I’ve never been a big football person, but I’ve always been close to or lived with someone who was. I was a reluctant spectator for a while, but I’ve come to look forward to Superbowl Sunday each year, even if I don’t have a stake in the game. If nothing else, it’s an opportunity to gather and whip up food that’s snack-worthy and crowd-pleasing. This year, I’m planning to share a tray of hearty vegan butternut black bean nachos.
I’ve seen a lot of nacho recipes that use sweet potatoes or another vegetable as the base–in other words, as a replacement for the chips. I love the idea of adding lots of veggies to traditional nachos, but I have to admit that I’d be sad to lose the chips. For me, their crunch is part of what makes the dish so great. A while ago I thought that it might be a nice compromise to create nachos that featured a vegetable prominently, but alongside the chips, rather than in their stead.
Butternut squash was a perfect choice. It’s substantial enough to hold its own in the dish, in spite of lots of competing textures and toppings. Its sweetness is a nice contrast to tart, spicy salsa and earthy refried black beans. And its a great vehicle for a spice rub prior to roasting. Best of all, if you set some squash aside before you roast the rest, you can use it to make a velvety butternut cashew queso sauce.
The queso is based on my truly amazing cashew queso sauce, but I think that the addition of squash makes it both richer and a little sweeter. It’s less traditional than the other version, but for this dish, it really works, and I think it would be an incredible dip or topping for roasted broccoli, a Tex Mex grain bowl, or twice baked potatoes.
These nachos, like most nachos, are super flexible. I added the toppings that Steven and I like best: avocado, vegan queso, salsa, and plenty of cilantro at the end, for freshness. This time I also tried adding both refried black beans, which are my standby in nacho dishes, as well as cooked black beans, mostly because I had some in the fridge. I liked the contrast of textures and was happy to pack more legumes into the dish. If you make them, feel free to play with the toppings. You can also sub sweet potato for butternut squash (in both the dish and the sauce), or kidney/pinto beans for black beans.
To make the recipe, I used what seemed like an average, medium-sized butternut squash. It was about 2 lbs before peeling and seeding, and about 1 3/4 lbs after. That gave me about 1 1/2 lbs for roasting, another 4 ounces for the sauce. If you have a heaping cup of squash for the sauce and 4-6 cups for roasting, you’ll be in good shape — and if you have a little less because your squash was on the smaller side, that’s fine, too. You can add more of the other toppings instead.
There are plenty of ways to prep the dish in advance or make it easier if you’re short on time. You can roast the squash and make the sauce a few days before you assemble the nachos, so that all you have to do when friends come over is pile and layer. If you don’t feel like whipping out the blender, you can also roast all of the squash and use your favorite vegan shredded cheese in place of the queso. Even peeling and cubing the squash ahead of time is a good way to cut down on the prep work.
Whether you create this dish for Superbowl viewing this weekend or simply to share with friends and family sometime soon, I hope you’ll enjoy all the layers of texture and taste. And maybe the queso will become a new staple sauce. I’m happy to have a nacho recipe in the rotation that features so many nutrient-dense ingredients in one place!
I’ll see you on Sunday for the weekend reading roundup. Till then, be well.