Satisfy the kid in you with loaded tater tots. They’re topped with chili & cashew queso. So messy & delicious, it ticks all the pleasure sensors!
Serve it as an appetizer or a full meal on its own. Vegan & gluten-free.
The idea of leftovers for dinner got you down?
Repurpose them instead!
Turn yesterday’s 3-bean chili into today’s loaded tater tots.
Because you can’t be anything but happy about this pile of cheesy goodness with creamy, crisp, and spicy in every bite.
Satiating chili and creamy queso harmonize on top of a pile of tater tots.
There’s guaranteed mmm’s in every bite.
Here are the ingredients you will need to make this recipe.
Tater tots: Also known as potato gems or spud puppies, look for tater tots in the frozen section of the grocery store.
Chili: My 3 bean chili recipe is a great option here. It’s a pantry-friendly, one pot meal that’s packed with black, pinto, and Great Northern beans. Added to the mix are onions, garlic, spices, and fire roasted tomatoes. It’s warming, cozy, and inexpensive.
Leftover chili works especially well on these tots, because chili thickens as it sets. No one wants a soggy tot!
Raw cashews: Raw cashews add creamy body to the queso. I recommend cashew pieces, because they are less expensive than whole, and you’ll be blending them anyway. Look for them in the nuts section of the grocery store.
Bouillon: I recommend Better Than Bouillon, no chicken base. But you can replace it with the vegetable bouillon of your choice.
Nutritional yeast flakes: This inactive yeast is a must for cheesy flavor. Look for it in natural food stores or in the health section of the grocery store. It’s sometimes near the flours. (Note that nutritional yeast is NOT the same thing as brewer’s yeast.)
Miso paste: White miso paste is a mild fermented soybean paste with a slightly sweet and savory flavor. It adds umami and richness. It’s often near the tofu in the grocery store.
Seasonings: Ancho chili powder, cumin, and salt.
Ancho chili powder is made with just one ingredient – dried ancho chilies. It adds rich, round flavor, but it’s not spicy hot. You can replace it with standard chili powder. However, be aware that most chili powder is a blend of spices and often includes varying amounts of cayenne. Adjust to suit your heat preferences.
Green onions: Also known as scallions, you can use both the green and white parts. Just remove the root end before slicing.
Step by step instructions
Here’s how to make this recipe at a glance. For complete ingredient amounts & instructions, keep scrolling to the recipe card below.
Make tater tots according to the package directions. Or cook them in the air fryer.
To air fry, cook at 400 degrees for 6 to 10 minutes, stopping occasionally to shake the basket.
Now, move on to the cashew queso.
Put the following into a high speed blender:
- Raw cashews
- Half of a vegetable bouillon cube (or ½ teaspoon of Better Than Bouillon)
- Nutritional yeast flakes
- White miso paste
- Ancho chili powder
Blend until smooth.
Then transfer to a small pot. Bring the liquid to a medium heat, stirring constantly.
Let the liquid reduce and thicken.
Once it has reached the consistency of gravy, remove it from the heat.
Make 3 bean chili from scratch. Or warm leftover chili.
Put tater tots on a platter or several individual plates.
Then ladle on chili, queso, and a sprinkling of sliced green onions.
No high-speed blender?
If you don’t have a high-speed blender for the queso, you’ll need to soften the raw cashews ahead of time.
Here are some ways to do that:
- You can soak the cashews in water for several hours ahead of time. Then drain them before continuing with the recipe.
- You can boil the cashews in water – either on the stove or in the microwave.
- You can grind the dry raw cashews in a coffee grinder. Grind until they are the consistency of flour. Then add them to your standard blender along with the other queso ingredients.
Make it your own
There are lots of ways you can vary the toppings on these loaded tater tots to personalize the dish.
Instead of making cashew queso, sprinkle on shredded non-dairy cheese. You can let the chili melt it, or pop the dish in the microwave for 30 to 60 seconds.
Instead of using 3-bean chili, use another variety.
Instead of using tater tots, make chili cheese fries. You can either make a batch of oven baked french fries, or pop some frozen fries into the air fryer.
Can you freeze loaded tater tots?
I wouldn’t recommend freezing the completed dish with all of the components together, poured on top of one another.
However, you can freeze the components separately.
Tater tots already come frozen, so that part is done.
Chili freezes well, and so does cashew queso.
Simply put the chili & queso into freezer proof containers. Leave a little room at the top for them to expand as they freeze.
They can be frozen for up to 6 months.
When you’re ready to eat, move them to the refrigerator to thaw. Or use the thaw function on your microwave.
If the cashew queso gets too thick because the liquid cooks off in the process of reheating, stir in a splash more of water, until it has your desired consistency. And remember to stir regularly for even reheating.
Other loaded tot ideas
Chili cheese tots are far from the only option!
- Make tater totchos (tater tot nachos). Add guacamole, tomatoes, jalapeños, and vegan sour cream. You can keep the chili, or replace it with spicy black beans.
- Make vegan reuben tots with corned jackfruit, sauerkraut, and a drizzle of Thousand island. (It’s similar to my reuben nourish bowl.)
- Make Philly cheesesteak tots with cashew cheese, sautéed onions, peppers, and seasoned jackfruit.
Loaded tater tots with chili & cashew queso
- Make tater tots according to package directions, or air fry them.To air fry the tater tots, put a cup or two of tater tots into the air fryer. Set at 400 degrees and air fry for 6 to 10 minutes, stopping to shake a few times for even browning. If you're making the full amount of this recipe, you'll have to do a couple of separate batches, so that you don't overcrowd.
- While the tater tots are cooking, make the cashew queso. Using a blender, blend raw cashews, water, half of a vegetable bouillon cube, nutritional yeast, white miso paste, cumin, ancho chili powder, and salt. Blend until totally smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides if necessary.
- Transfer the cashew mixture to a small pot. Bring the pot to a medium heat, stirring constantly. Continue stirring for about 10 minutes. If it begins to simmer, lower the heat. Continue stirring and cooking until the cashew mixture has reduced and thickened, making a velvety smooth queso. You'll know it's done when it has reached the consistency of gravy. Remove from heat.
- On a large platter or four personal-sized plates, put a layer of tater tots, a cup of chili per person, queso, and a sprinkling of sliced green onions. Serve right away.
- Soak the cashews in water for several hours. Then drain and continue with the recipe.
- Boil the raw cashews in a pot on the stove or in the microwave. Then drain and continue with the recipe.
- Grind the dry raw cashews in a coffee grinder until they have the texture of flour. Then add them to the blender with the other queso ingredients.
Content updated February 20, 2024. Originally posted January 2017.