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With creamy cheese sauce, tangy cilantro sauce, savory refried beans and a gorgeous array of brightly colored vegetables, this giant tray of vegetarian nachos is equally at home on game day or when you want a regular family dinner to be a little more fun than usual.

vegetarian nachos on a sheet pan
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Why we love this recipe

Oh hello, junk food dinner that’s actually packed with vegetables and fiber! These vegetarian nachos are teeming with flavor and arguably almost gourmet. They’ve got:

  • A velvety, béchamel-style cheese sauce that somehow makes these nachos both extra-posh and extra-comforting
  • A tangy, much-beloved cilantro sauce that you’ll want to drizzle over everything
  • Tons of fresh, vibrant veggies
  • Savory refried beans that you can make from scratch or tip out of a can

They’re a bit of work to prepare, but (1) it’s so worth it, I promise, and (2) you can do a lot of it in advance — or pick and choose which elements to include — which makes things totally manageable, whatever your situation.

I first published this recipe here in 2016 and on my Serious Eats column The Crisper Whisperer way back in 2011. I’ve since updated the post for clarity, but the recipe remains the same.

What you’ll need

Here’s a glance at the ingredients you’ll need to make vegetarian nachos. A few of the elements in this photo are already prepared, so please refer to the list below the photo for details.

ingredients in bowls
  • Tortilla chips will be your base, of course. You can use absolutely any kind that you like, from multigrain (or grain-free) to full-on Doritos. In theory I recommend stronger chips that will hold up to these sturdy toppings, but in practice we often use a big bag of the Tostitos that my kids refer to as “slap of lime” flavor.
  • You’ll need about 3 1/2 cups refried beans. This can come from two cans of your favorite brand, or you can make them yourself from my favorite recipe. They freeze brilliantly, so you can make that element ahead if you like.
  • Instead of regular melted cheese, I really like to kick things up with a gorgeous homemade cheese sauce. You’ll find the full details in the recipe card below, but you’ll need butter, flour, whole milk, extra-sharp cheddar, and sour cream.
  • Cilantro sauce has long been one of Umami Girl’s most popular recipes. You’ll find the full details in the recipe card below, but you’ll need cilantro, olive oil, lime juice, garlic, salt, and pepper.
  • The simplest of cabbage slaw adds crunch, freshness, and tanginess. You’ll need a quarter of a small red or green cabbage, lime juice, and salt.
  • Hatch chilis from a small can get dolloped onto the nachos on their own, providing moments of queso-like bliss alongside the cheese sauce.
  • I like to use small, rainbow-colored tomatoes, but you can use any kind you like.
  • A little bit of minced red onion seals the deal. I love the pop of purple, but scallions work equally well for flavor if that’s what you’ve got.

How to make it

Here’s an overview of what you’ll do to make a dreamy batch of vegetarian nachos. You can see the steps in action in the video that accompanies this post, and get all the details in the recipe card below.

step by step
  1. Prep all the elements in advance: make the refried beans, cheese sauce, cilantro sauce, and slaw.
  2. Arrange tortilla chips on a large platter and dollop with the beans. Drizzle the cheese sauce overtop.
  3. Layer with hatch chilis, slaw, tomatoes, and red onion.
  4. Drizzle with cilantro sauce and serve right away. That’s it!

Suggested variations

The full-on version of these vegetarian nachos is so good that I don’t want you to miss it. That said, I also don’t want you to miss out on nachos under ANY circumstances. So here are some easy ways to change things up, and minimize the work in the process.

  • Swap in two cans of pinto beans or black beans for the refried ones. Just rinse, drain, and pat dry.
  • Instead of the cheese sauce, use eight or more ounces of shredded extra-sharp cheddar, pepper jack, or a combination.
  • Swap in a good purchased fresh salsa (pico de gallo) for the chopped tomatoes.

Expert tips and FAQs

Can I make this recipe vegan? Gluten-free?

Yes! To make this recipe vegan, the only element you’ll need to change is the cheese sauce. I’ve got two great options for you: vegan cheese sauce and vegan queso. You can’t go wrong.

For a GF version, all you need to do is ensure your chips are gluten-free and swap in your favorite GF flour blend for the flour in the cheese sauce.

Can I make vegetarian nachos in advance? What about leftovers?

Nachos need to be assembled right before serving, but you can make all the elements in advance and store them in separate airtight containers in the fridge. Refried beans will keep in the fridge for a week or in the freezer for a year. Cheese sauce and cilantro sauce will keep in the fridge for a week. Cabbage slaw will stay crunchy and fabulous for at least 24 hours.

Leftover nachos are a little bit ridiculous, but I kinda love them. You can store the whole mess, tightly sealed, in the fridge for a day or two. The tortillas will soften up, but if you reheat them with a quick stint in the microwave or toaster oven, pop a fried egg on top, and have at it with a fork, you wont be sorry.

