How to Make Campfire Nachos

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 plate full of cheesy nachos?

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Campfire Nachos in a Dutch Oven over a campfire.

As irresistible bar food and/or lazy weeknight dinner, nachos seem ideally suited to be a camping staple. These Campfire Nachos 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!

Adding cheese to a dutch oven full of tortilla chips

If you’re going to eat nachos for dinner (an act which we fully endorse), then you have to 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.

Pouring el pato sauce over a dutch oven full of nachos
Michael picking up a chip with nacho toppings

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.

Campfire Nachos 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.

A camping dutch oven full of nachos with cheese, beans, and avocados


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.

Other Dutch oven recipes

Dutch Oven Enchiladas
One Pot Chili Mac
Dutch Oven Chili
How to Season Cast Iron
More Dutch Oven Recipes

Nachos in a Dutch oven on a campfire grate

Campfire Nachos

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?
Author: Fresh Off The Grid
4.8 from 48 votes
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
2 servings for dinner, or 4 servings as an appetizer


  • 1 tablespoon neutral flavored oil
  • ½ 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


  • Lightly oil the bottom of a large dutch oven, to prevent the nachos from sticking.
  • For the first layer, evenly spread ⅓ of the chips into the dutch oven, topped with ¼ can El Pato, ¼ can black beans, ¼ cup cheese, and a handful of avocado, green onions, and cilantro. Repeat for the second layer.
  • For the third and final layer, use the remaining ⅓ portion of chips, ½ can El Pato, ½ can black beans, ½ cup cheese, and the remaining avocado, onion, and cilantro.
  • 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.

Nutrition (Per Serving)

Calories: 987kcal
*Nutrition is an estimate based on information provided by a third-party nutrition calculator
Appetizer, Main Course
camping food, dutch oven
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  1. 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.4 stars

  2. 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.

    1. 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 stars

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

  4. 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:

    1. 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.

  5. 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 keeper4 stars

  6. This looks simple.. we are going camping this weekend and looking forward to trying this. I hope I don’t mess it up. its the first time I will actually have to prepare something thats not burger s and hotdogs for a camping meal….

  7. This was delicious! I added some grilled chicken breast meat. Served with salsa and guacamole. Thanks for the recipe!

  8. We used this recipe primitive camping in July. It was amazing. We used a deep square foil roasting pan. It took less time to heat but nothing burned. My kids and husband devoured it. We will def be making this again.5 stars

  9. Even though I had to make some small changes, it really turned out great, with a very delicious taste (to which I didn’t expect) 🙂 My husband and I loved the campfire nachos. Thank you for the recipe 🙂5 stars

  10. I’ve never had more demands for a camp recipe after making these the other night to share with our annual Yosemite group; will make again for sure!5 stars

    1. You can absolutely use a Dutch oven on a propane stove, but some recipes will really require the top-down heat from placing coals on top of the lid. For this recipe, if you have enough liquid at the bottom (from the beans, tomatoes, or El Pato sauce) the steam generated might be enough to melt the cheese if you only heated it from the bottom. But top-down heat from charcoals on the lid would be far preferable. So this recipe might work, but many other Dutch Oven recipes (like baking recipes) won’t work over a propane stove at all.

  11. Finding this site was a Godsend! Perfect timing for our camping trip to Baxter State Park and hiking Mt. Katahdin! And some of these recipes look so good, I can’t wait…going to make the nachos tonight for dinner!

  12. Can this be adjusted to do in a cast iron pan on a propane grill vs Dutch Oven on a campfire? How? Any suggestiins

    1. Yes, this in a cast-iron skillet on a propane grill. Cover with a lid or use aluminum foil. Then heat over medium-low. You want to melt the cheese (with the trapped steam), but not scorch the bottom layer of chips. Lining the bottom of your cast iron skillet with parchment paper will make for an easier cleanup.

  13. Excellent!! These are by far the easiest thing to make at a campsite. I love the layered textures of chips, beans, and cheese. I will add an extra can of beans next time and will most definitely repeat this dish!5 stars

  14. This sounds so great. How do the parchment layers come into play for this? See them listed as equipment but not in instructions. Thank you!

    1. Lining the bottom of the Dutch oven with parchment paper makes cleaning up super easier. No melty cheese to scrap off the bottom. We use parchment paper a lot when we’re baking in a Dutch oven (so things don’t stick to the bottom). But it’s perfect for nachos too.

  15. This recipe was so awesome! Just made it over the fire camping this past weekend and it turned out great. The cheese was so melty and the nachos also turned out nice and crunchy, an excellent and easy camping meal. Will definitely make this everytime I go camping in the future 😀5 stars