We’re having nachos for dinner?” he asked.
“Yep,” I said. “Does that sound good?”
I was talking to our 13-year-old foster son, who’s been with us for a little 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 keeping up with his appetite. No need to worry about “spoiling” dinner with a snack; he’ll devour both, want a cookie for dessert and ask for popcorn a half-hour later.
One night, I had settled on this recipe for buffalo chickpea nachos as a sly way of showing him that vegan cooking can be hearty and satisfying, and all went according to plan – until I used 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 rendered the dish largely inedible (and the air around the stove cough-inducing).
Burritos came to the rescue that night, and the kid got a kick out of telling us – and later, anybody within earshot – about the time “Joe really messed up some nachos”. The next night, I was back at it, this time with the correct sauce, and redeemed myself.
Obviously, this is just the thing for game night, whether that means the upcoming Super Bowl or the backgammon and Monopoly we’ve been playing since our foster son arrived. But before you make it, know that there are at least two other crucial choices beyond the Frank’s. First, start with big, restaurant-style tortilla chips. Second, and perhaps even more importantly, you want the right vegan cheese.
If you’ve been scarred by memories of vegan shreds that just sat on your nachos or pizza, or in your grilled cheese or quesadilla, unmoved by the heat of the oven and refusing to do anything close to melting, you might be reluctant to go there again. If you’re not vegan and not interested in eating a vegan meal, by all means use your favourite dairy cheese here. But for those of you who do want to keep this plant-based, I tested nine brands, sprinkling them plain on tortilla chips and baking for 10 to 15 minutes. The upshot: Daiya – a brand I used to avoid – was the clear winner with a vastly improved product that melted beautifully. Runners-up were Violife and Vevan; 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 tart (and manageably spicy) chickpeas, gooey cheese and crisp bell pepper and spring onions had all of us eating like teenagers, going back for seconds –and playfully fighting over thirds.
Buffalo chickpea nachos
Active time: 15 minutes | Total time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6
These simple-to-make nachos give chickpeas the tart, spicy buffalo treatment, layering them with vegan cheese, red bell pepper and crisp green onions. If you’d like, feel free to add pico de gallo and/or guacamole. Use Frank’s Red Hot sauce for that typical buffalo flavour; if you substitute another sauce, make sure it’s equally mild, such as Louisiana hot sauce (using Tabasco or something as hot or hotter in these quantities results in something barely edible). For the best-melting vegan cheese, look for Daiya Cutting Board Cheddar Style Shreds, followed by Violife Just Like Cheddar Shreds and Vevan Ched-Shred.
Make ahead: The Buffalo chickpeas can be cooked and refrigerated for up to 5 days before you make the nachos.
Storage: Not recommended, but you can refrigerate for up to 5 days and use as the base for chilaquiles or migas (with vegan egg substitute, if desired).
255g cooked chickpeas or one (425g) can no-salt-added chickpeas, drained and rinsed
120ml Frank’s Red Hot sauce (see headnote)
60g unsalted vegan butter
½ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp ground black pepper
280g large, restaurant-style no-salt tortilla chips
200-225g shredded vegan cheddar cheese, preferably Daiya brand (see headnote)
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, cored and chopped
2 spring onions, trimmed and thinly sliced
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 190C.
In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the chickpeas, hot sauce, vegan butter, garlic powder and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the butter melts, the mixture comes to a boil and the liquid slightly reduces, 5 minutes. Use a potato masher or fork to lightly mash the chickpeas. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.
Spread the tortilla chips on a large, rimmed baking tray in an even layer. Sprinkle the vegan cheese on top. Add dollops of the chickpea mixture evenly on top, followed by the bell pepper.
Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the chips are starting to lightly brown around the edges, making sure they don’t burn.
Remove from the oven, top with the scallions and serve hot.
Nutrition information per serving (about 12 chips plus toppings), based on 6 | calories: 503; total fat: 26g; saturated fat: 10g; cholesterol: 0mg; sodium: 1,121mg; carbohydrates: 51g; dietary fibre: 7g; sugar: 3g; protein: 9g.
This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.
Recipe adapted from ‘Liv B’s Easy Everyday’ by Olivia Biermann (Robert Rose, 2022).
© The Washington Post