More favorite platters that can totally be dinner

vegetarian nachos on a sheet pan

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vegetarian nachos on a sheet pan
4.88 from 25 votes

Epic Vegetarian Nachos

By Carolyn Gratzer Cope
With creamy cheese sauce, tangy cilantro sauce, savory refried beans and a gorgeous array of brightly colored vegetables, this giant tray of vegetarian nachos is equally at home on game day or when you want a regular family dinner to be a little more fun than usual.
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Total: 1 hour
Servings: 8
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Ingredients 

For the cheese sauce

  • 2 tablespoons (14 grams) butter
  • 2 tablespoons (15 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (237 ml) whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons (30 grams) sour cream
  • 8 ounces (227 grams) extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

For the cilantro sauce

  • 1 bunch cilantro, about 4 ounces/(114 grams)
  • cup (78 ml) olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lime, about 3 tablespoons/(45 ml)
  • 1 medium garlic clove, roughly chopped
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt

For the slaw

  • 2 cups shredded cabbage
  • Juice of 1/2 lime, about 1 1/2 tablespoons/(23 ml)
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

To make the nachos

  • 3 ½ cups refried beans, see note 1 below
  • 11 ounces (312 grams) strong tortilla chips
  • 1 4- ounce 113-gram can mild diced hatch chilis
  • 12 ounces (340 grams) fresh chopped tomatoes, any kind
  • ¼ small red onion, minced

Instructions 

Make the cheese sauce

  • In a small pot, melt the butter over medium heat.
  • Whisk in the flour and let bubble for about 30 seconds.
  • Pour in the milk, whisk until smooth, then bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat and simmer about 5 minutes, until quite thick.
  • Off the heat, stir in sour cream and then the shredded cheese.

Make the cilantro sauce

  • Wash and dry the cilantro and trim off the very bottoms of the stems.
  • In a high-speed blender or a food processor, combine cilantro (leaves, stems and all), olive oil, lime juice, garlic, and salt.
  • Process until smooth.

Make the slaw

  • Place the shredded cabbage into a medium mixing bowl.
  • Pour the lime juice and sprinkle the salt over the cabbage.
  • Massage a bit with your hands to tenderize cabbage.

Assemble the nachos

  • Arrange the tortilla chips on a large platter or rimmed baking sheet.
  • Heat the refried beans in the microwave until nice and hot, then dollop over tortilla chips.
  • Pour the cheese sauce overtop.
  • Dollop on the hatch chilis.
  • Sprinkle on the slaw, tomatoes and red onion.
  • Finish by drizzling with cilantro sauce.
  • Serve right away.

Notes

  1. The 3 1/2 cups refried beans can come from two cans of your favorite brand, or you can make them yourself from my favorite recipe. They freeze brilliantly, so you can make that element ahead if you like.
  2. You can use absolutely any kind of tortilla chips that you like, from multigrain (or grain-free) to full-on Doritos. In theory I recommend stronger chips that will hold up to these sturdy toppings, but in practice we often use a big bag of the Tostitos that my kids refer to as "slap of lime" flavor.
  3. I like to use small, rainbow-colored tomatoes, but you can use any kind you like.
  4. A little bit of minced red onion seals the deal. I love the pop of purple, but scallions work equally well for flavor if that's what you've got.
  5. To make this recipe vegan, the only element you'll need to change is the cheese sauce. I've got two great options for you: vegan cheese sauce and vegan queso. You can't go wrong.
  6. For a gluten-free version, all you need to do is ensure your chips are gluten-free and swap in your favorite GF flour blend for the flour in the cheese sauce.
  7. Nachos need to be assembled right before serving, but you can make all the elements in advance and store them in separate airtight containers in the fridge. Refried beans will keep in the fridge for a week or in the freezer for a year. Cheese sauce and cilantro sauce will keep in the fridge for a week. Cabbage slaw will stay crunchy and fabulous for at least 24 hours.
  8. Leftover nachos are a little bit ridiculous, but I kinda love them. You can store the whole mess, tightly sealed, in the fridge for a day or two. The tortillas will soften up, but if you reheat them with a quick stint in the microwave or toaster oven, pop a fried egg on top, and have at it with a fork, you wont be sorry.

Suggested variations

The full-on version of these vegetarian nachos is so good that I don't want you to miss it. That said, I also don't want you to miss out on nachos under ANY circumstances. So here are some easy ways to change things up, and minimize the work in the process.
  • Swap in two cans of pinto beans or black beans for the refried ones. Just rinse, drain, and pat dry.
  • Instead of the cheese sauce, use eight or more ounces of shredded extra-sharp cheddar, pepper jack, or a combination.
  • Swap in a good purchased fresh salsa (pico de gallo) for the chopped tomatoes.

Nutrition

Serving: 1, Calories: 688kcal, Carbohydrates: 89g, Protein: 22g, Fat: 29g, Saturated Fat: 10g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 16g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 42mg, Sodium: 1055mg, Fiber: 9g, Sugar: 9g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Snacks and Starters
Cuisine: American
Tried this recipe?Mention @umamigirl or tag #umamigirl!

Hungry for more?

Subscribe to Umami Girl’s email updates, and follow along on Instagram.

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About Carolyn Gratzer Cope

Hi there, I'm Carolyn Gratzer Cope, founder and publisher of Umami Girl. Join me in savoring life, one recipe at a time. I'm a professional recipe developer with training from the French Culinary Institute (now ICE) and a lifetime of studying, appreciating, and sharing food.

4.88 from 25 votes (25 ratings without comment)

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