Monday, September 11, 2023

Vegan Nachos with Walnut Mushroom Taco "Meat"


I never thought when we visited the small town of Girdwood, Alaska in 2021 that I would still be thinking about one of the meals we ate there TWO YEARS later. Jack Sprat is an American restaurant that offers a variety of unique vegan options. One of their most popular dishes is the "nacho libre," "adventurous vegan nachos." Normally I wouldn't get nachos at a restaurant just because I feel like that's something I can make at home. But all the reviews raved about the nachos, so we ordered them. I'm so glad we did. They were 10 times more flavorful than any nachos I've ever had, and it had a lot to do with the vegan walnut mushroom "meat."

I've wanted to recreate the nachos at home for a very long time, and I finally did it in honor of National Mushroom Month. The recipe starts by combining sundried tomatoes, spices, lime juice, portobello mushrooms, and walnuts in a food processor. Pulse just until the mixture resembles meat crumbles. DO NOT puree the mixture or pulse too many times. You do not want a paste! Then you brown the mixture on the stove. It's safe to eat without cooking it, but I think it resembles and tastes more like meat when you brown it. I recommend using portobello mushrooms because they are the most meat-like variety of mushroom. Make sure to remove their woody stumps and their gills before using them. The gills can have a bitter taste and trap sand and dirt. Just use a spoon to scrape them out.

After you've made the "meat," it's time to make the "cheese" sauce. It starts by blooming the spices in oil and then making a roux with flour. The gluten in the flour makes the cheese sauce stretchy, like real cheese sauce. Then add nutritional yeast to the flour--this is what gives the sauce its cheesy flavor. The mixture will be very clumpy, so slowly add the milk a little at a time, whisking until its' smooth and the consistency you want. Leftover cheese sauce will need to be thinned out.

Now it's time to assemble the nachos! I followed Jack Sprat's lead by layer pico de gallo and radishes on top of the chips and "meat" crumbles. I also like to add jalapeno slices for heat and pickled red onions for a hit of acid.

Vegan Nachos with Walnut Mushroom Taco "Meat"

Yield: 1 large platter nachos

Time: About 30 minutes


For walnut mushroom taco "meat"

  • 2 Tablespoons sundried tomatoes
  • 2 Tablespoon lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 portobello mushrooms, woody stem and gills removed
  • 2 cups walnuts
  • 1 Tablespoon avocado oil

For vegan cheese sauce

  • 3 Tablespoons avocado oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder
  • 1 Tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 6 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk 

For nacho assembly

  • Tortilla chips
  • Pico de gallo
  • Radishes, sliced thin
  • Pickle red onion
  • Jalapenos, sliced thin
  • Avocado, diced


For walnut mushroom taco "meat"

  1. Pulse sundried tomatoes, lime juice, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, and salt in food processor until tomatoes are finely chopped.
  2. Add mushroom and walnuts to food processor. Pulse until texture resembles ground beef. Don't overdo it! You don't want a paste. Alternatively, finely chop everything and mix with spices.
  3. Heat 1 Tablespoon avocado oil in large skillet over medium heat. Transfer mixture to skillet and cook for about 10 minutes or until mixture releases its liquid and is browned.

For vegan cheese sauce

  1. Heat oil in small saucepan on low heat.
  2. Add salt, garlic powder, curry powder, paprika, and cayenne. Whisk for about 30 seconds to bloom spices.
  3. Add yellow mustard and whisk to combine.
  4. Add flour and whisk.
  5. Add nutritional yeast, and whisk. Mixture will be very clumpy.
  6. Add milk and whisk on low heat for a few minutes. If it gets too thick you can add a little bit more water and whisk again.
  7. Add cold milk a little at a time while whisking until smooth after each addition. If sauce is too thick, add a little more milk.
  8. Remove from heat.

For nacho assembly

  1. Drizzle cheese sauce on bottom of platter and layer tortilla chips on top of cheese sauce.
  2. Sprinkle taco "meat" over chips. Top with pico de gallo, radish slices, pickled red onions, jalapeno, avocado, and finish with more cheese sauce. Serve immediately.
  3. Store leftover taco "meat" and cheese sauce in refrigerator for up to 5 days.


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