DIY Healthier Homemade Nacho Bar

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Plan a super fun night at home with this DIY Healthier Nacho Bar. While it's not all real food approved, the chips are still deep-fried, you can still make a healthier cheesy queso that is perfect for your DIY Nacho Bar using only a few real ingredients.
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How to set up a DIY Nacho Bar with healthier toppings!

It’s hard not to love nachos! While the chips are always going to be deep-fried (i.e., NOT real food), there are ways to make the rest of your nachos reasonably healthy!

So, just in time for Cinco de Mayo this weekend, I thought it’d be fun to throw a little DIY Nacho Bar Party to see just how many good-for-you toppings I could come up with—I’d say I was able to think of a few, LOL. Okay, I may have gone a little overboard, but it was fun, and the leftovers were epic. You could easily do an awesome nacho bar with half of what you see here! And don’t forget to print out a free copy of ingredients and instructions at the end of this post.

What to include in your DIY (Healthier) Nacho Bar!

I’d say most of these toppings are optional depending on your preferences and commitment level, except for the chips and cheese of course!

  • Chips
    I opted for both regular and blue corn chips.
  • Beans
    Either refried (pinto) or black beans would be great. I used this Slow Cooker Refried Bean recipe, but I also have a shortcut one I used on Huevos Rancheros. You could also use the easy black bean recipe from this newer Cuban Bowl post.
  • Meat
    So many options…I was honestly having trouble deciding what to do! I used the ground meat + homemade seasoning mix from my first cookbook (we prefer ground pork, but ground beef works as well), but what would be equally great is the Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas recipe.
  • Homemade Cheese Sauce
    I’m sharing a basic recipe below, but I also have another recipe with more flavoring added in an older post here.
  • Sliced Sweet Mini Bell Peppers
    I thought these would be a great healthier alternative to the chips—and they were! Also, those who couldn’t eat the chips (as I explain below) piled the peppers high. I added a few of these to my plate to displace some of the chips (i.e., not eat so many).
  • Shaved Red Cabbage
    You could also offer shaved iceberg lettuce or green cabbage instead.
  • Pico de Gallo
    I used the recipe from my Fish Taco dinner in my second (blue) Fast & Fabulous cookbook. You could also sub tomato salsa.
  • Green (Tomatillo) Salsa
    The Trader’s Joe brand is pretty clean, so I usually buy that or make my own using the recipe from the Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas post.
  • Guacamole
    You could also sub sliced avocado here. I used the recipe from the lunch section in my first 100 Days of Real Food Cookbook.
  • Pepper/Onion Mix
    For this, I simply diced a regular onion and two bell peppers (red and green) and just sauteed them in a little olive oil. You could also add some seasonings if you’d like, such as cumin, oregano, or chili powder.
  • Raw Red Onion (diced)
    You could sub green onions here.
  • Cilantro
  • Sliced Radishes 
  • Sour Cream
  • Sliced Jalapenos
  • Hot Sauce
A healthier nacho bar set up on a counter with ground meat, cheese sauce, nachos, and tons of toppings.

This is my daughter’s plate (below), and I’d say she did okay with getting plenty of veggies piled on! Some of our little friends (who are boys—but I’m not naming names!) just stuck with meat and cheese only, but what can you do?! They did eat the watermelon that we had on the side. :)

Plate full of nachos, veggies, and homemade queso from DIY Nacho bar.

That was honestly one of the great things about setting this up as a buffet though—everyone could pick and choose what they wanted (and I’m not just talking about the boys)! One of our guests, who is eating vegan (plus also avoiding oil), and another guest, who is doing a low-carb diet, could still pile their plates high with plenty of approved options. I put the mini sliced bell peppers out just for them as a chip alternative, and I am glad I did.


Now here’s that recipe for the queso. I’d love to hear how this goes at your house…please share in the comments below!

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  1. Thanks for the great tips. I’ve been looking for more easy dinner ideas and this one is a winner. The best part is that we can use the leftovers for burritos or even for breakfast the next morning.

  2. 4 stars
    I love this idea. Thanks so much for sharing. I do love a nacho, but don’t like to make it too much as I want the kids to eat healthy so this is perfect!

  3. I love Mexican food, but my husband is on an allergy elimination diet and cannot have corn, beans, wheat or tomato. We had a nacho night with sweet potato and plantain chips, and I made a mango salsa. We also smoked some pulled chicken for the meat, plus had other veggie toppings, and thankfully he can still have real dairy cheese and sour cream! He misses the “real thing,” but the substitutes definitely helped satisfy the cravings!

  4. It’s actually very quick and easy to make your own chips without deep frying. Corn tortillas, a tiny bit of oil sprayed on, add a touch of salt. Bake til crispy. Much better for you and very tasty.

  5. When do you add the cheese in your cheese sause recipe? I dont see it in the directions but it is in the ingredient list.

  6. This looks like a really fun idea. Thank you for sharing! I have your cookbooks and always love trying your recipes! It looks like the cheese sauce recipe above leaves out the step of adding the cheese? Maybe I missed it. But I look forward to trying this on Cinco de Mayo!

    1. Looks very similar to my recipe. The cumin and chili powder is a must for depth of flavor without added heat. I save the cayenne, for my husband’s portion as my kids do not care for spicy food.