Nachos were invented in Mexico. There’s a widespread perception that nachos are a Mexican-American or Tex-Mex creation, but no, they were invented just across from the border from Eagle Pass, Texas. The wives of U.S. soldiers who were stationed at a nearby fort were in Mexico on a shopping trip and arrived at a restaurant after close. The maître d’ whipped them up—you guessed it—nachos. The year was 1943, and the city was Piedras Negras.
Nachos were named after a guy named Nacho. The maître d’ who came up with the dish was named Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya.
The “recipe” for original nachos was super simple. It only included freshly fried tortilla chips, shredded cheese and sliced pickled jalapeños. That’s it—no beans, no meat. So, if you think you’re a nacho purist, you probably aren’t. (If you’re a revisionist and comfortable with that, here’s a great nacho recipe for you.)
Tortilla chips (the foundation of nachos) were popularized in the U.S., not Mexico. Although the idea of the tortilla chip existed in Mexico and at restaurants in the U.S. at the time, they got legs as a packaged product in Los Angeles. There, a tortilleria started packaging them for the first time. They took warped and broken tortillas that were otherwise unsellable, fried them and sold them for 10 cents a bag. Tortilleria owner Rebecca Webb Carranza usually gets the credit on this one, although that’s also disputed.
Nachos were almost trademarked. Although Anaya never tried to copyright the recipe, his son contacted a lawyer in 1960 about it. Unfortunately, almost two decades after its creation, he was told it was too late.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest nachos ever made was at the University of Kansas stadium. It took 80 people to assemble 860 pounds of nacho cheese, 860 pounds of beef, 1,200 pounds of beans, 315 pounds of jalapeños and 600 pounds of tortilla chips.