Tatchos with The BEST Vegan Queso

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Food porn = mouthwatering pictures of foods on various websites that tempt those not currently hungry into getting a food hard-on and blowing all their healthy eating habits to hell. Exhibit A: this .

If ever there were a dish of true (food) pornographic proportions, Tatchos are it. If you’re asking what the hell tatchos are, hold on to the germ-ridden seat of your pants, kiddos: these are nachos with tater tots in place of tortilla chips. Nachos à la Napoleon Dynamite, if you will. These tots are topped with tex-mex style chorizo, rich and spicy queso, and an herby avocado sauce. If this doesn’t sound appetizing, you’re a freakin’ idiot.

This tatcho endeavor started with my quest for vegan queso. The hardest thing to give up when I went vegan in 2012 was cheese dip (queso). That shit was my lifeblood as a child and teenager. Ask anyone who knew me then—I could have (and probably did) live off of La Fonda‘s queso for days at a time. So many memories come to mind when I think about my beloved dip: spilling a cup of it all over myself while watching a drive-in movie on the roof of my friend’s car in high school and then gently scraping it off my pants with chips so I could keep eating it; refusing to share a bowl of this liquid gold with anyone (ever); pouring it over quesadillas (double the cheese, double the fun); going on a 24-hour hunger strike at age 9 after my parents refused to get me cheese dip for dinner; debating with many a friend about who served the best queso in Atlanta (La Fonda. Don’t argue with me.). Since giving up dairy, I’ve tried countless queso “substitutes” from the grocery store, restaurants, and recipes that promise a real equivalent. None of them cut it. NONE. Until now.

The queso (and now tatcho) recipe is probably the dish my friends request most often. It’s good enough to eat by itself, but even better with potatoes and nacho fixings.I’ve been making Kenji Lopez-Alt’s vegan queso dip for about two years now—his website Serious Eats has some seriously amazing, but sometimes labor intensive, veganized recipes. His approach to vegan queso got me closer to satisfying the need for a rich, flavorful, cheesy dip, but lacked a certain oomph and had one too many steps. Two years and dozens, if not hundreds, of queso batches and iterations later, I believe I’ve perfected the recipe and won the cheese-covered hearts of my friends and family.

And I will win your cheese-covered heart too: dive in and make this decadent, shareable meal with omnivore-approved flavor (seriously, you won’t miss the cheese) and a 70% chance of experiencing a food-induced coma. Trays of these guys are perfect for a party of 100 or a party of 1, because tatchos are the party. I guess the only question left to ask is—

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Tatchos

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Makes 4-6 servings depending on your hunger level. You’ll have leftover queso, chorizo, and avocado sauce. You’re welcome.

  • 1 32 oz. bag of tater tots
  • 1 batch of vegan queso dip
  • 1 batch of tex-mex chorizo*
  • 1 batch of creamy avocado sauce
  • 1/2 small red onion or three scallions, for garnish
  • Cholula hot sauce [optional]
  • Lime wedges [optional]

*Use my simple chorizo recipe or grab a package of Trader Joe’s vegan chorizo and fry is up in a pan real quick. Other prepackaged options may exist.

Queso Dip

  • 1/2 onion
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 3/4 c roasted (unsalted) cashews
  • 3/4 c unsweetened, unflavored soy or almond milk
  • 3/4 c water
  • 2/3 c sweet potato
  • 1/2 c nutritional yeast
  • 8 pickled jalapeño rings
  • 3 tbs Earth Balance butter or vegan shortening
  • 3 tbs pickled jalapeño liquid (from a jar of pickled jalapeños)
  • 1 chipotle pepper packed in adobo sauce + 2 tsp adobo sauce
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp white miso paste
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • A few dashes of your favorite hot sauce [or more if you want it spicier – I use like 1 tbs of hot sauce…]
  • Salt to taste

Chorizo

Faux ground meat, really, but that doesn’t sound as glamorous

  • 1 package of Light Life meatless crumbles or similar vegan faux ground beef / chorizo
  • 2-3 tbs oil (olive, avocado, palm, or refined coconut)
  • 1 tbs pickled jalapeño liquid (from a jar of pickled jalapeños)
  • 1 tbs tomato paste
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp ground paprika
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp chili chipotle
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Creamy Avocado Sauce with Cilantro 

