This post originally appeared in the May 9, 2022 edition of The Move, a place for Eater’s editors to reveal their recommendations and pro dining tips — sometimes thoughtful, sometimes weird, but always someone’s go-to move. Subscribe now.
Cheese and chips belong together. Nachos, despite being a Tex-Mex dish, are everywhere. Frito-Lay has been making nacho-cheese-flavored Doritos since the 1970s, and gas stations or movie theaters often have one of those cheese pumps to add gooey yellow goodness to chips. But I’d argue that nacho cheese has a better use than as a topping for plain tortilla chips. Instead, you should be putting it on Hot Cheetos.
I first encountered this combination as a high school student in South Texas, so I was surprised to learn as an adult that many people haven’t tried it. The “dish” is exactly what it sounds like — a single-serving bag of Hot Cheetos opened up and nacho cheese poured directly inside. Gripping the bag shut and shaking it up is optional, but highly recommended to ensure an even cheese distribution. Since it’s an eat-with-your-hands kind of snack, it does get a little messy, but the flavor payoff is worth it.
Hot Cheetos on their own? Great, fantastic, no notes at all. And nacho cheese has always been that girl. So when you combine the crunch and spice of the chips with the warmth and saucy viscosity of the cheese, you have a dynamic snack with its own convenient container. The only preparation required is warming up the cheese, but even that can be as easy as microwaving it in a heat-safe cup or bowl. After that, you just pour and enjoy. (Although I would not recommend pouring the cheese directly after removing it from its heat source, as you might melt a hole in the bag and be forced to eat from a bowl instead, and where’s the fun in that?)
In Texas, the combo pops up at concession stands for sporting events or fruterias that specialize in Mexican snack foods. You might even find it on the menu of a neighborhood ice cream truck, often with the bag of chips served horizontally with the top half cut off so that it fits more sturdily in one’s palm. And if, for some reason, you’re not a fan of Hot Cheetos, there’s a whole flamin’ hot world out there to explore when making this at home. Brands like Takis, Zapp’s, and Andy Capp’s offer a host of spicy chips with varying heat levels. I love to sub in some Chester’s Flamin’ Hot Fries because they’re more porous and soak up the nacho cheese well, but the original Flamin’ Hot Cheetos still can’t be beat for crunch.
When it comes to cheese, there’s likely a shelf dedicated to nacho cheese and/or cheese sauce at your local grocery store, but if you can find my beloved Ricos Gourmet Nacho Cheese Sauce, then look no further because that’s your best bet as far as processed cheddar cheese in a can goes. Ricos also has a salsa con queso dip that’ll do the trick. If all else fails, Velveeta works well in a pinch.
Now, if you want to give it a little kick, you can add toppings like sliced jalapenos or some hot sauce, just as you would with nachos. You could even sprinkle in some cotija cheese for added salt and flavor. Again, closing the bag and shaking it all up helps spread any add-ons evenly over the chips. Make it unique, make it your own, but most of all, make it cheesy.