Growing up, I was a huge fan of Wendy’s Chili and Cheese Nachos (remember the 99 cent menu?). While it’s been years since I’ve stepped foot inside, I still crave the idea of chili and cheese nachos on occasion. I’ve finally created a wholesome version that’s free of processed foods, but which captures all the bold flavor of the original. You won’t believe how decadent tasting—yet wholesome—the cheese sauce is, and how satisfying the smoky lentil and kidney bean chili is. This dish makes a great appetizer (just serve the dip with a big spoon so guests can portion it into their own bowls) or you can serve it for dinner like we often do—it’ll easily serve four. If you want to serve it to a crowd, try putting it in a warmed cast-iron pot or in a warmer to retain the heat. I like this dip spicy so I serve it with pickled sliced jalapeños on top—it adds a juicy kick of heat!
Note: You'll need two batches of All-Purpose Cheese Sauce for this recipe.
- 1 tablespoon (15 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced (about 2 cups/500 mL)
- 3 large cloves garlic (about 1 tablespoon/15 mL)
- 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon (2 to 4 mL) fine sea salt, to taste, plus a pinch
- 1 medium/large jalapeño, seeded, if desired, and finely chopped
- 1 small red bell pepper, diced (about 1 1/3 cups/325 mL)
- 1 tablespoon (15 mL) chili powder
- 1 teaspoon (5 mL) ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon (5 mL) dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon (5 mL) smoked paprika
- 1 (14-ounce/398 ml) can diced tomatoes, with juices
- 1 tablespoon (15 mL) tomato paste
- 1 (14-ounce/398 mL) can lentils, drained and rinsed, or 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) cooked lentils
- 1 (14-ounce/398 mL) can red kidney beans
- 1½ teaspoons (7 mL) apple cider vinegar
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Sriracha or other hot sauce
- 2 batches All-Purpose Cheese Sauce
- Pickled sliced jalapeños, drained, for garnish
- Corn tortilla chips, for serving
1.In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and a pinch of salt, stir, and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until the onion starts to soften.
2. Stir in the fresh jalapeño and 1 cup (250 mL) of the bell pepper and cook for a few minutes more. Add the chili powder, cumin, oregano, and paprika and stir to combine.
3. Pour in the diced tomatoes with their juices and stir. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer.
4. Stir in the tomato paste, lentils, and kidney beans. With a potato masher, roughly mash one-third of the mixture—don’t try to mash it smooth, just until it’s slightly thickened.
5. Add the vinegar, salt, black pepper, and sriracha. Cook over medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes, or longer if desired, until thickened to your liking.
6. Into individual bowls (or a 2 1/2- to 3-quart/2.5 to 3 L cast-iron pot or glass dish), ladle a layer of chili. Top with a layer of the cheese sauce. Keep layering until the chili is used up and you’ve added as much cheese sauce as you prefer (I usually reserve 1/2 cup/125 mL of the sauce for another use). Top the dip with the remaining bell pepper, pickled jalapeño, and a sprinkle of sea salt.
7. Serve immediately with corn tortilla chips. Let any leftovers cool completely (otherwise, the steam will create more water in the dip) before transferring to a container and refrigerating for up to 5 days. Reheat leftovers in a saucepan on the stovetop while stirring to combine with the cheese sauce. Cooled leftovers can be frozen in freezer-safe zip-top bags with the air pressed out or in freezer-safe containers filled to the top (to prevent freezer burn) for up to 1 month.
Reprinted from Oh She Glows Every Day by arrangement with Avery, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © 2016, Angela Liddon