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.
Cauliflower Nachos with Walnut Taco Meat
Roasted Cauliflower Base
- 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
- 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)
- 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?
Questions and Reviews
This sounds wonderful! You never cease to amaze me with your creative, brilliant recipes! I think I will be adding some grass-fed beef along with the walnut ‘meat’ to up the protein. Thank you for all your veggie packed/paleo version of unhealthy foods-they turn out beautifully 🙂
Can’t wait to finally pre-order you book!
It seems that all vegan cheese recipes call for nutritional yeast. I can’t stand the taste it though. Is there anything at all that could be used in place of nutritional yeast?
Did you definitely try nutritional yeast and NOT brewer’s yeast? Brewers yeast is disgusting!! Nutritional yeast has a really mild, nutty flavor, and it’s diluted even more when you blend it in a sauce like this one. If you leave it out, it will simply taste less “cheesy” but still probably good!
Thank you for replying. It was definitely nutritional yeast…I have tried it several times in different dishes and just do not like the taste. I wish I liked it! It would be much easier.
I made the cashew “cheese” sauce with same amount of roasted red peoper hummus instead of nutritional yeast (I also do not enjoy nutritional yeast) and it turned out yummy. It make the sauce thinner, fyi so reduce water a smidge.
Your recipe sounds GREAT, with the always-versatile cauliflower! I wonder what it’d be like to substitute in some mushrooms for the taco meat. I’m sure it tastes wonderful as it is (nothing beats a cashew cheese sauce), but I shy away from having so many nuts in one meal. Because nutritionally speaking, that’s a lot of omega 6’s. The walnuts at least do provide some omega 3’s, but it’s so easy to get overbalanced in the “6” direction. For inflammation, I like to keep the omega 3’s higher.
This was SO good!!! My husband said he was a little surprised he liked it so much but it was just as good as I imagined. I have been looking forward to this recipe ever since the instagram pic and it was worth the wait! Thank you!
This looks awesome! And I happen to have all the ingredients! Lunch today! Thank you Megan!
Could u use macadamia nuts instead of cashews? That would help balance the omegas…….
Awesome – thanks for making this recipe, and for the nod in the FB community. Keep rockin’, we’ll keep followin’.
Made this tonight, doubled the recipe. Added half a green bell pepper, diced, and maybe 1/4 red onion on top. Put it back in the oven a couple of minutes and it was fantastic! Everyone loved it and I can’t wait to make it again! Thank you : )
AMAZING meal! We loved the “taco” meat. Very satisfying.
Can you tell me a little more about raw cashews and raw walnuts? Should we be eating raw nuts? And can reg cashews/walnuts do the same?
Raw nuts have a much more mild flavor that blends in well with recipes like this one. You can experiment with regular ones, but the flavor might be different!
My husband refused to eat a salad with his meal saying veggies are disgusting. So i whipped up these babies knowing he is too curious to not to try and he ate almost all of it 🙂 you can’t escape veggies hubby as long as i have Megan by my side and you will get healthier…just you watch. Thank you Megan for all your heard work! You are saving lives!
HA! Your comment just made my evening! Glad he ate his veggies!! 😉
What a super tasty dinner. The only change I made was to cook vegan ground meat and added taco seasoning. My husband came home and ate a ton of it. The cashew cheese sauce was um.um.good!! Loved it and definitely going to use it on other things. Thank you for posting so many easy and tasty recipes. I’ll be tagging my cauliflower taco photo of this dish in instagram!!
That picture looks like pecans instead of walnuts. I’m going to try this with walnuts though.
I can’t recall the last time I was so sad to see my empty plate at the end of a meal. This recipe is now one of my all time favs… and you make a ridiculous amount of great ones! It took no time at all and I had a beautiful and satisfying dinner! Thank you for making this one!
I am cheese lover, but wanted to make a “cheese” sauce for a vegan and dairy free friend.
I spent quite a lot on all these ingredients, made it faithfully to the recipe and I don’t like it at all. So disappointed. Not a bit like my regular cheese sauce. What a waste of money.
My friend doesn’t like it either.
My family enjoyed these nacho very much. I made your sweet potato cheese sauce instead of the cashew cheese sauce. It is yummy! Thank you.
Super easy to make! I used purple cauliflower and it looked so pretty!
(No need to post this, just FYI)… This looks delicious…. But fyi these two lines are under the “Ingredients” list. I think they should be above it: Vegan Cauliflower Nachos with Walnut Taco “Meat” — Serves 2 (with extra toppings leftover)
This was absolutely amazing! My meat loving hubby couldn’t stop snagging bites before it was plated!! Will definitely be making again!