Vegan nachos! I’ve made many a cashew cheese over the last few years, and each of them has a slightly different purpose. There are sauces for macaroni, fillings for quesadillas, a straight cashew cheese, and quite a few others. But this one, oh, it’s just perfect. The right cheddary color, the right consistency, the right flavors. Everything. I just want to dip tortilla chips in it all day long, and drizzle it over tacos, and eat it by the spoonful. No matter how much I make, it just seems to disappear way too quickly.

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And this nacho recipe is really one of my all-time favorites. It starts with the cashew-based nacho cheese that’s infused with smoked paprika… Then, we make some homemade baked tortilla chips from real corn tortillas which are super thick and crunchy… and that’s a good thing too, because if the chips were any less hefty they would simply cave under the deliciousness of our maple & chili glazed “ground tempeh” meat, nacho cheese, and other toppings.

The crazy part is, you can throw this entire meal together, from scratch, in less than 20 minutes. Let’s do it:

Makes 2 big servings (and extra cheese)

Ingredients:

  • 6 (6-inch) corn tortillas
  • 1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • pinch of salt
  • 8 oz tempeh
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 cup raw cashew pieces
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1/2+ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4+ teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric (for color)
  • Additional toppings (lettuce, tomato, green onions…)

The Baked Tortilla Chips

Did you know you can make super delicious homemade tortilla chips with just corn tortillas and a tiny bit of oil? Here’s how.

  • Preheat the oven to 350ΒΊ F
  • Drizzle about 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil on a baking sheet
  • Use your hands to spread 3 6″ corn tortillas around in this oil and ensure that all tortillas are just barely coated on both sides (you don’t need much oil here). Then, cut into sections, giving you 32 strips.
  • Sprinkle with a little salt.
  • Repeat with 3 more tortillas on another baking sheet.
  • Arrange all the triangles into a single layer on your baking sheets and pop them in the oven just until the ends start curling upwards
  • Remove from the oven and flip each chip to ensure even crispness on both sides, return to the oven for 4-6 minutes until fully crispy.

The Maple-Chili Tempeh

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This stuff is one of the most delicious “ground beef” substitutes I’ve ever made. With a chili kick and a hint of sweetness, these crumbles are perfect on the nachos:

  • Heat a small skillet with 1-2 tablespoons of water and drop in bits of tempeh, using your hands to break it up into little chunks.
  • Drizzle in 1 tablespoon each of soy sauce and maple syrup, along with about 1/2 teaspoon of chili powder.
  • Let this simmer and reduce for about 8 minutes, tossing regularly, until the tempeh is evenly coated in this delicious, caramelized glaze.

The Nacho Cheese

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As mentioned, I’ve made plenty of cashew cheeses but this is perhaps my favorite. One of the secrets here is the smoked paprika (and yes, it has to be the smoked kind). It adds such a deep and complex flavor profile that takes this cheese sauce to a whole new level.

  • For best results, soak the cashews in lukewarm water for at least 1 hour.
  • Drain the cashews and add them to a blender with all the other ingredients – water, nutritional yeast, salt, smoked paprika, and tumeric. Blend until smooth.
  • Give the cheese sauce a taste and adjust anything as needed – a little more water may be needed as well.
  • This sauce will last for several days if refrigerated in a sealed container.

To serve, layer a plate with chips, drizzle the cheese, crumble the tempeh, and top with tomatoes, guacamole, and lettuce.

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