5-ingredient copycat Taco Bell triple layer nachos recipe

Fast food restaurants change their menus all the time. McDonald's famously removes the McRib sandwich every year, and Popeyes caused drive-through chaos when they reintroduced their chicken sandwich. For Taco Bell, 2020 was the year of revamping the menu. In July, they announced they were "clearing space on their menu," simplifying the menu options to make their operations more efficient and better serve customers during COVID. Sadly, they removed several fan-favorites in the process

One of the casualties of the new menu change was the triple layer nachos. This simple plate of chips, beans, cheese sauce, and red sauce was originally part of the now-defunct "Why Pay More" menu, when it was sold for only 89 cents. It eventually made its way to the Dollar All Day menu before it was removed from the menu entirely.

While you could still probably order nacho chips and cheese sauce and add beans and red sauce, we found a better way to solve our nacho cravings. This 5-ingredient copycat Taco Bell triple layer nachos recipe is super easy to make, and almost all the ingredients can be stored in the pantry so you'll always have them on hand.

Gather the ingredients to make 5-ingredient copycat Taco Bell triple layer nachos

We loved Taco Bell's triple layer nachos because they're so simple, so it's not surprising that the ingredients list is short and sweet. Taco Bell's website makes creating this recipe easy by listing all the ingredients, which include tortilla chips, beans, red sauce, and nacho cheese sauce. After looking at the ingredients listed in their red sauce, we decided to go with a thin red taco sauce instead of a thicker enchilada sauce.

While we could have made this a four-ingredient recipe, the queso dip we picked up at the grocery store was a bit thick for our liking. Thinning the dip out with water would have worked, but we chose milk instead. The milk makes the queso dip thin enough to drizzle onto the nachos while still maintaining its rich, cheesy flavor. Depending on the brand of queso dip you choose, you may or may not need to use the milk. Feel free to skip it, or use water instead if you don't have milk on-hand.

You'll find a full list of ingredients for 5-ingredient copycat Taco Bell triple layer nachos, including quantities and step-by-step directions, at the end of this article.

Which sauces are closest to Taco Bell's red sauce and nacho cheese sauce?

We originally thought Taco Bell's red sauce was enchilada sauce. But after a quick taste test, we realized enchilada sauce was too thick and deeply flavored. It had too much of a chile-forward flavor, which wasn't quite right for the triple layer nachos. When we looked more closely at the red sauce ingredients, we realized that Ortega taco sauce was a closer match. It has a thin consistency, like Taco Bell's sauce, and it's also made with a tomato base with added spices.

The nacho cheese sauce was harder to source. For the most authentic copycat recipe, you could certainly buy a side of the cheese sauce from your local Taco Bell location. But that kind of felt like cheating, so we checked out the options at the grocery store. We landed on Tostitos Salsa con Queso for our test batch. It turned out slightly spicier and thicker than Taco Bell's sauce, but it totally worked after we thinned it out with milk. There are lots of options at the store, so feel free to experiment until you find your favorite to go with your 5-ingredient copycat Taco Bell triple layer nachos.

Choosing the right tortilla chips for 5-ingredient copycat Taco Bell triple layer nachos

Taco Bell's nacho chips are part of what make their nacho experience so phenomenal. They have a perfectly balanced, slightly salty flavor, and their crispy texture makes them almost addictive. They're the ideal vehicle for transforming a simple plate of nachos into a dish that's anything but ordinary. According to a former Taco Bell employee, the chips are shipped pre-made to Taco Bell locations but are fried in house. Being that fresh is probably part of what makes them taste so good!

It turns out you can actually buy Taco Bell chips at the grocery store, but we couldn't find the brand name chips in our area. Luckily, there are a number of suitable replacements, so it's really all about using your favorite brand of chips. These 5-ingredient copycat Taco bell triple layer nachos will taste great so long as you enjoy the flavor and texture of the chips used as the base. We used a cantina-style chip that's thin and crispy, but any corn-based chip will work here.

The real secret is warming the tortilla chips. Baking the tortilla chips for about five minutes in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven brings out the residual oils in the chips, making them taste fresher than the ones you eat straight out of the bag.

Heat the beans and cheese to make 5-ingredient copycat Taco Bell triple layer nachos

While the chips are baking, go ahead and heat up the beans and the cheese for your 5-ingredient copycat Taco Bell triple layer nachos. This can be done in the microwave or on the stovetop, whichever is more convenient. Before heating up the refried beans, whisk about 1/4 cup of water into the beans to loosen them up a bit. You may need more or less water, depending on the brand of refried beans you're using. The goal is to create beans that still clump, but fall off an overturned spoon easily. You don't want them to be so watery that they'd fall off the spoon in a thin stream.

