Football season has officially kicked off! Get game-day ready with these Vegan Chili Cheese Nachos from our friend, Angela Liddon, founder of the Oh She Glows blog. This healthy take on the classic tailgate snack is straight from the pages of her brand new cookbook, Oh She Glows Every Day, and (vegan or not) it’s a must-try. Get the recipe below and be sure to check back next month for more of her accessible, plant-based cuisine.

Vegan Chili Cheese Nachos

Growing up, I was a huge fan of Wendy’s Chili and Cheese Nachos (remember the 99 cent menu?). While it’s been years since I’ve stepped foot inside, I still crave the idea of chili and cheese nachos on occasion. I’ve finally created a wholesome version that’s free of processed foods, but which captures all the bold flavor of the original. You won’t believe how decadent tasting — yet wholesome — the cheese sauce is, and how satisfying the smoky lentil and kidney bean chili is. This dish makes a great appetizer (just serve the dip with a big spoon so guests can portion it into their own bowls) or you can serve it for dinner like we often do — it’ll easily serve four. If you want to serve it to a crowd, try putting it in a warmed cast-iron pot or in a warmer to retain the heat. I like this dip spicy so I serve it with pickled sliced jalapeños on top — it adds a juicy kick of heat!

CHILI CHEESE NACHOS
Serves 4-5

Ingredients

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced (about 2 cups)
3 large cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
½ to ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt, to taste, plus a pinch
1 medium/large jalapeño, seeded, if desired, and finely chopped
1 small red bell pepper, diced (about 1⅓ cups)
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 can diced tomatoes, with juices
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 can lentils, drained and rinsed, or 1½ cups cooked lentils
1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1½  teaspoons apple cider vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
Sriracha or other hot sauce
2 batches All-Purpose Cheese Sauce (recipe below)
Pickled sliced jalapeños, drained, for garnish
Corn tortilla chips, for serving

Directions

  1. In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and a pinch of salt, stir, and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until the onion starts to soften.
  2. Stir in the fresh jalapeño and 1 cup of the bell pepper and cook for a few minutes more. Add the chili powder, cumin, oregano, and paprika and stir to combine.
  3. Pour in the diced tomatoes with their juices and stir. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer.
  4. Stir in the tomato paste, lentils, and kidney beans. With a potato masher, roughly mash one-third of the mixture—don’t try to mash it smooth, just until it’s slightly thickened.
  5. Add the vinegar, salt, black pepper, and sriracha. Cook over medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes, or longer if desired, until thickened to your liking.
  6. Into individual bowls (or a 2 1/2- to 3-quart cast-iron pot or glass dish), ladle a layer of chili. Top with a layer of the cheese sauce. Keep layering until the chili is used up and you’ve added as much cheese sauce as you prefer (I usually reserve 1/2 cup of the sauce for another use). Top the dip with the remaining bell pepper, pickled jalapeño, and a sprinkle of sea salt.
  7. Serve immediately with corn tortilla chips. Let any leftovers cool completely (otherwise, the steam will create more water in the dip) before transferring to a container and refrigerating for up to 5 days. Reheat leftovers in a saucepan on the stovetop while stirring to combine with the cheese sauce. Cooled leftovers can be frozen in freezer-safe zip-top bags with the air pressed out or in freezer-safe containers filled to the top (to prevent freezer burn) for up to 1 month.

VEGAN ALL PURPOSE CHEESE SAUCE
Makes 1 Cup

Ingredients

¼ cup raw cashews
1¼ cups diced peeled potatoes (see Tip)
Heaping ⅓ cup diced carrots (see Tip)
2 to 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast, to taste
2 tablespoons refined coconut oil or other neutral-tasting oil, such as grapeseed oil
2 tablespoons plus 1½  teaspoons water
1½  teaspoons fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
½ teaspoon plus ⅛ teaspoon fine sea salt, or to taste
1 medium clove garlic
½ to 3/4 teaspoon (2 to 4 mL) white wine vinegar, to taste
Sriracha or other hot sauce (optional)

Directions

  1. Soak the cashews in a bowl of water overnight or for at least 1 hour. Rinse and drain.
  2. Put the potatoes and carrots in a medium pot and add water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer uncovered for 10 to 15 minutes, until fork-tender. Drain. (Alternatively, you can steam the veggies.)
  3. Transfer the cashews, potatoes, and carrots to a blender, add the nutritional yeast, coconut oil, water, lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) of the salt, garlic, and vinegar and blend until smooth. If using a Vitamix, use the tamper to help it blend. If it’s too thick, you can add another splash of water or oil to help it along. Taste the sauce and add sriracha and more salt, if desired. The sauce will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

Oh She Glows Tip: It’s important to dice the potatoes and carrots small before measuring (about ½ -inch pieces); I recommend weighing the potato and carrot for the most accurate measurement.

Make it nut-free: Simply omit the cashews. It won’t be quite as rich, but it still tastes great!

Reprinted from Oh She Glows Every Day by arrangement with Avery, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © 2016, Angela Liddon

What are your favorite football foods? For more slimmed down tailgate snacks, click here, here or here!