Customizable Nacho Bar – 4 Ingredients of Choice

by | Feb 7, 2024

A Nacho Bar is perfect to set up for impromptu gatherings, game day parties, or cozy movie nights at home. Customize with your choice of chips, protein, cheese, and toppings. Whether you’re feeding a crowd or just treating yourself, this nachos bar will be a hit!

A delectable combination of crunchy chips and toppings, ready for game day.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. All opinions are my own; I never feature a brand that I don’t love! See my disclosure policy for more details.

Why you’ll love it

  • Versatility: One of the best parts about this recipe is its customizable options. Whether you prefer certain chips or protein, this recipe caters to all.
  • Protein-Packed: With a range of proteins from ground beef to tofu, these nachos ensure everyone creates a hearty and satisfying meal.
  • Cheesy Goodness: Who doesn’t love cheese? With options ranging from classic shredded cheddar to crumbled feta, there’s a cheesy delight for every palate.
  • Party Perfect: A nacho bar is the ultimate crowd-pleaser. It’s a casual, fun, and engaging way to serve food, especially during events like Super Bowl parties or family gatherings.
A plate of customizable nachos, showcasing a blend of savory and fresh ingredients next to lime margarita.

What is a nacho bar?

A nacho bar is a fun, interactive meal set up. Guests get to play chef and mix and match from the spread. It’s a surefire way to satisfy all tastes and add a playful twist to your event!

Are nachos healthy?

They absolutely can be! With the right choices like chips in moderation, lean proteins, and plenty of veggies, nachos can be a balanced meal. You can even swap chips for a crunchy lettuce base for a taco salad option.

All nacho bar ingredients displayed for game day

What ingredients do you need?

  • Chips: Choose from white corn tortilla chips, blue corn chips, bean chips, grain-free tortilla chips, or sweet potato chips. Remember, the type of chip can influence the overall flavor and healthiness of your nachos.
  • Protein: Options include ground beef, shredded chicken, pulled pork, ground turkey, Beyond Steak, various beans, refried beans, tofu, and lentils. The protein not only adds flavor but also makes the nachos more filling and nutritious.
  • Cheese: Pick from shredded Mexican blend, cheddar, monterey jack, mozzarella, pepper jack, or crumbled feta. Cheese adds a rich, creamy texture and a boost of calcium.
  • Toppings: Here’s where you can really get creative. Add guacamole, diced avocado, salsa, queso, Greek yogurt, tomatoes, jalapeños, onions, and more for a burst of flavor and nutrients.
A close up of a tempting dish of layered nachos with cheese, diced vegetables, and spicy jalapeños.

How do you set up a nacho bar?

In true Cheerful Choices fashion… you can customize this nacho bar with all types of ingredients “of your choice”. Here’s how to set up your party-ready nachos line-up.

1. Set out chips of your choice

Start with a diverse selection of chips. Offer everything from traditional corn tortilla chips to unique options like blue corn, sweet potato, or grain-free alternatives. Arrange them in large bowls or platters for easy access.

Chips of your choice on stone background

2. Offer protein of your choice

Next, prepare a variety of cooked and seasoned proteins. Don’t be afraid to take shortcuts and buy pre-cooked options at the store. You can also view this guide for cooking all types of proteins like a pro. Include classics like seasoned ground beef or shredded chicken, and don’t forget plant-based options like beans or tofu. Keep them warm in separate containers so guests can choose their favorite.

Protein of your choice on stone background

3. Arrange various cheeses of your choice

Offer a range of cheeses, from shredded cheddar and Mexican cheese to crumbled feta. You can also think about having a hot, melty queso sauce set up. 

Cheese of your choice on stone background

4. Pile on the toppings of your choice

Finally, create a rainbow of toppings—diced tomatoes, sliced jalapeños, olives, guacamole, sour cream, and more. Organize them in small bowls with spoons or tongs for easy serving, allowing everyone to customize their nacho masterpiece.

Toppings of your choice on stone background

Can you set up a nacho bar ahead of time?

Setting up a nacho bar ahead of time is simple! Just prep your toppings—chop veggies, cook meats, and shred cheese if needed. Place everything needed into individual containers and refrigerate. When it’s party time, warm up the necessary items and lay out your fresh toppings and chips for an easy, breezy serving.

Close up of chip with ingredients on it

Once you have everything prepped, how do you assemble the nachos?

Like all of my other recipes, this Customizable Nacho Bar is completely adaptable. You get to hand pick every single ingredient you want to use. This means it can easily fit different dietary preferences and ingredients on hand. 

We recommend making the nachos in this order for a perfect bite every time. 

1. Start with the chips

Start with a couple of large handfuls of chips per serving—exact measurements aren’t necessary but 2 cups is a good reference.

Adding tortilla chips to nacho plate

2. Distribute protein

Add whatever protein you decide on. You could even do a mixture of two different proteins.

Adding cooked protein over nachos

3. Add cheese

We like to add the cheese on top of the protein so it melts easier and envelopes all the ingredients under it.

