) and whisk to combine. Taste and season with salt as needed.

  8. Remove the chips from the oven. Drizzle the sauce evenly over the chips. Sprinkle with the drained salsa, jalapeños, and olives. Serve immediately right off the baking sheet.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The sauce can be made and refrigerated in an airtight container once cooled for up to 3 days (do not freeze). Reheat in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently and thinning it out with a few tablespoons of milk to adjust the consistency if desired, until the sauce is warmed through and pourable. Do not boil.

Ivy Manning

Contributor

Ivy Manning is the author of 9 cookbooks including the bestseller Instant Pot Miracle 6 Ingredients or Less. She is an award-winning food writer for national food magazines, fitness brands, and online cooking platforms. She teaches cooking classes in Portland, Oregon.

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