This crispy cheesy fare first made it’s way into our hearts and bellies in 1943 in the Mexican city of Piedras Negras, located just across the Texas border from Eagle Pass. Ten wives of U.S. soldiers stationed at Fort Duncan were shopping in Eagle Pass and stopped at a Piedras Negras restaurant called Victory Club to eat. The restaurant had already closed for the evening, but maître d Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya decided to whip something up for the hungry women from what he could find left in the kitchen. He cut tortillas into triangles, sprinkled them with cheese, heated them and added jalapeños. When asked what the delicious new dish was called, he called them “Nacho’s especiales.” The name later lost the apostrophe and was shortened to just “nachos.” Anaya later worked at Moderno Restaurant in Piedras Negras, which still uses his original nachos recipe. He went on to open his own restaurant and his recipe was first seen in print in St. Anne’s Cookbook in 1954. The first appearance of the word “nachos” though was seen in a 1950 book called A Taste of Texas.
Throughout Texas and the southwestern United States, nachos became a wildly popular dish. A waitress named Carmen Rocha introduced nachos in San Antonio before taking the recipe with her to El Cholo restaurant in Los Angeles. In 1976, owner of Rico’s Products, Frank Liberto, tweaked the traditional nacho recipe to include a melted cheese and some special secret ingredients instead of shredded cheese. Giving nachos a longer shelf life, he began to sell his version in Arlington Stadium in Arlington, Texas during sporting events. His new invention was dubbed “ball park nachos.” Nacho prevalence spiked even more after famed Monday Night Football sportscaster Howard Cosell tried Liberto’s nachos and mentioned them during a broadcast.
After Ignacio Anaya died in 1975, a bronze plaque was erected in Piedras Negras in his honor. There is also a nacho festival held in Piedras Negras every year featuring the “biggest nacho of the world.”
Whether you like the traditional tortilla chip and shredded cheese nachos, “loaded” nachos piled high with toppings, or even the less common lobster and crab East Coast version of the nacho, today is the day to whip up your favorite recipe and dine on this delicious cheesy dish!
Check out some great classic and gourmet nacho recipes here!