This Indian nachos chaat is the perfect crunchy and saucy vegetarian appetizer that perfectly mixes American cheesy nachos with bright Indian flavors.
What is Chaat?
The word chaat when translated literally means “to lick”. But this word also represents a huge category of Indian afternoon snacks that are eaten on the street corners of India. There are so many different kinds of chaat like pani puri, papdi chaat, bhel puri, samosa chaat, or my crispy curl kale chaat. But in general, the dishes that fit into the finger-licking-good category of chaat have four things in common:
- They have some element of crunch, whether that is airy puffed rice, crispy hollow puris, or the crunchy outer shell of a samosa.
- They contain chutneys that are saucy and vibrant. The two traditional chutneys are cilantro-mint and tamarind-date. The cilantro-mint chutney has an herbaceous, vibrant flavor profile that also provides a bit of a spicy kick. The tamarind-date chutney, on the other hand, provides a rich chutney sweet flavor from the dates and sourness from the tamarind.
- Chaat is layered with fresh ingredients like red onions, tomatoes, and cilantro that make this dish feel so fresh, especially when contrasted with the starchy components that can often be ingredients like potatoes.
- Chaat typically contains spices that have that lip-smacking flavor profile that is savory, salty, and a bit sour. The spice blend called chaat masala contains a collection of those spices that are often used to flavor chaats. Spices that are often found in chaat masala or are used for chaat include amchur powder, which is a dried mango powder, black salt, and dried pomegranate powder.
Ingredients and substitutes for Indian-Style Chaat Nachos
- Tortilla Chips - Tortilla chips are the salty and crunchy vehicle for the toppings. Choose your favorite variety that is also sturdy enough to hold the yummy goodness.
- Red Onion and Tomatoes - Fresh finely cut veggies are what give these nachos brightness. You can add even more veggies like bell peppers or sauteed mushrooms if you want to amp up your veggie content.
- Chickpeas - Canned chickpeas are a great way to get protein in your chaat but also a nice soft and creamy legume that contrasts well with the crunchy chips. You can alternatively use your favorite bean of choice. You can easily add cooked meat to this dish like steak, chicken, or ground pork to make it extra succulent.
- Chaat Masala - Chaat masala is a lip-smacking sour, sweet, tangy powder that just gives it that extra oomph.
- Cheese - I typically use pre-shredded Mexican cheese from the store which melts so perfectly. Other cheese varieties that work well for this recipe are mild cheddar, Monterey jack, and pepper jack.
- Spicy Cilantro-Mint Chutney - The spicy cilantro-mint chutney gives an herbaceous kick to the chaat that is so similar to the freshness you get from a traditional Mexican salsa. It is fresh, herbaceous, and punchy. You can easily make my recipe for spicy cilantro mint chutney at home or buy it online.
- Sweet and Sour Tamarind-Date Chutney - This chutney is one of my favorites. It is a thick sauce that is sweet and sour and provides a nice contrast to the spicy mint chutney. It is a must-have if you are making chaat style Indian nachos.
Tips for making nachos for a party
These Indian nachos with melty cheese are a great vegetarian appetizer to serve at a family gathering and they are a smash hit at Super Bowl parties. Here some tips I have for making them for a large crowd:
- Cut and prep veggies beforehand - Cutting veggies on the day of a party takes time so I like to cut and store my veggies the day before.
- Make or buy sauces ahead of time - You can make both of these up to a month before the party. You can checkout the recipe for the cilantro mint green chutney here.
- Make nachos in batches - Make smaller sheet trays of nachos rather than a big tray. This allows you to pop a new tray into the oven once the old tray is done so you always have crispy nachos with hot melty cheese on top.
- Divide nacho tray into sections based on your guests preferences - Sometimes guests have certain dietary preferences like no raw onions or no cilantro. So have your guests help out and make a section of the sheet tray customized for them! It will make your guests feel super special and will make this dish even more interactive.
- Use one layer of tortilla chips - I hate nachos that don't have enough cheese melted on or toppings. This is why I add a layer of chips, a bit of cheese to act as glue, other toppings, and another layer of cheese on top. It's my favorite way to compose nachos.
- Keep chutneys on the side for guests to layer more on - Adding too much chutney to nachos can make them soggy real quick. So I always drizzle a bit on and keep some of each type of chutney on the side for guests to customize.
Where Can I Get Chaat Masala?
Chaat masala can be found in your local Indian grocery stores. In Seattle, there are even stores where you can order your Indian groceries to be delivered to your home. Otherwise, you can order both chaat masala easily available on Amazon. You can learn more about chaat masala in this blog post.
Other Chaats You'll Love
Frequently Asked Questions
You can keep sauces, chutneys, or salsas on the side for optimal crispiness. However, you can also spoon a bit of the sauces right before guests eat and keep the rest on the side for guests to layer more on.
Yes nachos can be refreshed or reheated in the oven at 350F until the cheese melts again! It won't be as crunchy as the first day as the chips may loose their bite but it is still mighty tasty.
You can absolutely melt the cheese for the nachos in the microwave. You will just end up with smaller individual batches of nachos.
Shredded Mexican cheese is great for nachos as it has a mild salty flavor that also melts well. However, you can also use mild cheddar cheese, Monterey jack cheese, or pepper jack as alternatives.
Nachos only need to go into the oven so that the cheese can melt so the temperature of the oven isn't that big of a deal. I like to set the oven to 350F to melt the cheese in ~10 minutes without accidentally burning it, which can happen with the broiler.
At 350F nachos need ~10 minutes in the oven. You are looking for all the cheese to melt.
All of these ingredients can be found in your local grocery stores. In Seattle, there are even stores where you can order your Indian groceries to be delivered to your home. Otherwise, you can order both chaat masala, tamarind chutneys, and cilantro mint chutney on Amazon. There are also recipes for the cilantro-mint chutney as well as the tamarind-date chutney on the blog!