Chances are you love nacho cheese. Hell, that stuff's on everything nowadays, from the gooey sauce on actual tortilla chip nachos, to the flavor dust that clings lovingly to Doritos and all those other things that are made out of Doritos. But what is nacho cheese, exactly? It turns out that even industry folks don't really know... because there's essentially no such thing as "nacho cheese." It's a concept that's as amorphous and all-encompassing as, well, nacho cheese itself.
Bloomberg discovered this disturbing fact when they were investigating a new line of Old El Paso "nacho cheese"-flavored taco shells -- what they found was that, when pressed to describe the taste of the taco shells, representatives of the company floundered and dodged the question. It turns out that the Food & Drug Administration has no set definition of nacho cheese, and that whatever it is is based on customers' expectations and years of "nacho cheese" history and development.
The first "nacho cheese" was cheddar (back when nachos were purportedly invented by Ignacio Anaya in 1943), but ever since bottled and canned varieties hit shelves, the recipe has been in a constant state of flux. What we do know is that it's usually spicy, salty, and totally not just cheddar. In fact, Old El Paso's recipe contains both cheddar and blue cheese, while Pringles' uses cheddar, Romano, and Parmesan.
So, as far as nacho cheese flavorings go, it looks like -- no matter which type of chip you go with -- it's a bit of a mixed bag.
Adam Lapetina is a Food/Drink staff writer for Thrillist, and doesn't need a definition to know that nacho cheese is delicious. Read his musings at @adamlapetina.