(Note: this post was originally published on February 4, 2021. It has since been updated with a few tweaks.)
Can You Make Nachos Without Chips?
Love the idea of nachos but don't necessarily want to inhale a ton of chips? Same. That's why I'm beyond excited to share these healthier, vegan, whole-food "cabbage nachos" with you. This recipe (in addition to my summery Watermelon Nachos, of course) is one of my favorite ways to make nachos without chips. It's everything you love about nachos, minus the heaviness.
The secret to these healthy nachos is to cut cabbage into chip-like scoops. It takes less than five minutes and will give you perfectly-shaped scoops that are loaded with fiber and nutrients. The recipe here is for a vegan nacho filling loaded with black beans, veggies, and fresh garnishes, but you can use this concept with whatever nacho toppings you love best.
These cabbage nachos come together quickly because you'll cook the toppings all in one skillet. That makes this recipe easy to prepare for a party or even for a comfort food dinner. Yes that's right, you can absolutely make these no-chip nachos into a meal since they're basically just veggies!
How to Make No-Chip Cabbage Nachos
Ready to dive into these plant-filled nachos without chips? This healthy nacho alternative is a breeze to prepare. Just make sure to check out the step-by-step photos below for tips about how to cut the cabbage into perfectly-shaped scoops.
Step 1: Prepare the Cabbage Scoops
First, you'll prepare the cabbage scoops that serve as the base of these no-chip nachos. I like to use purple cabbage because of its wonderful color, but green is fine if you prefer. Stand the cabbage upright on its stem and make vertical cuts downward to cut it into eights. Your biggest wedges should be about palm-sized or a bit smaller.
Note that the size of a cabbage head can vary widely, so use your best judgement about how many scoops you want and the size of the scoops. If you're using a larger head of cabbage, start with just a quarter of it and save the rest for something else (cabbage keeps great in the fridge for ages!).
Next, take each small wedge and cut off the stem so that you're left with a bunch of loose, triangular, scoop-shaped leaves. Separate the leaves from one another and place them in a large mixing bowl. Toss them gently in lime juice and salt, then let them sit while you make the filling; this lightly pickles the cabbage and makes a world of difference in the final flavor, so don't skip it.
Step 2: Prepare and Add the Filling
Next, you'll prepare the hearty vegan filling for these cabbage nachos. Saute the onion and peppers in a skillet, then add the beans, corn, and spices, then cook it down. The recipe card below walks you through the details, but this is essentially a very quick skillet chili.
Now you're ready to assemble your no-chip nachos. Lay the marinated cabbage scoops out on a serving platter so that the toppings can be heaped inside, as shown in the step-by-step photos here. It will work best if there aren't any big gaps between the cabbage scoops. Next, fill them up, as shown directly below. Don't worry about heaping hot filling onto the cabbage, it will actually help to tenderize it.
Step 3: Garnish and Enjoy
One of the keys to making satisfying nachos without chips is to load them up with all your favorite garnishes. More is more!
If you want to add some cheese (or vegan cheese), do it immediately so that it melts onto the hot filling. Or, if you make this recipe in an oven-safe dish, you could broil it for a minute to melt the cheese (just be careful not to wilt the cabbage too much, otherwise it will lose its crispness).
Save your fresh or delicate toppings for last. I like fresh cilantro and a ton of avocado. Maybe some crunchy pepitas? Pickled jalapenos? Sour cream or a dairy-free equivalent? Heap these cabbage nachos with all the things you love most, then serve immediately while the filling is still warm and the garnishes are still fresh.
Cabbage Nacho Variations
This is definitely a dish that's easy to customize. Feel free to add your grilled protein of choice on top and/or your favorite nacho cheese. You can smother them in whatever toppings you love most, either keeping things simple or going totally over the top.
You can also easily tweak the heat level in this dish. You'll see that the recipe calls for bell peppers and poblanos to create a nice mix of color and some delicate heat. But if you really like spice, add a couple jalapenos. Conversely, just use all bell peppers for a no-heat, kid-friendly version.
Good news: this dish is very make-ahead friendly. You can prepare the cabbage and let it sit in the fridge to marinate overnight; it will get even more flavorful and tender that way. You can also prepare the filling ahead of time. When you're ready to eat, just reheat and then assemble. Make sure to add the garnishes after you reheat and just before serving. Because you can make all of the components ahead of time, this is a great dish for entertaining. Unlike regular nachos, these nachos without chips won't get soggy, so don't worry about them sitting out for a bit.
Ingredients and Substitutions
Here's what you'll need for these nachos without chips, as well as some thoughts, tips, and possible substitutions. If you make any substitutions, I'd love to hear about it in the comments section below.
Poblano pepper. Add a couple jalapenos for more heat, or substitute a green bell pepper for no heat.
Red bell pepper
Corn. I like to buy the grilled, frozen corn at Trader Joe's during the winter for maximum flavor and ease. Canned corn would also work. In the summer, the best option would be freshly cut corn off the cob.
Cayenne or hot sauce. Optional; this is another way to add heat to these no-chip nachos.
Garnishes of choice. Some great options include fresh cilantro, avocado, pepitas, and/or cheese, but you can use whatever you love for regular nachos.
Well, is your mind blown by these healthy, veggie-filled, no-chip nachos? Cabbage is such a wonderful, versatile veggie. And the fact that it's reasonably-priced and keeps forever really makes it a winner. I pretty much always have a head of it in the fridge and love using it for everything from salads to slaw... and yes, even nachos.
I hope you guys will love this dish as much as we do! It has all the appeal of nachos, but is so much better for the body. Now nachos are totally fair game for dinner!
It makes me so happy to hear from you and see your creations! Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think about this recipe. If you post a photo on Instagram, hashtag #TheRogueBrusselSprout and tag me (@TheRogueBrusselSprout) in the post text so that I'm sure to see it.
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Small head of purple cabbage (or a quarter to a half of a larger head)
Juice of a lime
Generous sea salt
Oil of choice for cooking
Red bell pepper
15 oz can of black beans; drained and rinsed
1 c corn
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin powder
0.5 tsp coriander
Dash of cayenne or hot sauce if desired
Garnishes of choice (fresh cilantro, avocado, pepitas, cheese, etc.)
Cut the cabbage into small wedges, then cut the stem off each wedge to create scoop-shaped leaves.
Separate the leaves, then toss them in a large mixing bowl with lime juice and salt. Let them sit while you make the filling.
Dice the red onion. In a large skillet with your cooking oil of choice, sautee the onion with a sprinkle of salt until tender.
Dice the peppers (poblano and red bell) and add them to the onion. Sautee for a few more minutes until the peppers are tender and the onion is slightly caramelized.
Add the black beans, corn, and spices, and sautee everything for another few minutes until the spices are fragrant and everything is heated throughout. Add a dash of water if the filling is sticking to the skillet.
Lay the cabbage leaf scoops out on a serving platter, then dollop the filling into the leaves.