Can you air fry nachos? Heck yes, you can! These air fryer nachos with ground beef are loaded with all the good stuff! Shredded cheese, refried beans, pickled jalapenos, pico de gallo salsa... you get the picture. Learn all you need to know to make the best air fryer loaded nachos, pick the healthiest nacho chips, and more! This is one air fryer snack recipe you don’t want to miss!
Oh friends, you are in for a treat today! We’re making air fryer nachos with shredded cheese and all the fixings. My family was nuts about this one, and I think you will be too.
The air fryer was practically made for nacho making. It could not be easier to throw your chips and protein foods on an air fryer tray. Then all you have to do is wait about 3 minutes to air fry the cheese into melty perfection.
If you throw enough veggies on top, you’re may even get all of your food groups in with this one. I can almost justify serving a plate of these nachos for a scrumptious family dinner.
In full disclosure, we did have these for dinner, so I guess I can justify it. Haha
This recipe is a bit of a departure from how I usually eat. It was a nice surprise for the family and we all enjoyed it. I think if we had meals or snacks like this all of the time, it wouldn’t be as special.
I understand that some fare better with a bit more rigidity in their dietary pattern. If this is you, I’ve got some ideas to modify this recipe for special diets (such as low carb and vegetarian) in the FAQs. So how about we get this party started?
The BEST Tortilla Chips for Nachos
Some people mostly prioritize taste when choosing foods, others prioritize health. Most of us want the best of both worlds! So how do you choose the best air fryer nacho chips?
So, here’s the deal. The most nutritious chips for nachos if you are limiting ultra-processed foods are baked chips made with homemade tortillas. I’ll share how I make these below.
Pretty much all store-bought tortillas fall into the ultra-processed food category. They typically have preservatives and other additives included to help elongate shelf-life. Additionally, they often contain refined flour (if flour tortillas), low-quality vegetable shortening, and added sugar.
So, making baked tortilla chips from store-bought tortillas is not generally the most nutritious choice. Perhaps surprisingly, it can be easier to find store-bought tortilla chips with a much shorter ingredients list. The downside to the store-bought chips is that they typically contain highly refined seed oils and they are fried.
When I buy nacho chips, here’s the ingredients list I look for:
- Trace of lime
- Salt (optional)
The chips don’t need anything else! The trace of lime is important because it indicates the chips were prepared using the process of nixtamalization. This is where the corn is cooked and soaked in an alkaline solution before it’s dried and ground.
Nixtamalization is a very old process (Aztecs used it). It’s beneficial nutritionally because it helps to increase the bioavailability of the niacin (vitamin B3) in the corn.
Mi Nina White Corn Tortilla Chips is a brand I found that fits my above criteria. Check the labels of the tortilla chips where you shop and I’m sure you’ll find others.
Why make air fryer nachos? Here are a few of my reasons:
- Gluten-Free (and can fit other special diets): You can pretty easily make this air fryer recipe fit whatever special diet you are on. Since most corn tortilla chips are gluten-free, these nachos are naturally gluten free. You can also modify the ingredients to make this low carb, vegetarian, or allergen friendly.
- Simple to Customize for Picky Eaters: Have a kid that hates spicy foods? Skip the jalapenos on their plate. You can modify this one easily so that your finicky family members will enjoy it. No making a separate dish!
- Easy Meal or Snack: This one’s pretty simple. Just brown the meat with taco seasoning, and pile your ingredients on the chips. If you have an air fryer oven, you can even use a foil-lined tray as your plate! (Watch out though, it’s going to be hot!)
- HUGE Family Pleaser: If you’re normally a health foodie type of person, this one is going to surprise and delight your family. I think it’s fun sometimes to shake things up and do something a little out of character.
What do you need to make nachos in an air fryer? Essentially, all you need are the tortilla chips and your favorite nacho toppings! Here are the ingredients that go into the air fryer:
- Tortilla chips (made from scratch or store-bought)
- Refried beans
- Ground beef (cooked with store-bought or homemade taco seasoning)
- Shredded cheese
IMVHO, the best cheese for nachos is either shredded Mexican cheese, shredded cheddar cheese, or shredded pepper jack cheese. Feel free to experiment with your favorite shredded cheese variety.
I prefer to make my own taco seasoning. It uses spices I always have in the house, shortening my grocery list. Additionally, homemade taco seasoning is one more way I can limit my intake of ultra-processed foods.
Here’s the blend I prefer for taco seasoning:
- Chili powder
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
- Red pepper flakes
- Dried oregano
- Salt and pepper
And here’s what I like to add after the nachos have been air fried:
- Pico de gallo (or another type of salsa)
- Guacamole (or chopped avocado)
- Sliced scallions
- Pickled jalapeno
- Non-fat plain Greek yogurt (thinned with milk for better drizzling)
Don’t be afraid to make this recipe your own! You could swap the beef for shredded chicken or shredded pork. You could also pile on some corn, chopped tomatoes, sliced olives, roasted red peppers, or whatever other veggies sound good.
