Spicy nachos that show just how hearty and satisfying vegan food can be

Are we having nachos for dinner? ” He asked.

“Yeah,” I say. “Does that sound good?”

“Yes!”

I was talking to our adopted 13-year-old son, who has been with us for just over a month. Like the eight-year-old we had for six months before he left in March, he loves food – and how. My biggest challenge in the kitchen is maintaining an appetite. No need to worry about “spoiling” dinner with a snack; he’ll devour both, want a cookie for dessert, and ask for popcorn half an hour later.

One night I had opted for this buffalo chickpea nachos recipe as a sneaky way to show her that vegan cooking can be hearty and satisfying, and everything went as planned – until I use the only pepper sauce I had on hand, Tabasco. It’s so much hotter than the traditional sauce used for buffalo wings, Frank’s Red Hot, that this seemingly simple swap made the dish largely inedible (and the air around the stove coughing).

Burritos came to the rescue that night, and the kid had fun telling us — and later, anyone within earshot — about the time “Joe really messed up some nachos.” The next night I was back, this time with the right sauce, and I redeemed myself.

Obviously, that’s just the thing for game night, whether that means the next Super Bowl or the backgammon and Monopoly we’ve been playing since our adopted son arrived. But before you do, know that there are at least two other crucial choices beyond Frank’s. First, start with large, restaurant-style tortilla chips. Second, and perhaps more importantly, you want the right vegan cheese.

If you’ve been scarred with memories of vegan shreds that just sat on your nachos or pizza, or in your grilled cheese or quesadilla, unresponsive to the heat of the oven and refusing to do anything close to melting, you might be reluctant to go there again. If you are not vegan and not interested in eating a vegan meal, definitely use your favorite dairy cheese here. But for those of you who want to keep this plant-based staple, I tested nine brands, sprinkling them plain on tortilla chips and baking them for 10-15 minutes. The result: Daiya – a brand I previously avoided – was the clear winner with a vastly improved product that melted beautifully. The finalists were Violife and Vevan; the losers were Go Veggie, Original Almond and So Delicious; and in the middle were Forager, Miyoko’s and Chao.

When I made the nachos with Frank’s Red Hot and Daiya, the tangy (and quite spicy) chickpeas, gooey cheese and crispy bell pepper and spring onions had us all eating like teenagers, going back for a few seconds – and playfully fight for third parties.

Buffalo Chickpea Nachos

active time: 15 minutes | Total time: 30 minutes

Serves: 4 to 6

These simple-to-make nachos give chickpeas the tangy, spicy buffalo treatment, layering them with vegan cheese, red pepper, and crunchy green onions. If you wish, feel free to add pico de gallo and/or guacamole. Use Frank’s Red Hot Sauce for that signature buffalo flavor; if you’re substituting another sauce, make sure it’s just as mild, like Louisiana hot sauce (using Tabasco or something equally hot or hotter in those amounts results in something barely edible). For the meltiest vegan cheese, look for Daiya Cutting Board Cheddar Style Shreds, followed by Violife Just Like Cheddar Shreds and Vevan Ched-Shred.

Get ahead: Buffalo chickpeas can be cooked and refrigerated up to 5 days before making the nachos.

Storage: Not recommended, but you can refrigerate for up to 5 days and use as a base for chilaquiles or migas (with vegan egg substitute, if desired).

Ingredients:

255g cooked chickpeas or 1 can (425g) no salt added chickpeas, drained and rinsed

120ml Frank’s Red Hot sauce (see main note)

60 g unsalted vegan butter

½ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

280 g large restaurant-style salt-free tortilla chips

200-225g grated vegan cheddar cheese, preferably Daiya brand (see main note)

1 red bell pepper, stemmed, cored and chopped

2 spring onions, trimmed and thinly sliced

Method:

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 190°C.

In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the chickpeas, hot sauce, vegan butter, garlic powder and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until butter melts, mixture comes to a boil and liquid reduces slightly, 5 minutes. Use a potato masher or fork to lightly mash the chickpeas. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Spread tortilla chips on a large rimmed baking sheet in an even layer. Sprinkle vegan cheese on top. Evenly add spoonfuls of the chickpea mixture on top, followed by the bell pepper.

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the fries are starting to brown lightly around the edges, being careful not to burn them.

Remove from oven, garnish with green onions and serve hot.

Nutritional information per serving (approximately 12 chips plus toppings), based on 6 | calories: 503; total fat: 26g; saturated fat: 10g; cholesterol: 0mg; sodium: 1121mg; carbohydrates: 51g; dietary fiber: 7g; sugar: 3g; protein: 9g.

This analysis is an estimate based on the available ingredients and this preparation. It should not replace the advice of a dietitian or nutritionist.

Recipe adapted from ‘Liv B’s Easy Everyday’ by Olivia Biermann (Robert Rose, 2022).

© The Washington Post


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Tanya S. Norvell