Nachos are a popular snack food, originating in Mexico. In their simplest form, nachos are usually tortilla chips covered in melted cheese. First created circa 1943 by Ignacio "Nacho" Anaya, the original nachos consisted of fried tortilla chips covered with melted cheese and jalapeño peppers. The International Day of the Nacho is celebrated on 11th September with the International Nacho Festival held at Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico.
The popularity of the "nacho" spread throughout Texas, but did not become well known outside of Texas until the 1970s, when Howard Cosell was given a plate of nachos during a taping of Monday Night Football at Arlington Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Cosell enjoyed the dish, and was amused by the unusual name. He talked about them throughout the game, and for several weeks following it.
The word "nachos" first appears in English in 1949.
Common additional toppings include:
A form of processed cheese mixed with peppers and other spices is often used in place of freshly shredded cheese in institutional or large-scale production settings, such as schools, movie theaters, sports venues, and convenience stores, or wherever using freshly grated cheese may be logistically prohibitive. Such processed cheese is referred to in the United States as "nacho cheese." Though originally formulated as a cheaper and more convenient source of cheese to top nachos, this dip has become popular enough in the U.S. that it is available in some Mexican-themed restaurants and at major grocery stores, in both name-brand (Frito-Lay, Tostitos, and Taco Bell) and off-brand versions.
Nachos with an abundance of toppings are sometimes called "loaded nachos." This type of dish is usually served as an appetizer at bars or restaurants in the United States. The dish is normally prepared in this manner: The tortilla chips are arranged on a platter, meat and refried bean toppings are then added, and the entire platter is smothered with shredded cheese. The platter is then put into a broiler or microwave to allow the cheese to melt. The platter is then covered with the cold toppings (shredded lettuce, tomatoes, salsa, jalapeños, etc.) and served immediately. In Memphis, Tennessee, barbecue nachos are served in most barbecue restaurants, and also at sporting events. Generous portions of barbecued pork shoulder are placed atop tortilla chips, then covered with melted cheese, barbecue sauce, and sliced jalapeño peppers.
A similar dish that involves tortilla chips and cheese is found in Tex-Mex restaurants. Small bowls of chili con queso and/or, more commonly, salsa, are served with baskets of warm tortilla chips as appetizers.