How to Make Campfire Nachos

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A beloved happy hour classic, now being served at a campground near you. What better way to end the day outside than with a cold beer, warm campfire, and a big pot full of cheesy nachos?

Campfire Nachos made in a Dutch oven are a simple, fast, and easy camping meal that the whole family will enjoy.

As irresistible bar food and/or lazy weeknight dinner, nachos seem ideally suited to be a camping staple. They can be made from a variety of fresh and/or canned ingredients, doesn’t require any specific culinary expertise to pull off, and can be eaten with your hands.

However, the lack of a conventional oven might lead people to believe such cheesy, crunchy deliciousness isn’t achievable in the great outdoors. Not true!

By using a cast iron Dutch oven with a lid, you can make nachos no matter where you are. With a Dutch oven, you can place coals or embers on top as well as underneath, allowing you to cook your meal from both sides. However, with nachos, it’s even possible to do the whole thing on the camp stove or over a fire. So long as you include a little bit of liquid in the bottom (perhaps from your tomatoes, beans, or black olives) the steam created will melt the cheese and soften the chips slightly. The end result is tender chips, loaded with melted cheese and toppings.

While these techniques will help you make nachos at a campground, the secret to exceptional nachos lies in one simple concept: layers!

Campfire Nachos made in a Dutch oven are a simple, fast, and easy camping meal that the whole family will enjoy.

If you’re going to eat nachos for dinner (an act which we fully endorse), then you’ve got the build the meal properly from the ground up.

Think of the chips as the bricks and the cheese and toppings as the mortar. One layer of chips followed by one layer of cheese and toppings. Then, repeat. Keep stacking the layers like that until the pot is filled or you run out of supplies. And of course, every good house needs a roof, so make sure you give a double helping to the top layer.

Place over heat, pour yourself a drink, and when you get back you’ll have a Happy Hour appetizer that’s worthy of being called dinner.

Campfire Nachos made in a Dutch oven are a simple, fast, and easy camping meal that the whole family will enjoy.
Campfire Nachos made in a Dutch oven are a simple, fast, and easy camping meal that the whole family will enjoy.

Why it Works for Camping

‣ Nachos are a fun, easy, and communal meal that takes very little time to prepare.

‣ Perfect as a quick appetizer for larger groups or a full entree for two.

‣ There are very very few ways this can get screwed up. You’re essentially just melting cheese, so the barrier to entry for this meal is pretty low, even for camp cooking novices.

‣ Endless customization. What toppings make the perfect batch of nachos, only you can decide!

Mastering the Technique

‣ Layers, layers, layers. The key to exceptional nachos comes down to whether you take the time to build multiple layers of cheese and toppings. If you build your nachos correctly, each chip is a celebration of crunch, cheese, and delicious topping.

Equipment Notes

‣ While a cast iron Dutch oven is the preferred vessel for making nachos, it would also be possible to make a smaller portion in a cast iron skillet with a lid. The key is having some sort of lid to trap the steam inside to help melt the cheese and slightly soften the chips.

‣ Don’t have a lid for your Dutch oven or cast iron skillet? A sheet of aluminum foil over the top should do the trick, or you could cover it with a large plate.

Ingredient Notes

‣ Cheese selection can be highly subjective, but we prefer a mix of Sharp Cheddar, Colby, and Monterey Jack blend. You can do this yourself or pick up a bag of Shredded Mexican Cheese.

‣ If you’re using fresh ingredients like chiles, onions or uncooked meats, you’ll want to saute them first and make sure they’re cooked thoroughly before building your nachos.

‣ The fresher the ingredients the better your nachos will taste, but this meal can also rely heavily on canned pantry items like fire roasted tomatoes, black beans, roasted green chiles, or black olives.

Campfire Nachos made in a Dutch oven are a simple, fast, and easy camping meal that the whole family will enjoy.

GEAR SPOTLIGHT: Dutch Ovens

Hands down, the most versatile piece of camp cookware we own is a Dutch oven. This piece of equipment opens up a whole new world of cooking options: you can cook stews, bake lasagna, braise chicken, and of course, make these nachos! It can be used on a camp stove or directly over the fire. The short legs and rimmed lid allow you to place embers/coals on top as well as underneath, cooking your meal from both directions.

