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A Quick Look at the History of Nachos

As a fan of Mexican cuisine, you have probably had nachos countless times before. But how many times have you paused to think where that plate of culinary goodness actually came from? Chances are, you haven’t - until now.

Now that we’ve piqued your curiosity don’t worry because we won’t leave you hanging. Nachos Mexican Grille & More will share this popular Mexican snack’s colorful history with you:

How Nachos Came to Be

It is said that in the 1940s, a man named Ignacio Anaya was working at Club Victoria in Piedras Negras, Mexico. A group of guests came in asking for food. Ignacio was the maitre d’, but at that moment the cook of the restaurant wasn’t to be found.

Knowing very well he couldn’t turn customers away, Ignacio decided to make do with what ingredients he found in the kitchen. What he came up with is a plate of tortilla chips that are topped with sliced jalapenos and grated cheese. He called it Nachos Especiales after his nickname “Nacho.” The rest is history.

Going Back to Its Roots

If you truly want to know the roots of nachos, though, you’d have to go back thousands of years ago to 7000 BCE. This was when the indigenous people in the area known now as central Mexico first domesticated corn or maize. This crop became a staple food of the Aztecs and the Mayans.

The Mesoamericans used a process now known as nixtamalization around 1500 BCE which involves drying kernels and soaking them in warm water that is mixed with an alkali. Because of the high=PH solution, the tough cell walls of the corn are broken down, so they’re softer and easier to digest, too.

Soon after that, people stopped consuming unprocessed maize, and malnutrition and the disease called pellagra, which was associated with eating unprocessed maize, also dropped.

What do these have to do with nachos?

Well, because of nixtamalization, corn can be turned into a corn dough called masa, which you probably know is the base for all the delicious Mexican dishes you enjoy, like tamales, tacos, pupusas, and yes, nachos.

The Magic of Tortilla

Mexicans have been flattening masa and turning them into tortillas for thousands of years now. During that long period, many would fry up tortillas and make chilaquiles which they covered in salsa, meat, and cotija cheese. If you think that this looks close to the nachos you know and love, you’re right. This may be the ‘ancestor’ of the modern nachos.

The modern fried tortillas became more popular in the 1900s, and they soon became commercialized. Now, no one can really say which tortilla factory started it all, but there were a few names that were often credited for it, including Rebecca Webb Carranza of El Zarape Tortilla Factory and Bartolo Martinez of B. Martinez Sons Company (also called at some point Azteca Mills and Tamalina Milling Company). In 1966, brand Frito-Lay launched “Doritos” in its original flavor, toasted corn. Six years after its introduction, Doritos also became available in Nacho Cheese.

Nacho Cheese and Toppings

Remember Ignacio? Well, he did top his “Nachos” with American cheese, but it wasn’t the gooey, nacho cheese that you know today. This version of cheese came three decades after Ignacio served the first Nachos. It was when a man named Frank Liberto recognized Nachos’ potential beyond being a popular bar food. He knew it would be a hit at sporting events, and he wanted to take them to the stadium of the Texas Rangers. He found a way to come up with nacho cheese that is already gooey and ready to be ladled on top of the tortillas and other toppings. His ready-to-eat nachos debuted in 1976 at a Texas Rangers game, but it took two years for it to be popular.

As for the toppings, there are still purists who prefer Ignacio Garcia’s original recipe of cheese and jalapeno slices. But you can find nachos topped with guacamole, ground beef, beans, salsa, and more.


Mexican nachos are one of the most known culinary wonders that are the result of putting together traditional ingredients, cross-cultural integration, and innovation. That said, there are still some nachos that are better than others.

Nachos Mexican Grille & More is where you’ll find authentic Mexican food, including the best nachos in Lincoln, NH. Check out our menu today and have a taste of the best Tex-Mex food!

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