The Expert-Approved Melting Cheeses For Homemade Nachos

No matter what style of homemade nachos you're going for, whether they be classic "nachos especiales" with baked-on toppings or ballpark nachos, where you cover the chips in a pool of cheesy goop, one crucial factor (besides the chips staying crunchy) is that the cheese needs to melt. When it comes to melting, though, not all cheeses were created equal — certain types of shredded not-quite-cheese from Dollar Tree, for example, are notorious for their refusal to do so. Then, what cheese should you choose? MegaMenu asked chef Rick Martinez, author of "Mi Cocina: Recipes and Rapture from my Kitchen in Mexico," and he went into raptures over a few different kinds. (Just kidding, he merely recommended them.)

According to Martinez, your best cheese choices are queso Chihuahua, quesillo, cheddar (mild or medium, not sharp), and Monterey Jack. If you want a spicier cheese base for your nachos, you could also opt for pepper Jack, since it's basically the same as its Monterey counterpart with the addition of its eponymous ingredient.

Don't get too fancy and use any aged cheese, though. While aging may improve the taste of a cheese, it does not have the same effect on its texture. As Martinez tells us, "The longer it's aged, the harder it becomes and the more likely it will separate or get lumpy when melted." He recommends that you only use cheeses under a year old, so you should be fine with most supermarket kinds as long as you avoid sharper cheddars.

These cheeses won't work for nachos

While all of Rick Martinez's cheese suggestions are top-notch, if you're feeling experimental, you might want to branch out into other cheeses. If you do, keep in mind that different factors besides aging affect a cheese's ability to melt.

One of these factors is moisture, and here you have to apply the Goldilocks principle: You don't want cheese that's too dry, like parmesan, since it will either be crumbly or oily — on the other hand, a too-soft option like brie or cream cheese (which is considered a real cheese) might be very runny and slide right off of your chips. What you need for nachos is a "just right" semi-hard cheese, instead.

Some types of cheese — these include cottage, feta, paneer, and ricotta — are curdled with acid, which gives them a bit of tang but also helps them keep their shape when cooked. Swiss cheese isn't the best melting cheese, either, although this is because it's relatively low in fat. (Any cheeses labeled "low fat" or "part-skim" are also to be avoided for nacho-making purposes.) Even mozzarella and provolone, while they might make great pizza-toppers, are more stretchy than they are melty, so again, they shouldn't be your first choice for nachos. Halloumi is not only expensive, of course, but also, its main claim to fame is staying in one piece when heated. For these reasons, it is also "nacho" best bet for topping tortilla chips.