Flanboyant Eats with Bren: Cinco de Mayo Recipes and the Truth about Nachos

Today is a good day to celebrate Mexicans and their contributions to this country! With all that’s going on in Arizona (against all Latinos) Cinco de Mayo couldn’t have come at a better time.

To that end, let’s talk about some of Mexico’s beloved indigenous foods and spirits. Tequila, for starters, made from the agave plant, is usually the liquor of choice. And then there are Margaritas—tons and tons of Margaritas.

And what about guac?

I’ve been to Mexico quite a bit and absolutely relish sitting ocean-side sipping on coconut daiquiris. But most of all I think they make the best guacamole. And even though I can throw down my own Cuban pineapple version of guac (and would cheerfully challenge any Mexicali to a guac-off!) I respect the art of their varying tastes and textures.

And then there is the plethora of Americanized interpretations of Mexican food, like burritos and nachos. Few times have I been to a restaurant where the latter is a true and respectable representation of what Mexicans hail. (Even in Mexico, I’ve yet to have a solid plate of nachos!)

A lack of local eateries serving up really good nachos (both in Atlanta and DC where I spend most of my time) means I like making them at home. Plus, I grew up eating a version called "haystacks" for potluck lunches after church. At mami’s house, eating nachos was fun, especially on weekends. They always made the perfect, fill-us-up, no-fuss dinner!

Here's how you can infuse a little Mexican flavor into your meal tonight with my delicious recipe for Fish Nachos Libre:

Start with a white fish, like bass. Then add canned black or red beans. (This is the one time I don’t mind using canned beans. Usually this is a no-no!) Doctor the beans up with a bit of cumin, salt and coriander seed to give them the perfect smoky kick. Beyond the protein and beans, all else is subject to your personal taste; but since we’re trying to be all out authentic here, we’ll skip the lettuce, sour cream and cheddar. Start stacking corn tortilla chips, fish, beans, rice, beans again, grate some jalapeño pepper jack, tomato, red onion, grate more cheese and add cilantro.

(Now, in my opinion, having nachos without guac is like having coffee without sugar! So try my pineapple guac recipe and add a dollop.)

Enjoy my style of fish nachos libre! I promise you'll be very pleased, and hey, it makes for a great last minute dinner for the family!

Here's to all my Mexican friends!

*How was your Cinco De Mayo? What did you do to celebrate?*

Bren’s Fish Nachos Libre recipe


  • 2 filets of crusted or grilled fish (bass, tilapia, mahi-mahi seasoned how you want); cut into chunky pieces
  • 1 can kidney or pink beans (Rancho Gordo is a good option; see seasoning options above)
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 4 tbsp. red onion, minced
  • 1 cup cooked rice
  • 5-6 tbsp. good grated cheese (jalapeño pepper jack is good option)
  • tortilla chips
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, rough chop
  • Guac is optional.


Season your beans and cook for 10 minutes on low-medium heat. While beans are cooking, grill or pan-fry your fish. Begin assembling your nachos by layering. Tortilla chips first. Add fish. Add beans, rice, then beans again. Continue to stack by grating cheese. Add onion, tomato and top with cilantro. Grate more cheese around plate. Top with chunky dollop of guacamole, if you desire.

Serves 2.

For additional cooking advice from Bren Herrera, visit Flanboyanteats.com