It turns out, nachos don’t need cheese, meat or sour cream to be delicious.

Before I wrote the book ¡Buenos Nachos!, I would have defined nachos in its truest, more bare-bones form as corn chips with melted cheese. But after tasting palate-broadening recipes from dozens of chefs and nacho-loving celebrities, I have expanded my definition.

Corn chips are indeed standard—and naturally vegan—but anything crunchy works. (Think matzo, pita, or even fried lotus root.) And while most recipes call for cheese, anything drippy or creamy will do—as long as it coats those chips. Once you have your crunchy base and creamy topping, you can start piling on the maximum amount of textures and flavors—spicy, tangy, sweet, salty.

Really, there’s no reason that vegan nachos shouldn’t be just as delicious as traditional nachos. These five recipes are proof.

Buenos Nachos

Recipe One: Vegan Nachos with Pickled Fennel & Cashew Queso

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients: 

  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 1 ½ cups apple cider vinegar
  • ¾ cup water
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 avocados
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • Chile powder
  • 8 to 20 ounces tortilla chips (1 medium bag)
  • 2 watermelon radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup pico de gallo (recipe below, or find it at Trader Joe's in the refrigerated dips section)
  • 2 cups cashew queso (recipe below, or find it at Trader Joe's in the refrigerated dips section)

Directions: 

  1. Make the pickled fennel: Halve, core and thinly slice the fennel (use a mandoline if you have one). Transfer it to a jar or a bowl. In a saucepan, bring the vinegar, water, sugar, turmeric and 2 teaspoons of salt to a boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Pour mixture over the fennel and let sit for at least 15 minutes. Cover and refrigerate the pickles until ready to use. 
  2. Cut avocados in half and remove the pits. Scoop the flesh into a bowl and mash with a fork until chunky, then season to taste with salt and lime juice. Pour the beans into a bowl and season to taste with salt and chile powder. 
  3. Arrange half of the chips on a serving platter. Scatter some fennel pickles, avocado, beans, radishes and pico de gallo over the chips. Drizzle with some of the queso and repeat to make a second layer. Serve. 

+Pico de Gallo 

Makes 2 cups

Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup diced tomatoes (about 1 large or 2 medium tomatoes)
  • ¼ cup red onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
  • ¼ cup finely chopped cilantro
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
  • Salt to taste

Directions: 

  1. In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients and mix well. 
  2. Season to taste with salt.
  3. The pico de gallo can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
Noah Fecks

+Cashew Queso

Makes 2 cups 

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces raw cashews 
  • 4 cups water 
  • 1 garlic clove 
  • 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
  • ¾ cup nutritional yeast 
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar 
  • 1 tablespoon salt 

Directions: 

  1. Place the cashews in a heatproof bowl. 
  2. In a saucepan, bring water to a boil and pour it over the cashews. Let the cashews soak for 15 minutes, then drain; reserve the soaking liquid. 
  3. In a high-powered blender, combine the cashews, garlic, turmeric, yeast, vinegar and salt. Add 2 cups of the soaking liquid. 
  4. Blend until very smooth, about 2 minutes, thinning with more water if needed (the sauce should have the texture of melted cheese)

Recipe Two: Individual Smoky Pineapple Nachos 

Some people prefer to top their nachos individually, instead of layering the chips en masse. It’s a little fussier, sure, but it doesn’t take too long if you limit the toppings. And the payoff? Complete (vegan) cheese coverage, without any sad, naked chips. The pineapple might seem odd, but it adds a delicious sweetness. 

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Arrange sturdy corn chips in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. 
  2. Cover each chip with a generous pinch of shredded vegan cheese, a small slice of pineapple and a slice of pickled jalapeno. Sprinkle with smoked paprika and cayenne to taste. 
  3. Bake the chips until the cheese has melted, 7 to 10 minutes.

Recipe Three: Double Green Nachos

The kale chips and herby gremolata (and protein-filled black-eyed peas) make this plate of nachos extra healthful. 

Directions:

  1. Make kale chips: Rip washed and dried kale into bite-sized pieces, and toss with olive oil and salt on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake in a 400 °F oven until crisp, about 10 minutes. 
  2. Add a few handfuls of sturdy corn chips to the baking sheet, and scatter with 1 can of black-eyed peas, drained and seasoned with salt, and vegan cheese (we like Chao brand). Bake until the cheese has melted, 6-7 minutes. 
  3. Meanwhile, make a green sauce by blending in a food processor: fistfuls of parsley and cilantro, the juice and zest of 1 lemon, 2 garlic cloves, and ¼ cup of olive oil. 
  4. Drizzle over the nachos before serving. 

Recipe Four: Pita Nachos with Roasted Peppers and Tahini Drizzle

This Middle Eastern-inspired recipe shows that nachos don’t need to utilize Mexican flavors or ingredients (or meat or cheese!) to be addictively delicious. 

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 400 °F. 
  2. Toss sliced bell peppers in olive oil and kosher salt, and roast until soft, about 20 minutes. 
  3. Meanwhile, mix the juice of one lemon with ½ cup tahini, ¼ cup vegan mayonnaise, ½ teaspoon cumin, and a pinch of salt. Whisk, thinning out with water until smooth and drizzle-able. 
  4. Arrange store-bought pita chips on a rimmed baking sheet, sprinkle with olive oil and cook until toasty, about 5 or 6 minutes. 
  5. On a platter, layer the chips with roasted peppers and sliced olives. Sprinkle with cilantro leaves, and drizzle with tahini sauce.

Recipe Five: Guacamole Lovers’ Nachos

Guacamole ingredients bless this plate of nachos, which is served with a bowl of guacamole alongside. Brewer’s yeast adds a cheese-like flavor to the chips, and a vegan version of Mexican crema lends creaminess.

Directions:

  1. Make pickled onions: Whisk white vinegar with a little sugar and salt and water, and add slices of red onion; let sit for 15 minutes. 
  2. Meanwhile, make a vegan version of crema, thinning out ½ cup of vegan mayonnaise with the juice from 1 lime, and spoonfuls of pureed canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce to taste. 
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 °F. 
  4. Arrange sturdy corn chips on a rimmed baking sheet, sprinkle brewer’s yeast all over, and cook until toasty, about 7-8 minutes. 
  5. On a serving platter, layer the warm chips with chunks of avocado, pickled onions, and halved grape tomatoes. 
  6. Sprinkle with cilantro leaves, drizzle with the spicy “crema,” and serve with a bowl of your favorite guacamole.

Creole Queso

Makes 2 cups 

Ingredients:

  • 6 tablespoons vegan butter 
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour 
  • 2 cups non-dairy milk 
  • 3 ounces of your favorite grated vegan cheese (1 cup) 
  • 1 tablespoon Creole spice blend 

Directions:

  1. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking constantly, for 3 minutes. Turn heat to high and whisk in the non-dairy milk. 
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil while whisking, then lower the heat and gently simmer, whisking occasionally, until thickened, about 5 to 7 minutes. 
  3. Remove the pan from the heat, add the cheese and whisk the queso until it’s smooth.
  4. Whisk in the Creole seasoning and keep warm until ready to use. 

Idiazabal Queso

Makes 2 cups

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups vegetable broth or non-dairy milk, unsweetened
  • 9 ounces non-dairy cheese, grated (2¼ cups) 
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper 

Directions: 

  1. In a saucepan, bring the broth to a simmer. Transfer to a blender and turn the blender to high power. 
  2. Slowly add the cheese through the top of the blender and blend until emulsified. 
  3. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 
  4. Transfer the cheese to a saucepan and keep warm until ready to use.