Satisfy your Tex-Mex cravings while sticking to a plant-based diet.
Our Skinny Bell Pepper Nacho Boats are one of the most popular recipes on the site. They have everything you love about nachos: seasoned ground turkey and cheese baked up in a gluten-free, grain-free package using bell peppers instead of tortillas or chips. Due to the popularity of our original recipe, we decided to make them using 100% vegan-friendly ingredients. The resulting Plant-Based Bell Pepper Nacho Boats are perfect for anyone following a plant-based diet, but flavorful enough to satisfy the meat-eaters in your family.
How did we pull it off? It’s all about creating a mixture of flavors and textures. Our homemade vegan ground beef has a similar texture to ground meat, with a fraction of the calories. Plus, the combination of avocado sauce and cashew queso come together to satisfy your craving for ooey-gooey melted cheese.
What is the Healthiest Meat Substitute?
You have several options when it comes meat substitutes for vegan or plant-based recipes. These Plant-Based Bell Pepper Nacho Boats use our homemade vegan ground beef made with quinoa, finely diced walnuts, tomato paste, and nutritional yeast. It takes about an hour to make, but lasts up to a week in the refrigerator (or frozen for even longer). You can season it with Italian seasoning and marinara for Italian dishes, but we like to use Mexican flavors here. Add sugar-free salsa, garlic powder, chili powder, and cumin to create a Tex-Mex treat.
If you don’t have time to make our recipe, there are several store-bought options. Try using tofu, tempeh, jackfruit, lentils, or mushrooms as the filling for your nacho boats. You can also use any of these 17 top plant-based proteins.
Related: Learn How to Create a Plant-Based Meal Plan and the Best Ways to Make Plant-Based Recipes Filling.
Mimicking Cheesy Flavors in Plant-Based Recipes
If you’re following a vegan or plant-based diet, dairy is definitely off-limits. That means no ooey, gooey, melted cheese on top of your nachos. Luckily, we found an incredible work-around that absolutely fits within your diet.
For starters, we’ll make an ultra-flavorful avocado sauce. Creamy avocados come together with herbaceous cilantro, smokey cumin, and bright lime juice to create a smooth sauce that tastes like guacamole. It’s light enough to drizzle over the Plant-Based Bell Pepper Nacho Boats, adding a creamy flavor and a burst of color to the dish.
The real magic happens when you add the cashew queso. Our recipe doesn’t require any overnight soaking; simply combine the raw cashews with hot water and a handful of spices. The combination of nutritional yeast and cashews somehow comes together to taste almost exactly like real cheese sauce. And because we use plenty of water in this recipe, our “cheese” sauce is light, so it will be easy to pour over the nacho boats after they’re finished baking.
Plant-Based Bell Pepper Nacho Boats are Easy to Make
The recipe below may have what looks like a ton of steps, but it’s easier to make than you think. Several of the components can be made in advance. The vegan ground beef, avocado sauce, and cashew queso are good for several days in the fridge if you want to prep ahead.
When you’re ready to eat, core a few bell peppers and cut them into six pieces. Add the fillings, bake for ten minutes, and drizzle on the sauces. Add any garnishes of your choice (like pickled jalapenos, cilantro leaves, or chopped onions) and enjoy. It’s that easy!
Plant-Based Bell Pepper Nacho Boats with Avocado Sauce and Cashew Queso
- 1 avocado medium
- 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
- 2/3 cup water plus additional as needed
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 cup water hot
- 1 cup cashews raw
- 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 3 bell peppers
- 1 full recipe of Mexican-seasoned plant-based “ground beef”
- 3/4 cup salsa no-sugar-added
- pickled jalapeno slices, cilantro leaves, chopped red or green onions, and/or olives, for garnish
- To make the avocado sauce, combine the ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth, adding additional water as needed. Cover the sauce and store it in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- To make the cashew queso, combine the ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth, adding additional water as needed to create sauce thin enough to drizzle over the nachos. If you accidentally add too much water and the sauce becomes too thin, add additional cashews. Cover the sauce and store it in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- To make the nacho boats, preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil and set aside.
- Remove the core and seeds from the bell peppers and slice each one into 6 pieces, paying attention to where the natural curve creates a “cup.”
- In a medium-sized bowl, combine the plant-based ground beef and salsa. Evenly distribute the mixture into the bell pepper boats.
- Bake on the prepared baking sheet for 10 minutes, until the peppers are hot and lightly softened.
- Meanwhile, heat the cashew queso in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until it’s warmed through.
- Arrange the peppers on a plate. Drizzle them with the warm cashew queso and avocado sauce, and add any additional toppings, like pickled jalapeno slices, cilantro leaves, chopped red or green onions, and/or olives, for garnish.
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