If you are a nacho lover like me, you're going to love the flavor that the smoke adds to these smoked chicken nachos!

Chicken tenderloins are brined in buttermilk for a very short time, smoked and then cut into small pieces for the nachos.

I will show you how to build individual nachos using the tiny, bite-size scoops but be sure to see the “easier method” as well at the end of the instructions.

Helpful Information
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes (includes building the nachos)
  • Brine Time: 1 hour
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Smoker Temp: 225-240°F
  • Meat Finish Temp: 160°F
  • Recommended Wood: Pecan
What You’ll Need
  • 6-12 (~1 lb) chicken tenderloins (chicken thighs also work well)
  • 1 quart of buttermilk
  • ¼ cup of coarse kosher salt
  • Jeff's original rub (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub)
  • Jeff's original barbecue sauce (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled sauce)
  • 1 large bag Tostitos® Scoops!®
  • Shredded cheddar (or whatever cheese you like best)
  • 3-4 jalapeños, stem removed and sliced (pickled jalapeños is also an option)
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • Salsa
  • Sour cream
  • Guacamole
  • Whatever else you like on nachos
IMG 7287 2000x1267Please note that my rubs and barbecue sauce are now available in 2 formats– you can purchase the formulas and make them yourself OR you can buy them already made, in a bottle, ready to use.

Make the Buttermilk Brine

Why brine? That's a great question!

Brining is a scientific process by which water/moisture is pulled into the fibers of the meat where it gets trapped. Some of the salt and other flavors in the brine are also pulled in.

During the cooking process, the heat tends to dry out the meat but because there is now more water trapped in the meat fibers, even after some drying, it ends up more juicy due to the extra water.

We often use plain water with salt (a 6% salt solution) but I like to use buttermilk with chicken.

Buttermilk and chicken go together so well! The buttermilk has enzymes that tenderize and flavor the chicken and if you mix salt into the mix, you can both brine and tenderize at the same time. It's a win-win for everyone!

This is a process that you can use on these chicken tenderloins but it also works equally well on chicken wings, whole chickens or even a whole turkey.

Pour one quart of buttermilk into a pitcher or plastic container.

Add ¼ cup of coarse kosher salt and stir until the salt is dissolved.

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The brine mixture is ready to use.

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Brine the Chicken

Put the chicken tenderloins in a container or small bowl and generously sprinkle Jeff's original rub (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub) on one side.

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Stir the chicken around to fully coat the chicken.

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Pour the buttermilk brine over the chicken to cover.

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Place the container of chicken into the fridge for 1 hour.. no more than that. If you need to leave them in longer for some reason, cut the salt in half.

At the end of 1 hour, pour off and discard the brine.

Rinse the chicken under cold water.

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Place the chicken onto a flat surface such as a paper plate.

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Liberally season both sides of the chicken tenderloins with my original rub (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub).

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Once both sides are coated with my rub, place the chicken on a Bradley rack or Weber grill pan and they are ready for the smoker.

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Smoke the Chicken Tenderloins

Set up your smoker for cooking at about 225-240°F using indirect heat and pecan wood for smoke. You can use any other smoking wood that you have available if you don't have pecan.

If your smoker has a water pan, fill it up.

Once the smoker is ready, place the chicken in the smoker and set a timer for about 40 minutes.

If the chicken looks like it's drying out on the outside, spray it quickly with some olive oil or brush on some butter.

Check the pieces of chicken with an accurate quick reading thermometer such as the Thermapen.

Remember, using an accurate thermometer like the Thermapen is the only way to know when the chicken is safely done to the correct temperature.

These are usually fairly thin so it will only take about 60-90 minutes for them to reach 160°F.. their safe done temperature.

Just as soon as they are done, remove them from the smoker.

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Cut and Sauce

Use a sharp knife to cut the chicken into small pieces.

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I recommend mixing in some of my barbecue sauce (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled sauce) for another layer of flavor but this is completely optional.

