Top Chef Season 16 winner Kelsey Barnard Clark shares 'Bomb Nachos' tips, recipe

Kelsey Barnard Clark
These are some Bomb Nachos.

There is an art to great nachos, and it’s all about the layers, according to Kelsey Barnard Clark, Top Chef season 16 winner. Here, she's provided her tips and a recipe for the most 'Bomb Nachos' ever. 

This recipe is from Clark's latest book, Southern Grit: 100+ Down-Home Recipes for the Modern Cook, reprinted with permission from Chronicle Books.

How to make the perfect nachos

TEXTURE : The unexpected contrast of smooth and crunchy textures in each bite confuse and excite your palate.

ACID : When you feel like your nachos are “just missing something,” nine times out of ten, it’s acid. Be generous squeezing fresh lime juice over the top.

HEAT : This dish is not meant to be bland. Embrace the spice and take a chance on the fresh jalapeños.

FAT : Fat tempers the heat. It coats your mouth and is the difference between a balanced, flavor-heavy dish and an unpleasant firebomb.

COOL : Cooling elements like lettuce, avocado, and cucumbers are the mint at the end of the meal. They give each bite a refreshing finish.

Bomb Nachos recipe

Makes 8-10 servings


For the Spanish Bolognese:

2 pounds ground beef, pork, or turkey

1/2 cup olive oil

1 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped bell pepper (any variety)

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

4 cups classic salsa, store-bought

1 teaspoon cumin 1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder


For the fajita veggies:

3 cups thinly sliced bell peppers (any variety)

3 cups thinly sliced onions

1 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon garlic powder


For the nachos:

Two 16-ounce bags of tortilla chips, from your local Mexican restaurant or grocery store

2 cups canned black beans, drained and rinsed


4 cups queso fresco

2 cups queso cheese dip, storebought, melted

3 cups Homemade Salsa (recipe follows) or store-bought salsa

1 cup sour cream

1 cup sliced fresh jalapeño peppers

4 cups shredded iceberg lettuce

1 cup cilantro leaves, packed

1 cup diced or thinly sliced English cucumbers

1 cup diced or thinly sliced radishes

2 whole avocados, thinly sliced

1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced

3 limes, cut into wedges


To make the bolognese:

In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, brown the meat, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, for 10 to 12 minutes, or until just cooked through. Remove the meat and set aside.

In the same pan, combine the oil, onion, peppers, and garlic and sauté over low heat for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the onions are translucent. With the heat still on low, add the tomato paste and stir to coat the onions and peppers. Turn up the heat to high and deglaze the pan with the red wine vinegar, scraping the bottom of the pan to remove browned bits. Cook for 2 more minutes, or until the vinegar has almost evaporated.

Add the salsa, 2 cups of water, the meat, cumin, paprika, and garlic and onion powders and let simmer over medium heat for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened and reduced, leaving very little liquid in the pan. Season with salt.

To make the veggies:

In a large sauté pan over high heat, sauté the peppers and onions with olive oil, stirring frequently to avoid sticking, for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the onions are golden brown. Remove from the heat and stir in the paprika and garlic powder. Season with salt.

To assemble the nachos: Preheat the oven to 350. On two half-sheet pans, spread out the chips. Evenly layer the Spanish Bolognese, Fajita Veggies, and black beans over the chips, then add a few more chips to create more crunch, and sprinkle with salt. Sprinkle with the crumbled queso fresco and drizzle 1 cup of the warmed queso cheese dip over the top. Bake for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the cheese is just melted.

After removing the chips from the oven, spoon the salsa over the top, then add dollops of sour cream, and drizzle with the remaining warm queso cheese dip. Layer with jalapeños, then iceberg lettuce. Evenly sprinkle with the cilantro, cucumber and radish. Add slices of avocado and top with green onions. Serve on trays with lime wedges on the side. I typically offer forks and knives for eating, as these nachos are the quintessential beautiful mess. 

Homemade Salsa

Makes 4 cups


One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

One 7-ounce can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce

1/2 cup chopped red onion

1/4 cup chopped jalapeño pepper

1/4 cup cilantro leaves, packed

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

2 garlic cloves

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon smoked paprika


Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and process to the desired consistency. I prefer mine smooth with some texture.