Pulled Pork Nachos—Great Use for Leftover Smoked Pulled Pork
If you've ever tried your hand at making pulled pork, you're probably already hooked on its appealingly juicy texture and succulent, smoky flavor. Unless you were cooking for an army, though (or at least a backyard full of hungry teenagers), you probably had a lot left over afterward. A plate of pulled pork is excellent when smothered in your favorite barbecue sauce and served alongside a heap of macaroni salad and a wedge of piping hot corn bread. But what's to become of all those leftovers when the party's over?
This is a question that's plagued many an eager chef, particularly those who truly enjoy smoked and barbecued meats and are at a loss to understand why anyone would "ruin" them by repurposing the leftovers. If you're willing to branch out a bit, however, you can turn out some truly exceptional meals that will have you preparing your smoked pork in even larger quantities next time.
In this tutorial, we'll provide a step-by-step guide on how to make delicious pulled pork nachos, complete with pro tips about which sides will best complement the dish. When you're starting with a superior ingredient like your own house-made smoked pulled pork, the path to success is simple. Combined with our pro tips, you can turn out some of the best nachos you've ever tasted.
How To Make Pulled Pork Nachos
While this recipe provides an excellent base, the beauty of nachos lies in their ability to handle improvisation. Feel free to use this list as a template, and get creative with your own favorite ingredients. The key is to emphasize the flavor and texture of the smoked pork, not to overwhelm it.
1. Prepare the pork.
Shred the meat into bite-sized pieces, using two forks. This process will be easier if the meat is still warm. If you're working with leftovers that have been refrigerated, warm the pork in a low (300 degree) oven until it comes apart easily.
Pro Tip: If you'd prefer to use your fingers to shred the pork instead (which can help to remove any excess fat that might still be lingering), be sure your hands are squeaky clean beforehand, and keep a good supply of paper towels beside your work station.
2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
You want a temperature that's high enough to melt the cheese and warm the toppings quickly, without allowing the chips to become soggy.
Pro Tip: Alternatively, you can cook the nachos on the same grill you used to make the pulled pork. Just be sure it's reached a sufficient temperature beforehand, and use a sturdy cast-iron pan when you assemble the nachos.
3. Prepare the toppings.
First and foremost, be sure to use plenty of cheese. Not only is it delicious, but it helps all of the ingredients adhere to the chips, making every bite as mouthwatering as the last. Use a good-quality pepper jack or cheddar, or Monterey jack if you prefer a milder flavor.
Pro Tip: If possible, buy the cheese in bulk and shred it yourself—the texture is far superior to the pre-shredded variety.
As mentioned above, there's plenty of room for invention when it comes to the other toppings. Here are some of the most common additions:
- White or red onions
- Black Olives
- Barbecue sauce
- Beans (refried or whole)
- Bell peppers (any color)
Assemble whichever ingredients you prefer, making sure you have enough of each to cover at least two or three layers of chips. Note that this list only includes the items you'll add before cooking—an additional list of garnishes can be found in Step 5 below.
4. Assemble the nachos.
Use a cast-iron skillet or heavy-duty sheet pan for cooking the nachos. Start with a layer of your favorite tortilla chips, then add the pork. Sprinkle with cheese, then proceed with your chosen toppings. If you're adding barbecue sauce to accentuate the pork's smoky-spicy flavor, add it last before repeating with another layer of chips.
Depending on your party's size and the dimensions of your pan, assemble two or three layers in this manner. Add the pan to the oven or hot grill.
Pro Tip: For the best results, make your own tortilla chips in advance. These will hold up well to the oven, resulting in irresistibly crunchy nachos. Cut 12 to 24 corn tortillas into pie-shaped wedges, and fry the wedges in hot oil until golden and crisp. Season with a sprinkle of salt.
5. Prepare the garnishes.
While the nachos cook, set out the ingredients you'll be using to finish them off. Depending on your toppings, you can use any or all of the following:
- Pico de gallo or your favorite salsa
- Guacamole or diced avocado
- Sour cream
- Minced scallions
- Chopped cilantro
The nachos should be ready in about 10-12 minutes—just enough time for you to prepare the finishing touches. This will also give you something to focus on, so you won't be tempted to pull the dish from the oven too early.
6. Finish and serve.
When the cheese is melted and golden brown, pull the nachos from the oven or grill. Finish with your chosen ingredients (and another drizzle of barbecue sauce, if using). Serve with extra salsa and sour cream on the side for dipping.