Just 2-3 of the tenderloins will be enough for about 24 scoops depending on how much chicken you use in each nacho.

I used 2 TBS of sauce for about 1.5 cups of shredded chicken but you can add more or less as desired.

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Lay Out Scoops!®

In each bag of Scoops!® you'll find that some are broken so you may need to take a minute to pick out the best ones if presentation is important.

Lay the chips out onto a flat cookie sheet.

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Meat and Melted Cheese

Spoon about a teaspoon of chicken into each chip then when all of the “tiny bowls” are filled, top them generously with the shredded cheese.

I used a mix of  white cheddar and sharp yellow cheddar.

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Turn on the broiler in your oven and place the pan of nachos under the broiler to let the cheese melt.

Make sure it does not burn.

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Add the Toppings (optional)

Quickly add sour cream, guacamole, jalapeños, salsa, etc. onto the top of each nacho.

This process is best accomplished if you have some helpers.. kids love to help with things like this so enlist them and don't worry if a few pieces of this or that falls by the wayside.

I like using sliced jalapeños with the seeds still intact but if you have small eaters or those who don't like it very hot, you can use tame pickled jalapeños or leave out the peppers altogether.

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Serve the Nachos

Lay the pan out and let the hands start grabbin'!

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Smoked Chicken Nachos – Easy Method

If you are one of those that feels like these individual scoop nachos are just too much work.. you can do these the easy way by just laying down a bed of chips and sort of  “dumping” everything on top. Meat first then the cheese. Melt that under the broiler for a minute or two then add the toppings.

Quick. Easy. No problem.

IMG 7287 2000x1267Please note that my rubs and barbecue sauce are now available in 2 formats– you can purchase the formulas and make them yourself OR you can buy them already made, in a bottle, ready to use.

Purchase the Formulas for Jeff’s Rubs and Sauce
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Printable Recipe

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Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Smoked Chicken Nachos

The smoked flavor that comes through in these smoked chicken nachos is simply mesmerizing. Uses smoked chicken tenderloins shredded or cut into pieces.
Prep Time25 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Course: Entree
Cuisine: Hot Smoking
Servings: 6
Author: Jeff Phillips


  • 6-12 chicken tenderloins
  • 1 quart of buttermilk
  • ¼ cup of salt
  • Jeff's original rub (purchase recipes here)
  • Jeff's original barbecue sauce (purchase recipes here)
  • 1 large bag Tostitos® Scoops!®
  • Shredded cheddar (or whatever cheese you like best)
  • 3-4 jalapeños (stem removed and sliced (pickled jalapeños is also an option))
  • 1 to mato (diced)
  • Salsa
  • Sour cream (the kind in a squeeze tube works great for this)
  • Guacamole
  • Whatever else you like on nachos


  • Make the buttermilk brine by mixing 1 quart of buttermilk with ¼ cup of coarse kosher salt. Stir in salt until dissolved.
  • Sprinkle Jeff's original rub generously on one side of the chicken tenderloins and stir them around to coat.
  • Pour brine over chicken to cover.
  • Place the chicken in the fridge for 1 hour.
  • Remove the chicken from the fridge and rinse the chicken well under cold water. Discard the brine.
  • Lay the chicken pieces on a flat surface and sprinkle Jeff's rub on both sides.
  • Place the chicken in the smoker and smoke for about 1 hour or until they reach 165 °F as measured by a digital meat thermometer such as the Thermapen.
  • Cut or shred the chicken into small pieces.
  • Add 1-2 TBS of Jeff's original barbecue sauce to 1 cup of shredded chicken.
  • Place the Tostitos® Scoops!® on a cookie sheet and fill with a small amount of chicken.
  • Cover the top of the chicken with shredded cheese and place under the broiler for a minute or two to melt the cheese. Make sure it does not burn.
  • Add sour cream, guacamole, jalapeños, chopped tomatoes, salsa, etc. on top of each chip and serve right away.