Yes, nachos can be healthy! For this delicious and satisfying comfort-food dinner, I layer baked corn chips with a made-from-scratch (dairy-free!) nacho cheese sauce, spiced black beans, and plenty of piquant salsa and creamy avocado. Not into nachos? No problem—I provide variations below that’ll allow you to turn this into burritos, bowls, or salads. It’s like four recipes in one! No matter how you make it, each serving is packed with fiber, healthy fats, plant-based protein, whole grains, and fabulous flavor.
I don’t know what it is about nachos – maybe all the wonderful colors, or the fact that they’re inspired by sunny Mexico – but they always strike me as the perfect spring/summer meal.
- 1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
- ½ cup raw cashews, soaked (see Chef’s Tips) and drained
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional)
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 1 (15-oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 (7-oz.) bag baked tortilla chips
- ½ cup chunky salsa or pico de gallo
- 1 medium ripe avocado, peeled, seeded, and diced
- 3 green onions, white and light green parts diced
- To make the nacho cheese, combine the chopped pepper, drained cashews, nutritional yeast, chili powder, cumin, and salt in a food processor or high-speed blender and blend until smooth and combined. Taste for seasoning and add an additional 1/8 teaspoon salt if desired. Transfer the cheese sauce to a small bowl and set aside.
- To season the beans, place the drained beans in a medium bowl. Add the cumin, chili powder, and salt and stir to combine; set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and lightly grease a 2-quart casserole dish or 7x11-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Arrange a layer of tortilla chips (about one-third of the bag) on the bottom of the pan, slightly overlapping, so that the surface is completely covered. Spoon about one-third of the beans onto the tortilla chips, distributing them evenly as best you can. Drizzle about one-third of the nacho cheese sauce across the chips and beans, distributing it evenly as well.
- Repeat this layering (chips + beans + nacho cheese) two more times, until all chips, beans, and cheese have been used.
- Once the oven is preheated, place the pan in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, dice the avocado and green onion while the nachos bake.
- When the nachos are done baking, remove them from the oven, spoon the salsa or pico de gallo evenly across the top, and sprinkle the diced avocado and green onions over the top. Serve immediately.
• To soak and soften the cashews, you can place them in a bowl and either cover with cold water and set aside for 2-4 hours or cover with boiling water and set aside for 15 minutes.
• If you are allergic or sensitive to nuts, you can use sunflower seeds in place of the cashews.
• You can also omit the nacho cheese sauce entirely and use about 1 cup of shredded colby jack or Mexican cheese instead. However, I urge you to try the cashew nacho cheese at least once. It’s healthier than shredded dairy or nondairy cheese, and you will be shocked at how delectable it is!
• You can use 1¾ cups home-cooked black beans in place of the canned beans, if you want.
• I’m a fan of Guiltless Gourmet baked whole grain tortilla chips, but you can use any brand you like—just make sure they’re baked, not fried.
• Feel free to use homemade or storebought guacamole in place of the avocado; just dollop it on top of the nachos after they’ve been baked.
• If you’re a big fan of onions, you can double the amount of green onion, or replace it with about 1/3 cup diced red onion.
• Loaded Black Bean Burritos: Distribute the cheese sauce, beans, salsa, avocado, and onion among four whole-grain tortillas; roll up and serve.
• Loaded Black Bean Bowls: Divide two cups of cooked brown rice or quinoa among four serving bowls (½ cup per bowl). Distribute the cheese sauce, beans, salsa, avocado, and onion among the bowls, and serve.
• Loaded Black Bean Taco Salads: Place 3 cups chopped romaine lettuce in each of four large bowls. Divide the cheese sauce, beans, salsa, avocado, and onion among the bowls, and serve.