Make it a Meal
Nachos make excellent snack food on their own. Both chewy and crunchy, smoky and savory, fiery and sweet—they offer all the goods on a single plate. However, if you want to bump it up a notch, they also pair well with a wide variety of other foods. Since you'll definitely be needing a refreshing beverage to wash it all down, we've provided suggestions for drink pairings as well. Olé!
Homemade Refried Beans
If you've only sampled the supermarket-can variety of this south-of-the-border delicacy, you're depriving yourself of a true culinary delight. Homemade refried beans are as simple to make as they are delicious, and can be assembled out of pantry staples.
- Heat two tablespoons of canola oil or bacon fat in a large skillet. Bacon fat gives a more robust flavor, but canola oil can be used if you don't have any on hand.
- Add about 1/2 of diced onion to the pan. Cook on medium-high heat for 10 minutes, until onions are a deep mahogany color.
- Add two cloves of minced garlic and sauté for about one minute, or until fragrant.
- Add two cups of pinto beans or black beans, 1/2 cup at a time, mashing as you go to achieve a coarse puree.
- When all the beans have been added, pour in 1 cup of water or beer and increase heat to high.
- When mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until beans are slightly runnier than you'd like to serve them (they will thicken as they cool and set).
- Remove beans from heat, season with salt, and serve topped with crumbled queso fresco or feta.
Orange and Jicama Salad
You may want something light and refreshing to offset the savory nachos. This citrusy, crunchy salad has just a kick of spice to keep things interesting.
- Separate 3 whole oranges into segments, and dice the segments into bite-sized pieces.
- Peel and cut a medium-sized jicama (about 1 pound) into matchsticks (you should have about 1 cup).
- In a large bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons of lime juice, 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Whisk in 2 tablespoons extra-virgin oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Toss orange and jicama with dressing and top with crumbled feta, if desired.
This cocktail is a welcome alternative to the ubiquitous margarita. Look for Jarritos grapefruit soda, often found in the Mexican food aisle of the supermarket. If you can't find it, substitute a local alternative made with natural sugar.
- Moisten the rim of a Collins glass and dip in kosher salt.
- Fill the glass with ice, taking care not to disturb too much of the salt on the rim.
- Add 1-1/2 ounces of silver tequila.
- Top with grapefruit soda and garnish with a wedge of lime.
For children and other non-drinkers, simply omit the tequila and serve the grapefruit soda in any glass, with or without salt.
Nachos make a great addition to any cook's repertoire, but if you prepare them using your own smoked pulled pork, you're taking them to the next level. The next time you find yourself with an abundance of leftovers, put them to excellent mouthwatering use with this crowd-pleasing delight
Frequently Asked Questions
How long can you keep leftover smoked pulled pork in the refrigerator?
Leftover pulled pork will keep for 3 to 4 days when properly stored in the refrigerator. It’s best to let pork cool uncovered before storing it in an airtight container. Or, you can wrap it tightly with plastic wrap.
Can you freeze leftover pulled pork?
Freezing cooked pulled pork is a great way to extend its shelf life! Let the pork cool fully before packing it in freezer safe bags or containers. You can also vacuum seal your pulled pork to remove as much air as possible, protecting it from freezer burn. Then, label and date your pulled pork. Plan to use frozen pulled pork within six months of the freezer date.
How do you reheat pulled pork?
You can reheat pulled pork in an aluminum foil pouch on the grill or the oven, or in a cast iron pan on the stovetop. For this leftover pulled pork nacho recipe, you don’t actually need to reheat your pork at all! The pork will heat through while you are cooking the nachos. If you are using frozen pulled pork, make sure to let it thaw overnight in the refrigerator or thaw it in the microwave before cooking these nachos.
What can I do with pulled pork beside sandwiches?
There is a whole world of things you can do with leftover pulled pork, and that’s why we created this delicious pulled pork nachos recipe! You can also use leftover pork for tacos, quesadillas, fried rice, power bowl, breakfast hash, mac and cheese, empanadas, dumplings, egg rolls, and so much more!
How do you keep nachos crispy?
The best way to make crispy, not soggy nachos is to bake them in the oven. Sure, you can make nachos in the microwave, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best way! We like placing the chips in a single layer on a baking sheet (or a large cast iron pan) and covering them with cheese and other meat or vegetable toppings. Then, place them in a 400-degree F preheated oven for about 10 minutes, until the meat is heated through and the cheese is melted.