Nacho Bar 9

4. Microwave and add toppings

Once everything is nice and melted and warmed through, you can add the cold toppings. Simple as that! This makes 1 individual serving, then you’ll just have everyone repeat to create their unique nacho plate.

Adding diced tomato over nachos

Can you bake nachos in the oven?

If you’re aiming to make a larger batch of nachos at once, baking them in the oven is always a good option. Follow the same directions of spreading out your chips, protein, and cheese on a baking sheet, then bake at 350°F (175°C) for about 5-7 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and golden.

Nachos on a sheet pan to bake in the oven

Recipe tips and tricks

  • Serving Tips: Pair these nachos with a refreshing lime margarita or a cool glass of iced tea. They’re great for game days, parties, or a fun family dinner.
  • Scaling Tips: Easily double or triple this recipe by adjusting the ingredient amounts proportionally. For larger batches, use an oven to bake the nachos evenly.
  • Keeping It Warm: Cooked meats and queso can be kept warm on the stovetop, mini crock pots or transferred to glass containers with a lid.
Freshly prepared nachos topped with melted cheese, juicy tomatoes, and creamy avocado.

How do I store leftovers?

Have extras left over from your nacho party? Store in airtight containers for up to 2 days in the fridge. 

Need more help with recipes for your busy schedule?

In my coaching + cooking program, I help busy people with beginner cooking knowledge become confident in the kitchen so that they can enjoy nourishing foods they love and stress less about mealtime. Click here to learn more about this virtual program led by a dietitian.

Nacho Bar 18

Customizable Nacho Bar

Mackenzie Burgess, RDN
This Nacho Bar is perfect for game day parties or cozy movie nights. Customize with your choice of chips, protein, cheese, and toppings! Putting together these nachos takes less than 5 minutes.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 3 minutes
Cook Time 2 minutes
Servings 1 serving of nachos
Calories 515 kcal


2 cups chips of your choice:

  • White corn tortilla chips
  • Blue corn chips
  • Bean chips
  • Grain-free tortilla chips
  • Sweet potato chips

4 ounces (1/2 cup) protein of your choice:

  • Ground beef, cooked and seasoned
  • Shredded chicken, cooked and seasoned
  • Pulled pork, cooked and seasoned
  • Ground turkey, cooked and seasoned
  • Beyond Steak, cooked in pan or air fryer
  • Canned beans, black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans – drained and rinsed
  • Refried beans
  • Tofu, crumbled and sautéed
  • Lentils, cooked

1/4 cup cheese of your choice:

  • Shredded Mexican blend cheese
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Shredded monterey jack
  • Shredded mozzarella
  • Shredded pepper jack
  • Crumbled feta cheese

1/4 cup toppings of your choice:

  • Guacamole
  • Diced avocado
  • Salsa
  • Queso
  • Sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Sliced jalapeños
  • Chopped green onions
  • Sliced black olives
  • Corn kernels
  • Diced onion
  • Pickled red onion
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Sliced radishes
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Lime wedges


  • Spread the chips on a plate. Evenly distribute the cooked protein over the chips.
  • Sprinkle the cheese over the protein and chips. Microwave for 60-90 seconds until the cheese is melted and everything is warm.
  • Add toppings on top and serve immediately.
  • This will create an individual serving. Repeat as needed to create more servings.



Oven Note: You can make nachos in the oven too. Simply quadruple (4x) the recipe amounts and add chips, protein, and cheese to this sheet pan. Then, bake in a preheated oven at 350°F (175°C) for about 5-7 minutes.
Seasoning Protein Note: For cooking and seasoning your protein, simply cook your chosen meat (like ground beef or turkey) or plant-based protein (like tofu or tempeh) in a skillet over medium heat until thoroughly cooked, then sprinkle in a bit of taco seasoning to evenly coat the protein.
Nutrition Note: Nutrition may vary depending on ingredients used. This calculation is for tortilla chips, chicken, Mexican cheese, tomato, and guac. For more nutrition information, seek a professional registered dietitian’s advice.


Serving: 1plate of nachosCalories: 515kcalCarbohydrates: 34gProtein: 40gFat: 25gSodium: 800mgPotassium: 270mgFiber: 4gSugar: 1gCalcium: 290mgIron: 2.5mg
Tried this recipe?Tag us @cheerfulchoices and let us know how it was!

save this nacho bar guide on pinterest:

Create your own nacho bar for parties

Check out these game day recipes too:

Hi, I'm Mackenzie...

nice to meet you!

I’m a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) and recipe developer. I create simple recipes with customizable ingredients “of your choice.” I also help busy people gain kitchen confidence through my hands-on program.

Need more hands-on help?

In my coaching + cooking program, I help busy people with beginner cooking knowledge become confident in the kitchen. Click here to learn more about this virtual program with a dietitian!

Snag our email freebie!

Learn how to customize recipes with ingredients of your choice. Subscribe to get the guide sent straight to your inbox!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating