The Latin-theme food truck that regularly parks on the campus of University of California Riverside has a loyal following among the college’s 21,000-plus students, 34% of whom are Hispanic. “The nachos with carne asada were an especially huge hit at the truck,” says Lanette Dickerson, executive chef of UCR Dining Services. She started serving up similar nachos to draw students to the dining halls, but gave them a plant-forward spin to hook vegans and introduce all diners to healthier, unique toppings, such as roasted shiitakes, cauliflower and edamame.
1. Dickerson reworked the nacho topping, substituting roasted corn, edamame, cauliflower, shiitake mushrooms and poblano chilies for the ground beef and carne asada. Roasting vegetables in mesquite-seasoned olive oil is a meat-cooking technique that pumps up flavor.
2. Gooey cheese sauce is a nacho signature, but Dickerson had to find a way to create a dairy-free version. “I discovered a brand of vegan cheddar shreds that melt the same way as regular cheese, and I heat them with soy milk to create a sauce,” she says. A pesto of poblano chilies, fresh cilantro, garlic and pumpkin seeds with olive oil adds an extra layer of flavor.
3. The meaty nachos were sprinkled with crumbled cotija cheese—a garnish that adds authenticity and flavor. Dickerson uses tofu instead, pressing the water from firm tofu, then crumbling the curd and mixing it with sea salt.