You can make this air fryer nachos recipe with whatever air fryer you have on hand! Make Ninja air fryer nachos, etc. Just remember that you may need to adjust the cooking times and directions a little if you are using a different air fryer than I do.
I use a 10-Quart Kalorik Digital Air Fryer Oven and it works great for this recipe. It comes with two baking trays and a drip pan. Each of these items can be used as a “plate” for an individual serving of nachos.
The downside is that you can only cook one serving of nachos at a time in the air fryer. Even though I have a large capacity fryer, it’s important not to overcrowd the food. This will prevent the air from circulating around the machine properly.
If you have an air fryer with a basket, you should still be able to make this recipe. Line the air fryer basket with foil to make a sort of “bowl.” Then fill the bowl with the chips and toppings that you’ll air fry.
The other pieces of kitchen equipment that are helpful here are a cast-iron skillet and a good knife. The skillet will be used to brown the beef while the knife will be used to chop the veggies.
Air Fryer Nachos with Tortillas
If you’ll be making homemade tortilla chips for this recipe, you’ll need to do that first. (If you’re using store-bought chips, scroll on down to the next section!)
Before you go to the trouble of DIY tortilla chips, I want to share three downsides:
- A lot of extra kitchen work
- Not as tasty as nachos made with store-bought chips (subjective, but 3 out of 3 of us agreed)
- Much higher in calories than using store-bought chips
In general, you will not be able to roll your tortillas as thin as store-bought chips. This means you’ll need a much larger weight of chips to adequately cover your air fryer tray. More chips means a lot more calories!
That said, if you really want the homemade option, make sure to roll your homemade tortillas as thin as possible. I use a tortilla press, but my chips still ended up being a little thicker than I wanted.
Start by making and cooking your favorite tortilla recipe. Corn tortillas or a corn and whole wheat flour mix is best here. Butter for All’s delicious Homemade Sourdough Corn Tortillas is my go-to tortilla recipe. (It’s a great use for my Sourdough Bread Starter discard!)
After your tortillas have cooked and cooled, cut them into ⅙s. Spritz the chips with cooking spray and spread them in a single (not-touching) layer on your air fryer rack(s).
Air fry the chips at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for three minutes. Then flip them and switch the position of the racks in your air fryer oven. Air fry for an additional three minutes at 400F.
Remove the nacho chips from the air fryer oven and salt them immediately. Let them cool, they’ll crisp up a bit more. Then they are ready to be used in the air fried nachos recipe.
How to Air Fry Nachos
First up, brown your beef in a skillet with water and taco seasoning. Use a spatula to break up the crumbles as they brown over medium heat. This will take about 10 minutes.
Next, prepare your air fryer tray. If you are using a tray with holes, line it with foil. If you use the air fryer’s solid drip pan, you don’t need the foil.
Put a layer of tortilla chips on the prepared tray. You want the tray to be completely covered in overlapping chips. This took about 2.5 ounces of chips in my case.
Warm the refried beans on the stovetop or in the microwave. Put small scoops of the beans all over the chips on the tray. Sprinkle ⅓ of your seasoned and cooked beef over the top.
You can use the rest of the beef for additional servings of nachos, or set it aside to top a salad or another recipe. Your choice!
Sprinkle shredded cheese all over your tray of nachos. You want some good coverage; the cheese helps everything else to adhere to the nachos. I used a generous 2 ounces of cheese in my cheese blanket.
Place the tray of nachos in the upper rack position in the air fryer oven. Air fry for 3 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. The cheese should be lovely and melty.
Now you can top the nachos however you wish. I used Greek yogurt, pico de gallo, guacamole, sliced green onions, and pickled jalapenos. I thinned the yogurt with a bit of milk to make it drizzly.
Enjoy your nachos immediately after topping. Cold nachos are not so great but warm nachos are simply the best!
How to Serve Nachos
To serve nachos, simply top with your favorite toppings and have at it! You could set up a nacho bar with lots of toppings so everyone in your family can add what they wish.
If you’re the sort of person who likes to make everything from scratch, here’s some homemade nacho toppings:
- Try the Pico de Gallo from my Savory Oatmeal Breakfast Recipe
- Make Your Own Homemade Yogurt without Fancy Equipment
- Alternatively, try my Instant Pot Yogurt Recipe
- Try the Guacamole or the Black Bean and Corn Salsa from my Vegan Burrito Bowl Recipe
Expert Tips from a Dietitian
This is a level 3 recipe (weight maintenance and active lifestyles). Hey, let’s not kid ourselves. A plate of loaded nachos is pretty much never going to be an optimal meal for weight loss. The main issue is the fried chips.
I am listing a completely realistic serving size for these nachos, not some idealized version of what we “should” be eating. The amount of chips per serving in this recipe is 2.5 times the amount on the bag. That’s how most of us roll (and I know some can finish the whole bag of chips by themselves).