When it comes to the queso, start by adding 1/4 cup of milk. Again, the brand makes a big difference here. Some queso dips are thinner than others, so you may not need to add any liquid to get the sauce to a drizzle-able consistency. Others (like our Tostitos) need closer to 1/2 cup milk to become the right consistency. Don't stress this step too much; if you add too much milk, you can always add extra cheese to thicken things up.

Assemble the ingredients for 5-ingredient copycat Taco Bell triple layer nachos

Now that everything is heated, it's time to plate up our nachos. If you're serving these 5-ingredient copycat Taco Bell triple layer nachos for a crowd, feel free to line a large platter with the warmed tortilla chips. Otherwise, divide the chips among four large plates. Spoon the refried beans over the chips, dropping a dollop of beans on every few chips. Then finish the nachos by drizzling the queso dip and the taco sauce over the bean-filled chips.

Serve the nachos immediately, as the chips will become soggy after being exposed to the cheese sauce. If you like, you can garnish the nachos with your favorite accompaniments. Taco Bell doesn't use any of these, but sour cream, chopped green onions or cilantro, pico de gallo or salsa, guacamole, sliced avocado, and olives all make great additions to nachos. You can also make these triple layer nachos more filling by loading them up with a protein, like ground beef, shredded chicken, pulled pork, or chopped steak.

Add a few ingredients to turn 5-ingredient copycat Taco Bell triple layer nachos into other menu items

It's not hard to turn this 5-ingredient copycat Taco Bell triple layer nachos recipe into a few of your other favorite Taco Bell menu items. To make Nachos Bell Grande, add the refried beans and cheese sauce to the chips as instructed in the recipe. Then, instead of drizzling on the finishing red sauce, sprinkle the chips with cooked, seasoned ground beef, chopped tomatoes, and finish with a dollop of sour cream in the middle

You can take things to the next level by making Taco Bell's Grande Nachos Box. These nachos have been on-again off-again at the drive-through, but they're super easy to make at home. Again, you'll start with the refried beans and cheese sauce base, skipping the red sauce. Add in cooked, seasoned ground beef, pico de gallo instead of tomato slices, and sprinkle on a three-cheese blend to make things extra cheesy. Finish it off with that dollop of sour cream, but also add in a spoonful of guacamole.

How close did we get to the original Taco Bell triple layer nachos?

We were pretty pleased with how close our 5-ingredient copycat Taco Bell triple layer nachos were to the original. The tortilla chips were crunchy and satisfying, and the ingredients created a loaded — but not overloaded — plate of nachos. Thinning out the beans with a little water perfectly mimicked the consistency of Taco Bell's refried beans, and our taco sauce added the right level of tang to the dish.

Our only real complaint was the cheese sauce. Taco Bell's cheese sauce was creamier and smoother than ours, so we'll try making this recipe with a different queso dip next time — perhaps Tostitos Smooth and Cheesy. We could definitely make homemade cheese sauce and create a copycat Taco Bell nacho cheese sauce recipe, although that would certainly take us out of the 5-ingredient limit. It'll be worth a try when we have the time and want to impress guests for a backyard barbecue or tailgate party, but we think it's fine to stick with the store-bought cheese sauce when we want to keep things simple.

5-ingredient copycat Taco Bell triple layer nachos directions

Prep time: 0 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

Serves: 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 (18-ounce) bag tortilla chips
  • 1 (16-ounce) can refried beans
  • 1 (15-ounce) can queso dip or nacho cheese sauce
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons taco sauce

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread the chips out in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 5 to 8 minutes, until the chips are warm.
  2. Heat the refried beans in the microwave or in a small saucepan on the stovetop over medium-low heat until they're warmed through. Add 1/4 cup water (or more as needed) to loosen the beans.
  3. Whisk the milk into the queso dip. Depending on the brand of queso dip, you may only need 1/4 cup or you may need more than 1/2 cup. The goal is to thin out the dip so it's easy to drizzle onto the plate.
  4. Heat the cheese mixture in the microwave on the stovetop over medium-low heat until it's warmed through. If you added too much milk, whisk in a few tablespoons of grated cheddar cheese.
  5. Line a large platter or four large plates with the warm tortilla chips. Spoon the refried beans over the chips, followed by the queso dip. Drizzle the enchilada sauce over the chips and serve immediately.