It’s Nacho Night at our house.

Yes, I confess. Foodie I may be, parent I certainly am, and health-minded ... almost without fail. But there is always a time and place for nachos.

We can all do with a little cheesy nacho goodness from time to time to balance out a healthy diet, to dig into with our hands, and to wash down with an ice-cold drink. And as a heaping platter of chips goes, this one is relatively, um, light. Is it possible to call nachos healthy? Where there is a will, there is a way.

This recipe for fun food isn’t as decadent as you might think. On the nacho scale of goop and weight, it scores relatively high on lightness and freshness. Sure, it’s layered with the requisite melty cheese (as any bona fide nacho plate should be). Otherwise, it is not bogged down with mounds of meat, cream and beans, rendering its nest of chips soggy and heavy. Instead, there’s a generous helping of plump, garlicky shrimp and a colorful smattering of chopped fresh vegetables and herbs, such as tomato, onion, avocado and cilantro, layered throughout the chips in the spirit of a deconstructed salsa.

The point is that these nachos are tasty finger food, inviting interactive, family-style dining. And we can also all do with a little fun and togetherness when it comes to sharing our food and eating. These nachos score top points for that.

Shrimp Nachos

Active Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: Serves 6


1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil

1 small garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon of ground cumin, divided

¼ teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes

1 pound (21/25) of medium shrimp, shelled and deveined


1 large ripe, but not mushy, avocado, diced

2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice

¼ teaspoon of salt

¼ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper

Other Ingredients:

8-10 ounces of salted tortilla chips

4 cups of grated sharp Cheddar and/or Monterey Jack cheese

3 scallions, white and green parts separated, thinly sliced

2 jalapeno peppers, stemmed and seeded, finely chopped

1 small red onion, finely chopped, about 1/2 cup

1 large vine-ripened tomato, cored and seeded, diced

½ cup of cilantro leaves


Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, ½ teaspoon cumin and red pepper flakes, and stir until fragrant, about 20 seconds. Add the shrimp in one layer and cook until pink and just cooked through, turning once, 2-3 minutes. (It’s OK if the shrimp are a little under-done. They will continue to cook in the oven.) Transfer the shrimp to a plate lined with a paper towel.

Combine the avocado, lime juice, remaining cumin, salt and pepper in a small bowl and gently stir to coat.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spread half of the tortilla chips in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish or sheet pan. Sprinkle 1 ½ cups cheese, half of the white scallions, half of the jalapenos and half of the red onion over the chips. Spread the remaining chips over the top and sprinkle 1 ½ cups cheese over the chips. Scatter the remaining white scallions, jalapenos and red onion over the top. Bake in the oven until the cheese is melted and the nachos are hot, 10-12 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and turn on the broiler.

Arrange the shrimp over the cheese. Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup of cheese over the shrimp. Transfer to the oven and broil until the cheese melts, 1-2 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and scatter avocado, tomatoes, green scallions and cilantro evenly over the top. Serve immediately.

Lynda Balslev is a cookbook author, food and travel writer, and recipe developer based in the San Francisco Bay area, where she lives with her Danish husband, two children, a cat and a dog. She studied cooking at Le Cordon Bleu Ecole de Cuisine in Paris and worked as a personal chef, culinary instructor, and food writer in Switzerland and Denmark. Her favorite activities include hiking, cooking dinners for her friends and family, and planning her next travel destination.

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