Vegetarian Chili Cheese Nachos

published Feb 9, 2022
Vegetarian Chili Cheese Nachos Recipe

Easy veggie chili and creamy queso team up in this rich, cheesy vegetarian snack.

Serves4 to 6

Prep25 minutes

Cook1 hour

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sheetpan of nachos at a table
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

Whether it’s a cozy winter night at home with family or a weekend spent watching football with friends, it doesn’t get much better than nachos loaded with chili and cheese sauce. And with this vegetarian take on the snack, everyone can dig in!

This recipe features a quick 30-minute vegetarian chili that you can make the day of or up to 2 days in advance. It starts with a red bell pepper and some onion, then a small jalpeño for a little bit of heat. Two types of beans — kidney and pinto — add heartiness and heft, then in go canned tomatoes, veggie broth, and some double concentrated tomato paste for a hit of umami. The classic chili flavor comes from a combo of chili powder, smoked paprika, and cumin; a pinch of cayenne adds a little spark. As with any chili, feel free to adjust the spices, use a different combo of beans, and bump up (or skip) the jalapeños. Once the chili is made, all that’s left is the assembly. Here are some tips to help you build the best pan of nachos.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

If You Make Vegetarian Chili Cheese Nachos, a Few Tips

  • Taste your chips before you season the chili. If your chips are salty and your chili is salty, your nachos will be extra salty. To avoid that, sample a chip or two before you season the chili to make sure everything will be in balance when the dish comes together.
  • Thick chips are the way to go. This is a hearty chili, which can be a challenge for thin tortilla chips. Look for thicker restaurant-style tortilla chips at the grocery store, pick up some from your local Mexican restaurant, or even make your own, if you’re feeling ambitious.
  • Make a few quick swaps for plant-based nachos. This recipe calls for store-bought queso and sour cream. For a vegan-friendly version, just swap in your favorite plant-based versions.
  • The best nachos begin with the build. To make sure every chip has some chili and cheese, lay down one layer of chips, then evenly dollop on half of your chili and queso. Pile on more chips, then add more chili and queso. That way, when you dig in you’ve got tasty fillings from top to bottom.

Vegetarian Chili Cheese Nachos Recipe

Easy veggie chili and creamy queso team up in this rich, cheesy vegetarian snack.

Prep time 25 minutes

Cook time 1 hour

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info


  • 1

    medium red bell pepper

  • 1/2

    medium white onion

  • 1

    small jalapeño

  • 2 cloves


  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil

  • 1 (about 15-ounce) can

    kidney beans

  • 1 (about 15-ounce) can

    pinto beans

  • 1 (28-ounce) can

    crushed or finely chopped tomatoes

  • 1 cup

    water or low-sodium vegetable broth

  • 1 tablespoon

    double concentrated tomato paste (from a tube)

  • 2 tablespoons

    chili powder

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    smoked paprika

  • 1 teaspoon

    ground cumin

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more as needed

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    cayenne pepper (optional)

  • 1 (12-ounce) bag

    corn tortilla chips, preferably thick-cut

  • 1 (16-ounce) jar

    store-bought queso dip, or 1 1/2 cups homemade, divided

Garnish options:

  • 1

    medium lime

  • 2

    large scallions

  • 8 sprigs

    fresh cilantro

  • 1/3 cup

    sliced pickled jalapeños

  • Sour cream

  • Guacamole


  1. Finely chop 1 medium red bell pepper (about 1 cup) and 1/2 medium white onion (about 1/2 cup). Seed and mince 1 small jalapeño (2 tablespoons). Mince 2 garlic cloves.

  2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the jalapeño and bell pepper and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, drain and rinse 1 (about 15-ounce) can kidney beans and 1 (about 15-ounce) can pinto beans.

  3. Add the pinto beans, the kidney beans, 1 (28-ounce) can finely chopped tomatoes, 1 cup water or low-sodium vegetable broth, and 1 tablespoon tomato paste. Stir to combine and bring to a boil.

  4. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Add 2 tablespoons chili powder, 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper if desired. Stir until well-combined.

  5. Cover and simmer until the flavors meld, about 30 minutes. If the chili is very saucy, simmer uncovered until thickened, 5 to 10 minutes more. Taste and season with kosher salt as needed. Let cool slightly. Meanwhile, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 425°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper.

  6. Arrange half (12-ounce) bag tortilla chips on the baking sheet in an even layer. Spoon half the chili and 3/4 cup of the queso dip over the chips. Arrange the remaining chips over the top and spoon on the remaining chili and remaining 3/4 cup queso dip.

  7. Bake until the edges of the chips start to brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile, cut 1 medium lime into 8 wedges. Thinly slice 2 large scallions (about 1/4 cup). Coarsely chop the leaves and tender stems of 8 fresh cilantro sprigs (about 2 tablespoons).

  8. Just before serving, garnish the nachos with the scallions, cilantro, and 1/3 cup sliced pickled jalapeños. Serve with the lime wedges and sour cream and guacamole.

Recipe Notes

Vegan: Use vegan cheese or queso sauce in place of the queso dip.

Make ahead: The chili can be made up to 2 days in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container or frozen for up to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before using. No need to reheat the chili before topping the nachos.