If you put all of your nacho toppings over greens instead of chips, you’d knock off about 300 calories per serving. You’d have a pretty good meal there, with plenty of protein and veggies, for around 500 calories.
But it wouldn’t be *nachos* it would be a salad. If you want actual nachos, in a reasonable (i.e., semi-filling) portion, it’s not going to be low calorie.
I’m sorry I haven’t figured out a way to make the magic that would be weight loss nachos happen. Trust me, I want them to exist just as much as you do. Haha
If I ever do figure out a way to make actual (not “healthified”) low-calorie nachos, I’ll share here first. Swapping low carb chips for the corn chips here typically provides more protein, but won’t likely make a lower calorie dish. Since low carb chips are ultra-processed, you may find them just as easy to overeat as regular chips.
If you fare well as a moderator, you’ll be able to enjoy this recipe as an occasional indulgence. If you know you don’t do well with dietary moderation, I’d go the salad route and skip the chips.
You can try reheating nachos in an air fryer set to 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 2-3 minutes. Keep in mind that nachos are at their best when they are fresh! I would scrape off toppings that should not be reheated (e.g., guacamole, salsa, sour cream) before reheating.
Aren’t soggy nachos the worst? To prevent sogginess, it’s important not to keep the chips sitting in sauces for too long. If you’ve added queso, salsa, or other liquid-y ingredients to the chips, it’s important to eat them right away.
I've seen low carb “nachos” made with thin slices of roasted cauliflower rather than tortilla chips. If you’re not feeling quite so virtuous, simply swap out the corn chips for your favorite low carb chips. Quest chips are one popular option, though I have not tried using them in this recipe.
Sometimes I use black beans in this recipe instead of the beef for air fryer nachos that are vegetarian. Pinto beans are another good option for a swap.
Air frying nachos doesn’t reduce fat or calories compared to baking them in an oven. Since the base of loaded nachos is always a huge pile of fried tortilla chips, I would not say air fryer nachos are the healthiest option. That said, you can pile lots of veggies and proteins on top to get some more nutritious foods in there.
Other Air Fryer Snack Recipes
Looking for more easy air fryer recipes using frozen foods? When time is short but everyone is hungry, check out these recipes for the air fryer:
- Air Fryer Potato Skins
- Air Fryer Fried Mushrooms
- Vegan Oyster Mushroom Jerky (in Air Fryer)
- Air Fryer Maduros that are Cooked Like Tostones
- Air Fryer Jicama Fries
All recipes on this website may or may not be appropriate for you, depending on your medical needs and personal preferences. Consult with a registered dietitian or your physician if you need help determining the dietary pattern that may be best for you.
The nutrition information is an estimate provided as a courtesy. It will differ depending on the specific brands and ingredients that you use. Calorie information on food labels may be wildly inaccurate, so please don't sweat the numbers too much.
For more information on how the three recipe levels may help with a weight management goal, refer to my overnight oats with yogurt post. Let's get cooking!
Air Fryer Nachos
- 8 ounces lean ground beef (227 grams)
- 1 tablespoon taco seasoning (store-bought or homemade; see notes below)
- ¼ cup water
- 2.5 ounces tortilla chips 71 grams (enough to cover the air fryer tray; can use store-bought or homemade)
- ½ cup refried beans
- 2 ounces shredded pepper jack cheese (57 grams; can substitute Mexican cheese or cheddar cheese)
For the nacho toppings:
- 2 tablespoons Greek yogurt, plain, non-fat (can thin with a little milk if desired)
- 4 tablespoons pico de gallo (or another salsa)
- 2 tablespoons guacamole
- 1 tablespoon sliced scallions
- 1 tablespoon pickled jalapenos
- Put a skillet on the stovetop over medium heat. Add the beef, taco seasoning, and water. Cook, using a spatula to break up the beef while it browns. It will take about 10 minutes.
- Line an air fryer tray with foil. If you are using a tray with no holes, you don't need the foil.
- Put the tortilla chips on the prepared tray. The tray should be completely covered with overlapping chips. Feel free to add more or fewer as needed.
- Warm the refried beans in the microwave or on the stovetop. Cover the tortilla chips on the tray with small scoops of beans.
- Sprinkle ⅓ of the cooked beef over the chips. Save the rest of the seasoned beef to use for more servings of nachos or another recipe.
- Put the shredded cheese all over the tray of nachos. You want good cheese coverage here!
- Place the tray of nachos in the upper rack position in the air fryer oven. Air fry for 3 minutes at 350°F (175°C). The cheese should melt in this time.
- After air frying, top the nachos with plain yogurt, pico de gallo, guacamole, scallions, and pickled jalapenos. Enjoy immediately - nachos are best served warm!
Seasoning for Beef NachosUse this blend in place of store-bought taco seasoning, if you wish. (Adapted from AllRecipes.)
- ½ tablespoon chili powder
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon salt (cut in half if your chili powder has salt)
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon paprika
- ⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
- ⅛ teaspoon onion powder
- ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ⅛ teaspoon dried oregano