  • 1 small bunch of cilantro
  • 1 medium avocado
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced (or lime)
  • 3 tbs water
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt (more/less to taste)

For the queso dip: Thinly slice the onion and garlic. Peel the sweet potato, thinly slice, and measure out 2/3 of a cup. Melt the earth balance / shortening in a pot over medium-low heat, then add the onion, garlic, and pickled jalapeño rings and cook for 10 minutes. Stir intermittently. Now add the cumin, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, chipotle pepper, and adobo sauce and cook for two minutes, stirring frequently. Add the sweet potato and cashews next and cook for another two minutes, then add the non-dairy milk and water and cook for 10-15 minutes, until the sweet potato is tender.

Let the mixture cool down for a bit, then add to the blender with the nutritional yeast, pickled jalapeño liquid, miso paste, vinegar, and hot sauce. Blend until completely smooth (~1-2 minutes on high speed). Depending on how much liquid evaporated when cooking the mixture on the stove, you may need to add a little more liquid (water/non-dairy milk/hot sauce/pickled jalapeño liquid, your choice) to achieve a queso-like consistency.

For the chorizo: Add the oil to a pan over medium heat. Once the oil is heated, throw the rest of the ingredients in the pan (faux meat, spices, pickling liquid, and tomato paste) and fry for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. If the mixture seems super dry, try adding a little more oil or pickled jalapeño liquid.

For the avocado sauce: Wash and cut a finger’s length off the stems of the cilantro bunch (you don’t want all of the stem, but you want some). Put the cilantro in a food processor with the avocado, garlic, lemon juice, oil, water, and salt. Pulse until smooth. Add more lime juice and/or salt according to your preference, or a little more oil/water if you prefer a thinner consistency. Store in an airtight container if saving for later.

For the tatchos: Preheat the oven to 425°. Spread the tater tots on two a parchment-lined baking sheets and bake for 20 minutes. Take the baking sheets out and press each tater tot with a fork, until each tot is gently flattened. Put back in the oven for another 10 minutes, then take out and top with chorizo, queso, and the avocado sauce. Finely chop the red onion or scallions and sprinkle over the tatchos. If you include lime and hot sauce, squeeze a lime wedge or two over the tatchos and then top everything with a few dashes of Cholula. Optional: put the dressed tatchos back in the oven on broil for a couple minutes so make everything extra melty. If you are making this dish for 2 people instead of 4-6, use 1/2 a bag of tater tots and only one baking sheet. Now Tina, you fat lard, come get some dinner!

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What a beaut

Tips

  1. A few ingredient substitutes/alternatives:
    • 3/4 cup roasted (unsalted) cashews: 3/4 cup raw cashews
    • 3/4 cup unsweetened, unflavored soy or almond milk : 3/4 cup unsweetened, unflavored rice, flax, or hemp milk
    • 2/3 cup sweet potato : 2/3 cup butternut squash (it’s really yummy with butternut squash!)
    • 1 tsp white miso paste : 1 tsp of another type of (mellow) miso paste
    • 1/2 lemon, juiced : 1 lime, juiced (limes aren’t as juicy, so you’ll need the whole lime)
  2. Eat this dish fresh. Leftovers taste good, but the tater tots get soggy. Soggy tots are offensive.
  3. A decent blender is essential to the success of this queso recipe. I’ve mentioned this in previous posts, but my VitaMix is one of the best purchases I ever made, period. If you don’t live in the kitchen like I do, there’s no need to buy a VitaMix, but do invest in something a little better than those $14.99 Oster pieces of shite. You want a high-speed blender with a good blade, otherwise the queso may not fully liquify.
  4. It’s super easy to make each component ahead and assemble when ready. I make the queso and chorizo (and sometimes even the sauce) ahead of time and assemble the next day for dinner. At that point all you need to do is cook the tater tots, smash em, crisp them up, and pour the ingredients on top.
  5. Pro-tip: don’t inhale these. Nice and steady wins the race. The first time I made a batch, I ate so much so fast (they were intoxicating, I couldn’t help myself) that I literally vomited. I threw up, guys. From overeating. And this isn’t the first time it’s happened.

 

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