Vegan Chili, Cheese, and Bean Nachos Recipe

A satisfying and spicy chili, creamy queso, and tangy homemade crema make for the ultimate vegan nacho bar.
September 13, 2021, 11:00am
Photo by Farideh Sadeghin

Serves 10
Prep time: 1 hour
Total time: 3 to 4 hours


for the chili paste: 
8 guajillo chilies, deseeded and deveined
5 ancho chilies, deseeded and deveined
2 arbol chilies, deseeded and deveined
10 garlic cloves, peeled 
3 medium yellow onions, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons canola oil 

for the chili:
4 cups|657 grams firm tofu, crumbled
12 ounces|340 grams roughly chopped button mushrooms 
1 cup|134 grams grams toasted and chopped cashews 
¼ cup|40 grams golden raisins, chopped
½ medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons vegetable oil 
2 cups|500 ml tomato puree
3 tablespoons onion powder 
2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper 
2 tablespoons garlic powder 
4 teaspoons ground cumin 
4 teaspoons sweet paprika 
2 teaspoons ground coriander 
¼ teaspoon ground cloves 
kosher salt, to taste 
lime juice, to taste 


for the queso: 
5 heads garlic 
4 tablespoons canola oil 
3 jalapeños
1 cup|129 grams cashews 
8 ounces butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
5 ounces zucchini, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
4 ounces Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons smoked paprika 
kosher salt, to taste 
2 cups cashew milk or water 
½ cup|125 ml white vinegar 

for the guacamole: 
½ small diced white onion
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped 
2 serranos, sliced 
½ cup cilantro leaves
5 avocados 
¼ cup|60 ml lime juice 
kosher salt, to taste 

for the jalapeño crema: 
1 jalapeño
⅔ cup vegan cream cheese 
½ cup|52 grams grams toasted cashews 
¼ cup|60 ml apple cider vinegar 
¼ cup|60 ml lemon juice 
1 ¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard 
kosher salt, to taste 

for the pico de gallo: 
8 ounces|280 grams tomatoes, diced
¼ cup|3 grams chopped cilantro 
¼ cup|60 ml fresh lime juice 
5 garlic cloves, minced
3 jalapeños, diced
¼ large white onion, diced
kosher salt, to taste 

to serve: 
6 (9-ounce|255 gram) bags tortilla chips, preferably Vista Hermosa Totodos 
1 cup|135 grams pickled jalapeños
2 (15.5 ounce|439 gram) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup|100 grams sliced black olives 


  1. Make the chili paste: Heat the oven to 425°F. Toss the garlic and onions on a sheet tray with the oil, then roast until tender and lightly golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to the bowl of a food processor or blender.
  2. Meanwhile, toast the chilies in the oven until tender and pliable, about 5 minutes. Place the chilies in a large bowl and cover with about 8 cups boiling water to cover. Hydrate for 30 minutes, then drain, saving ¾ cup of the soaking liquid. Transfer the chilies to the bowl of a food processor with the chilies and purée until smooth (you may need to add some of the chile soaking liquid to help blend). Set aside.
  3. Make the chili: In the bowl of a food processor and working with one ingredient at a time, pulse the tofu, mushrooms, cashews, raisins, and onion each into small “ground beef”-sized pieces.
  4. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium. Add the onion and cook until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Add the raisins and cook 2 minutes more, then stir in the reserved chili paste and cook 3 minutes. Add the tofu, mushrooms, cashews, tomato purée, onion powder, black pepper, garlic powder, cumin, paprika, coriander, and cloves and cook, stirring occasionally, until thick, about 30 minutes. Season with salt and lime juice and keep warm. 
  5. Make the queso: Heat the oven to 400°F. Trim ¼-inch off the top of each head of garlic. Place each head on an individual piece of foil and, using half of the vegetable oil, drizzle each with the oil. Wrap in the foil and roast until the garlic is tender, about 45 minutes. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then squeeze the garlic into a bowl.
  6. Heat the oven to broil and cook the jalapeños until charred, about 10 minutes. 
  7. Heat the remaining oil in a large saucepan over medium. Add the cashews and cook, stirring, careful not to allow the cashews to take on any color, until soft, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the jalapeño, the butternut squash, zucchini, potatoes, paprika, and salt and cook 2 to 3 minutes, then stir in the cashew milk and vinegar to cover the vegetables and simmer until tender, 30 minutes. Transfer to a high-speed blender and purée until smooth, adding more water if needed to achieve a queso-like consistency. Transfer to a saucepan and keep warm over low. 
  8. Make the guacamole: Heat a small skillet over medium-high. Add the onion and cook until lightly charred and soft, 5 minutes. Add the garlic and chilies and cook until charred and soft, 3 minutes more. Transfer to the bowl of a blender or food processor with the cilantro and purée until smooth, then cool. 
  9. Halve, pit, and peel the avocados and smash with a fork until creamy, but still chunky. Stir in the reserved purée and season with salt and lime juice. Refrigerate until ready to use. 
  10. Make the jalapeño crema: Heat the oven to broil and cook the jalapeño until charred, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a small saucepan with the cream cheese, cashews, vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, and .42 cups|100 ml water. Bring to a simmer and cook until heated through, 5 minutes. Transfer to the bowl of a blender and purée until smooth, then season with salt. Set aside until ready to use. 
  11. Make the pico: In a medium bowl, mix together the tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice, garlic, jalapeños, and onion, and season with salt. Refrigerate until ready to use. 
  12. To assemble: Layer the tortilla chips, chili, queso, and black beans 4 to 5 times (until you run out of ingredients), on a large sheet tray. Finish with the pico de gallo and pickled jalapeños and drizzle with the crema. Top with the guacamole and serve.

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This is part of a special series, Indulgence, which explores extravagant living in a time of restraint. It’s also in the September 2021 VICE magazine issue. Subscribe here.