Build-Your-Own Nacho Bar with Homemade Nacho Cheese Sauce & World’s Best Guacamole

December 4, 2019 (Last Updated: June 30, 2020)
This post may contain affiliate links, which means that I may receive a commission if you make a purchase using these links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Whether you’re hosing game night or a game day gathering, a Build-You-Own Nacho Bar is perfect for a crowd. With easy recipes for homemade Nacho Cheese Sauce (Queso) and the world’s best Guacamole (for real!) you will definitely win the nacho game every time.

bowls filled with various toppings for nachos

One of my favorite bar foods is loaded nachos. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as crispy tortilla chips topping with gooey cheese, spicy taco meat, beans, salsa, guacamole, sour cream, etc etc etc etc… You get the picture. I’ve eaten a lot of nachos in bars, and I always like seeing how different places put their own unique spin on a popular favorite.

A plate of loaded nachos with cheese sauce and guacamole

When I’m gathering friends in my home, I love to feed them! It’s fun coming up with different menu ideas for game nights and such to keep things interesting. A relatively easy but super satisfying option for your next get-together is a build-your-own nacho bar. It’s a bit more playful than a build-your-own taco bar (which is also awesome by the way), and it’s perfect for football watching, or anything watching really.

What ingredients to include for the nachos

Almost every component can be prepared in advance and either reheated or set out at room temperature. There are lots of options for meats that are great on nachos. I’ve listed a few below, but opted for a simple, straight-forward taco beef for my nacho bar.

bowls of nacho toppings including guacamole, olives, and jalapenos

Nearly all of the toppings can be store-bought, but I do encourage you to make a few of the fixings yourself, as homemade really does taste better. For example, my homemade pickled jalapenos are THE BEST. My refrigerator is always fully stocked with jars, and everyone who has tried them has flipped out over them. I actually will not eat a store-bought pickled jalapeno. I don’t like them very much. Mine are exponentially better, and very easy to make.

nacho toppings in bowls including cheese sauce, beans, and sour cream

I also suggest making guacamole from scratch. You can easily buy store-bought guac, but why would you when it’s so simple to make yourself? You might laugh at my proclamation that my guacamole is the world’s best since it seems like an outrageous joke, and only contains five ingredients (including the salt), but trust me. I will put my guacamole up against anyone’s. Much like the jalapenos, I have had countless people swoon after tasting my guac. The key is the generous amount of garlic, and the ground coriander. Yes, I’ve made guacamole before with other ingredients, like fresh cilantro, fresh jalepeno, red onion, and chopped tomato, and although there’s nothing wrong with those ingredients, I don’t think you need them to create an out-of-this-world guacamole. Try my recipe and tell me what you think!

close up of loaded nachos with cheese sauce and guacamole

Last but certainly not least, let’s discuss the nacho cheese sauce or queso. Call it whatever you want, but for a build-your-own nacho bar it’s a key component! You also want to make sure you keep it hot otherwise it’s just a block of soft cheese in a bowl 🙂 Making a gooey and delicious cheese sauce is incredibly easy. You don’t need to make a roux and a bechamel sauce like you normally would for macaroni and cheese. I’ve seen other nacho cheese sauce recipes that start that way, and I don’t think it’s necessary. Try the recipe below instead. It’s as easy as grating cheese, tossing the cheese with cornstarch, then combining with canned evaporated milk and hot sauce. Heat and stir. Easy peasy.

Homemade nacho cheese sauce (queso)

I used a combination of sharp cheddar cheese and American cheese. You could replace the American with more cheddar, or try some Jack cheese, but I love the way American cheese melts and tastes (I’m talking about Land ‘o Lakes, not Kraft!). This cheddar-forward sauce is definitely an improvement on a tub of melted Velveeta and Rotel, so adding a little processed cheese for texture is fine in my book. You may want something like this mini dipper or a small fondue pot to keep your cheese sauce warm.

Tortilla chip dipped in homemade nacho cheese sauce (queso)

Build-Your-Own Nacho Bar Ingredients

Tortilla chips
Taco Meat (double the recipe if serving a larger crowd)
Guajillo-Braised Beef Short Ribs
Shot-and-a-Beer Braised Chicken
Achiote-Rubbed Grilled Chicken
Canned black beans or pinto beans, drained and rinsed OR canned refried beans
Canned black olives, drained and sliced
Pickled jalapenos (homemade is best!)
Salsa (homemade is best!)
Sour cream or Mexican crema
Nacho Cheese Sauce (recipe follows)
World’s Best Guacamole (recipe follows)
Sliced scallions and/or fresh cilantro

All toppings (except guacamole) can be made ahead of time. Meats can even be frozen and later reheated.