We have this Lodge version which can be found on Amazon or at REI, but the next one we buy will be this Barebones Dutch oven. The unique lid design allows you to control the steam inside, making it perfect for baking things like pizza!

Campfire Nachos made in a Dutch oven are a simple, fast, and easy camping meal that the whole family will enjoy.

Campfire Nachos

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Makes: 2 servings for dinner, or 4 servings as an appetizer
Calories: 987 kcal
Author: Fresh Off the Grid
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Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon neutral flavored oil
  • 1/2 lb tortilla chips
  • 1 (7.75 oz) can El Pato hot tomato sauce or equivalent
  • 1 cup shredded Mexican cheese blend
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can black beans drained
  • 1 large avocado cubed
  • 4-5 green onions sliced
  • handful of fresh cilantro chopped
  • 1 small lime cut into wedges

Instructions

  1. Lightly oil the bottom of a large dutch oven, to prevent the nachos from sticking.

  2. For the first layer, evenly spread 1/3 of the chips into the dutch oven, topped with 1/4 can El Pato, 1/4 can black beans, 1/4 cup cheese, and a handful of avocado, green onions, and cilantro. Repeat for the second layer.

  3. For the third and final layer, use the remaining 1/3 portion of chips, 1/2 can El Pato, 1/2 can black beans, 1/2 cup cheese, and the remaining avocado, onion, and cilantro.

  4. Cover the dutch oven and place on a metal grill over your campfire for about 10 minutes, until the cheese has melted. Serve with the lime wedges.

EQUIPMENT NEEDED

Dutch oven with lid
Dutch oven lid lifter or heatproof glove
Can opener
Cutting board & knife


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Fresh Off the Grid

Fresh Off the Grid is a culinary resource for the outdoor community. We offer a collection of recipes, how-to guides, and camp cooking gear to help elevate your outdoor experience through food and drink!

17 Comments

  1. Made this on our last campout with a variation. I added taco seasoned ground venison. 12 briquettes on the bottom and 18 on the top of my Dutch oven. About 30-45 minutes s and turned out a meal for 4. This is a keeper

  2. GUYS. I tried making this and burned the HECK out of everything in the pot. What did I do wrong?? We had the dutch oven NEAR the fire and checked after 5 minutes, everything around the edges was absolutely black and the center of the batch tasted like burned chips. This was my first attempt cooking with my new cast iron dutch oven and I feel like the worst camping cook ever D:

    • Oh boy, that's not good. Without knowing your exact setup, here are some thoughts: 1.) Possibly too high of heat. Campfires can get super hot, so even if it wasn't directly over the flames it might have been too warm - especially if you experienced burnt edges. 2.) Did you have any sort of liquid in the pot? Something like salsa / el pato tomato sauce? The liquid turns to steam when heated, which rapidly melts the cheese, and gives you a little buffer before things start to burn. Shoot us an email, if you want to discuss at greater length.

  3. Looks delicious! Would love to try on our camping trip this weekend. Just wondering, will the chips get soggy?
    Thanks!

  4. wow, doing last minute so-tired-of usual meal planning for camping trip this week... love your one pot concept. Excited to build nachos. taking our 4 year old granddaughter; this will be a hit.

    • The Nachos were a hit. Used the Dutch oven. Did some variations. We had lots of leftovers and they were yummy reheated over a.m. campfire (decadent) with eggs and coffee on the side. I think next time we might use the crispy whole round tortillas instead of corn chips. Used more cilantro. This is a keeper idea/recipe for camping!

  5. These look so fun and delicious! What a fun camping treat. :)

  6. This looks so fabulous! You guys are so creative. I never thought of making nachos on a camping trip!!

  7. Omg. Stop. Seriously guys. This looks ALMOST as good as Carl's Jr. Almost.

    (P.S. are you guys moving??)

  8. Love the idea for our next camping trip. Appreciate the recipe and the tips shared. Great content and guides here, my wife loves this stuff too and will be reading more. Thanks.

  9. That looks amazing, I have never even thought of cooking campfire nachos. I usually just stuff mt face with a packet of doritos and eat a can of baked beans.

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