If you think that cauliflower couldn’t possibly taste like nachos, you’re not alone. That’s how I felt when I first saw someone mention it in our Facebook support community. But if you think about it, it’s brilliant. You get all the flavors of nachos you love, while also eating a hefty portion of veggies. These Vegan Cauliflower Nachos are packed with flavor AND nutrition. It’s a win-win.
The idea is pretty simple. Take roasted cauliflower, which I already love on its own, and top it with taco meat, cheese, and all of your other favorite nacho toppings. Genius! I just took it a step further by making it vegan, for an entirely plant-based meal. (I saw this original idea on Delish.com.)
This variation is topped with a dairy-free cheese sauce adapted from my Healthy Queso recipe. I didn’t want this meal to feel too nut-heavy, so I lightened up the walnut “meat” portion of it by adding fresh carrots to the mix. I love adding walnuts to my meals, because they are loaded with antioxidants that are thought to reduce inflammation and boost heart health. In one review of 31 trials, people who included extra nuts in their diets lost 1.4 more pounds and lost an extra half-inch off their waist circumference. (source) It’s also nice that both toppings can be whipped up in just about 15 minutes, while your cauliflower is roasting to perfection.
These aren’t exactly the type of nacho you’ll want to pick up with your fingers, but I don’t think you’ll mind grabbing a fork and digging in. I nearly ate the whole pan the first time I tried them– but perhaps you’ll want to share? I wouldn’t make any promises.
- Vegan Cauliflower Nachos with Walnut Taco "Meat"
- Serves 2 (with extra toppings leftover)
- 1 (2 pound) head of cauliflower
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Fine sea salt
- Walnut Taco "Meat":
- 1/2 cup raw walnuts (pecans work well, too)
- 1 medium carrot , peeled and diced (about 1/2 cup diced)
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Cheese Sauce:
- 1 cup cashews , soaked in water for 2 hours
- 1/2 cup water , plus more to thin
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric (optional)
- Optional Toppings:
- Diced Bell Peppers
- Diced red onion
- Fresh cilantro
Preheat your oven to 400ºF and chop the cauliflower into small florets. (I like to make sure the stems are at least cut in half for more-even baking, as they tend to take the longest to get tender.) In a large rimmed baking sheet, drizzle a little bit of olive oil over the top of the cauliflower and toss directly in the pan to coat evenly. Arrange the cauliflower florets into a single layer on the baking sheet and sprinkle generously with salt. Roast until tender, about 25 minutes at 400ºF. The smaller you cut the florets, the faster they will cook, so you might want to keep an eye on them at the 20-minute mark if you cut them into bite-sized pieces.
While the cauliflower is in the oven, prepare the Walnut Taco "Meat." Place the walnuts, or pecans if you prefer, in a small food processor and briefly pulse to break down the nuts into fine meal. Add in the diced carrots, salt, cumin, chili powder, and lemon juice and process again until a crumbly mixture is formed, somewhat resembling ground taco meat. Adjust any seasoning to taste and set aside.
Next, make the "cheese" sauce. Drain and rinse the cashews well, then combine all of the ingredients in a high-speed blender until smooth and creamy. If the sauce is too thick, add one or two tablespoons of extra water to thin. Set the sauce aside.
Once the cauliflower is tender, remove it from the oven and immediately add you toppings. Drizzle the cheese sauce over the top, sprinkle on the taco "meat," and add any other nacho toppings you like. You can return the pan to the oven to heat everything through for a few minutes more, but I prefer to serve it immediately and enjoy the contrast of hot and cold, and tender and crunchy vegetables.
Leftovers can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to one week.
Notes: As always, please leave a comment below if you try a substitution with this recipe. I haven’t tried this recipe using other nuts or seeds yet, but if you need a nut-free cheese sauce I’d recommend checking out my Sweet Potato Cheese Sauce as a nut-free alternative.
I hope you enjoy it!
Reader Feedback: What other favorite game-day snacks or junk food favorites need a healthy makeover?