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Popcorn Nachos

When we think of nachos, we think of the Mexican dish of fried tortilla chips covered with cheese and, often, a whole lot of toppings. Our version, popcorn nachos, replaces the chips with our fluffy movie theater popcorn. Still crunchy, still great with cheese, healthier than fried chips and, also, our favorite snack.

The options for nacho toppings are endless. Beef and grilled chicken are common, as are salsa, tomatoes, beans, corn, chili peppers, olives, sour cream, avocado, guacamole and herbs plus probably a dozen more we haven’t thought of.

The dish originated in the early 1940’s by a man named Ignacio Anaya (Nacho is the common nickname for Ignacio). As the story goes, he worked at the Victory Club restaurant in a Mexican town just over the border from Texas. A customer asked if he could bring her and her friends a snack. Anaya cut some tortillas into triangles, fried them, added shredded cheese and sliced pickled jalapeno peppers then served them to the ladies. When asked what the dish was called, he responded ‘Nacho’s special.’ He eventually opened his own restaurant and his recipe for ‘nachos’ was printed in a cookbook in the 1950’s.

The new snack dish quickly became popular and variations abounded. Anaya himself died in 1975 and his town erected a plaque in his honor. October 21 was declared International Nacho Day.

Some variations are closer to the spirit of the original snack than others. Adding browned ground beef and grilled chicken or steak is common. In the southern United States, nachos are frequently topped with barbeque sauce, pulled pork and jalapeños or hot sauce. In ballparks, stadiums and other concession stands, the cheese is often a pumped cheese sauce thus making for quick preparation. There are even dessert nachos, usually with cinnamon sugar added to the fried tortilla chips.

We love every form of nachos but, for this recipe, we wanted to keep to the original tradition of it being a quick and easy snack. But, of course, we changed up one of the original key ingredients. Tortilla chips are delicious but can also get soggy quickly. We’ve found that baking the popcorn with a layer of cheese stays crunchy for quite a bit longer. We kept the toppings quick and light with black beans (canned is fine), freshly chopped tomatoes, fresh guacamole and dollops of sour cream. We added chopped cilantro for that fresh Mexican herb taste. However, before you come for us that it tastes like soap to you, substituting parley is just fine.

Although we left off the fresh jalapenos, we replaced them with our white cheddar and jalapeno popcorn seasoning. The salty, cheesy, slightly spicy blend is perfect to top this quick and delicious snack.

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