Set all the nacho bar fixings into bowls. Make sure your cheese sauce is heated, and in a vessel that can keep it hot such as a small slow cooker or fondue pot (worst case scenario, leave it on low heat on your stove-top and stir it periodically). You can also keep the meat hot in the same way.

overhead view of a plate of loaded nachos

Have you ever had a build-your-own nacho bar? What were your favorite toppings? Let me know in the comments!

Spoonful of nacho cheese sauce in a small crockpot

Nacho Cheese Sauce

This super easy nacho cheese sauce, or queso, is perfect for dipping or drizzling over nachos.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Total Time 15 mins
Course Appetizer, Snack
Cuisine American, Mexican
Servings 10 to 12 servings (2 1/2 to 3 cups)
Calories 156 kcal


  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar grated
  • 4 ounces American cheese preferably Land ‘o Lakes, grated or chopped if pre-sliced
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 2 teaspoons hot sauce such as Frank’s Red Hot


  • Toss the grated cheeses and cornstarch together in a medium saucepan, and add the evaporated milk and hot sauce.
  • Heat over medium-low heat, stirring regularly until the cheese melts. Continue to stir until the mixture begins to bubble and thicken.
  • Remove from the heat, transfer to a small slow cooker or fondue pot to keep warm. Serve immediately.

Notes & Nutrition

  • You can substitute more cheddar or Monterey Jack for the American cheese, if you prefer.
Servings 10.0 * calories 156 * Total Fat 12 g * Saturated Fat 8 g * Monounsaturated Fat 0 g * Polyunsaturated Fat 0 g * Trans Fat 0 g * Cholesterol 36 mg * Sodium 334 mg * Potassium 54 mg * Total Carbohydrate 4 g * Dietary Fiber 0 g * Sugars 3 g * Protein 8 g
*All nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered estimates. Actual nutritional content will vary with brands used, measuring methods, portion sizes and more.*
Nachos with cheese sauce, sour cream, salsa, olives, black beans, and guacamole

World’s Best Guacamole

Truly the world's best guacamole! This slightly chunky guac is super garlicky, and extremely easy to make in no time at all. It's great as a snack, and excellent dolloped atop a plate of nachos.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Total Time 10 mins
Course Appetizer, Snack
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 10 servings (2 to 2 1/2 cups)
Calories 103 kcal


  • 4 ripe Haas avocados
  • Juice of 1 lime about 2 tablespoons
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced/crushed garlic
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt or as needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander


  • Halve avocados and carefully remove the pits. Add the pits to a medium mixing bowl (the pits will keep the avocados from oxidizing). Using a sharp knife, slice the avocado flesh (still in the skin) diagonally into 1/4-inch slices, then slice again in the opposite direction to create cubes. Repeat for the remaining avocado halves. Use a spoon to scoop out the flesh and add flesh to the mixing bowl.
  • Add the lime juice, crushed garlic, salt, and ground coriander, and mix well. You want some of the avocado to mash up as you mix, but retain some of the cubes for a hybrid smooth/chunky guacamole. Serve immediately.

Notes & Nutrition

Servings 10.0 * calories 103 * Total Fat 9 g * Saturated Fat 1 g * Monounsaturated Fat 6 g * Polyunsaturated Fat 1 g * Trans Fat 0 g * Cholesterol 0 mg * Sodium 112 mg * Potassium 307 mg * Total Carbohydrate 7 g * Dietary Fiber 6 g * Sugars 0 g * Protein 0 g
*All nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered estimates. Actual nutritional content will vary with brands used, measuring methods, portion sizes and more.*

Pin it for Later!

all the fixings for a nacho bar served in bowls


  • Reply
    January 16, 2020 at 9:23 pm

    5 stars
    I love both of these recipes SO much. They are both the perfect football foods. I’ve tried so many different recipes for guacamole, but this one is my absolute favorite!! And the homemade cheese sauce just can’t be beat!

  • Reply
    Mary Kabakian
    January 26, 2020 at 1:32 pm

    5 stars
    What a fun idea for parties!

  • Leave a Reply

    Recipe Rating