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Kinda Healthy Trash Can Nachos

This Kinda Healthy spin on Guy Fieri’s infamous Trash Can Nachos uses baked tortilla chips, lean ground beef, and low fat queso to reduce the calories and pack more protein into every serving. I couldn’t track down the nutrition facts for the original Trash Can Nachos for comparison, but our version has 27 grams of protein with just 7 grams of fat and 350 calories per serving. Because if you’re going to eat nachos from a “trash can” at least do it responsibly! 

trash can nachos on a plate

How to Make Healthier Trash Can Nachos 

You’ll find a visual recipe walkthrough below with ingredient notes and tips below. If you skip down to the recipe card and have questions, hop back up to the post for extra assistance. But if you have a recipe question I miss, drop a comment at the bottom of the post. 

Brown a pound of 96/4 ground beef. 

browning ground beef in a skillet

The original Trash Can Nachos call for grilled carne asada but to keep things simple and on the lower fat side, lean ground beef is the move. This is also a good time to mention you could make these nachos with any leftover proteins. My shredded Mexican chicken and pressure cooker barbacoa beef come to mind as good options.

Once fully cooked, add a can of black beans, diced green chiles, taco sauce, and a few spices or taco seasoning. Cook until no liquid remains and set aside. 

black beans, green chiles, and taco sauce added to the beef

Adding a can of black beans to your ground beef or taco meat is a great way to bulk up your recipes, adding tons of extra protein and fiber. And the taco sauce and green chiles add great flavor and help bind everything together. If you’ve made my baked beef taquitos or oven baked beef tacos, you know red enchilada sauce is a viable substitute for the taco sauce. 

Trash Can Nachos Assembly

The recipe calls for our 16 extra thin corn tortillas that have been cut into triangles and baked. Using our baked tortilla chips recipe as a guide, 400ºF for 12-15 minutes divided between two half baking sheets should do the trick. If you’d like to skip this step, feel free to use other baked tortilla chips or even regular tortilla chips.

Create 3-4 layers of queso, tortilla chips, beef and beans, pico de gallo, shredded cheese, and any other fixin’s you want inside a large oven-safe container or pot. 

ingredients for healthier trash can nachos

In addition to the chips and beef mixture, you’ll need some shredded cheese, a jar of queso (or some form of queso), and pico de gallo or other veggie toppings you’d like to include. The original Trash Can Nachos call for sliced jalapeño and red onion, Mexican crema, and sliced radishes in every layer. 

For the queso and shredded cheese, I used Trader Joe’s. If you’ve tried my queso mac and cheese or chicken fajita pasta, you’re familiar with the stellar nutrition facts of Trader Joe’s queso. We’re talking about less than 200 calories in the entire jar! But if you don’t have access to Trader Joe’s, any jar of queso will do the trick. 

Bake for 8-10 minutes until the top layer of cheese is fully melted. 

melted cheese on top of trash can nachos

Unlike the original Trash Can Nachos recipe, our version calls for baking the nachos after assembling. There are just a lot of moving parts here and unless you’re a pro in the mise en place department, you may have an ingredient that could be warmed up again. 

As for the pot or “trash can” to assemble your nachos in, I used a 4-quart saucepan (8.5″ diameter). I would recommend something a bit smaller in diameter if you have it so your nachos are taller than they are wide. Something I contemplated doing was using two small springform pans and stacking them on top of each other after baking. 

Place a large container on top of your pot and flip the nachos upside down.

pot flipped upside down onto serving platter

Be sure to get any remaining queso off the bottom of the pot before topping your nachos. 

Top with more pico, black olives, diced or pickled jalapeño, crumbled queso fresco, or anything you want and serve. 

trash can nachos copycat on a plate with olives, pico de gallo, and queso fresco on top

And that’ll do it. I hope you enjoy your Kinda Healthy Trash Can Nachos! If you’re looking for another Trader Joe’s appetizer recipe, check out my Cowboy Caviar Dip next!

trash can nachos copycat on a plate with olives, pico de gallo, and queso fresco on top

Kinda Healthy Trash Can Nachos

Yield: 6 Servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

A lower fat, lower calorie copycat recipe for Guy Fieri's Trash Can Nachos.


For the Beef

  • 1 lb Ground Beef (96/4)
  • 1 tsp Chili Powder
  • 1 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 tsp Onion Powder
  • 1 tsp Cumin
  • 1 tsp Dried Oregano
  • 15 oz can Black Beans
  • 4 oz Diced Green Chiles
  • 1/4 C (60g) Taco Sauce

For the Nachos

  • 16 Extra Thin Corn Tortillas, baked as chips*
  • 10 oz jar Queso**
  • 4 oz Shredded Cheese**
  • 1/4-1/2 C Pico de Gallo
  • Sliced Black Olives, Cilantro, and Queso Fresco, for garnishing


  1. Preheat oven to 400ºF.
  2. Brown both sides of the ground beef before mincing to fully cook. Add the spices, black beans, green chiles, and taco sauce, cooking until the mixture thickens. Set aside.
  3. Place 1/4 of the queso in the bottom of a large oven safe pot, springform pan, or large tin can. Add 1/4 of the chips, followed by 1/4 of the queso, 1/3 beef and beans, 1/3 pico, and 1/3 of the shredded cheese,. Repeat for 3 more layers. That's queso, chips, beef and beans, pico, queso, shredded cheese, chips, beef and beans, pico, queso, shredded cheese... and so on.
  4. Pop the nachos in the oven for 5-10 minutes or until the top layer of cheese is fully melted.
  5. Place a serving platter on top of the pot or container and flip upside down. Be sure to get any queso or straggler chips from the bottom of the pot. Top your nachos with more pico, queso fresco, olives, jalapeño, or any other desired toppings.


*To make chips, cut the tortillas into 6 triangles and place in even layers on two baking sheets. Spray the chips with cooking spray and sprinkle salt over the top. Bake for 12-15 minutes in a 400ºF oven.

**I used Trader Joe's Queso and Lite Mexican Shredded Cheese.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Servings Serving Size: 1 Serving
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 350Total Fat: 7gCarbohydrates: 41gProtein: 27g

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