Chips and Cheese Chili Casserole

If you ever want to eat nachos for dinner and call it a meal, this is your chance.

I have memories from junior high (and college) of taking Doritos and laying them on a plate, adding shredded cheese or any kind of cheese I could find at the moment, and nuking the plate until the cheese bubbled like crazy in that very uneven microwaved-heat kind of way.

This is the grown up version of that.

It doesn’t begin with Doritos, but instead with white corn chips. Better? Maybe?

Not sure if corn chips are any better than Doritos. I love both. For this recipe I used these Santitas white corn triangles.

Two bucks for a big bag, readily available at almost any grocery store, and they have perfect amount of oil, salt, and crunch. Guacamole anyone? They’re my fave for guac.

Or how about a casserole made with said chips and shredded cheese and chili.

This is a freezer-friendly and family-friendly recipe.

It’s also vegetarian (and vegan if you use vegan cheese and vegan sour cream). It’s gluten-free, and packed with protein. Beans, beans, great for the great source of protein.

I only made a 9-by-9-inch pan but this makes plenty of planned leftovers, which I promptly put into a Glad Freezerware container.

I took the leftovers from refrigerator or freezer to microwave to table to dishwasher. Simplicity. A beautiful thing.

Let’s begin assembling nachos for dinner the casserole:

I used corn chips but use what crunchy items you have on hand. Potato chips, Doritos, corn chips, saltine crackers, pretzels; the bottom of your half-opened bags of this’es and that’s are perfect here.

Same goes for the mixture of beans, chili, salsa, or red pasta sauce used. That random jar of red peppers, canned corn, black olives, or whatever it is you need to clean up and out of your pantry or freezer, toss it in. This is a very flexible recipe.

Take five or six big handfuls of chips and put them into a bowl and chop-chop-chop with a wooden spoon, crushing the chips into dime size pieces. I almost felt bad taking perfectly-formed whole chips and crushing them. Where are those bottom-of-the-bag-chip-crumbs when you need them?

To the chips, add a can each of chili, beans, and salsa. Or whatever it is you want to use. As noted in the recipe section, ripe with options and substitutions. Add a couple big handfuls of shredded cheese to the mixing bowl and give it a stir.

Pour it into a foil-lined baking pan. Do not skip lining your pan with foil or you will literally have a hot mess on your hands when it comes time for the dishes. Nachos and melted cheese is great in your mouth. Not on your bakeware.

Bake for 20 minutes, top with a layer of sour cream, add more chips ‘ n cheese.

Bake again for 10 more minutes to get a nice browned top to your casserole. The microwave can’t make nachos like that.

Dig in.

This is perfect tailgating food. It’s May and not November, I realize that.

But there is never a wrong month for chili and chips and cheese.

Or for nachos-for-dinner disguised as a casserole. Or for meals that make planned leftovers. To say the family went ga-ga for this is an understatement.

And like most lasagna, spaghetti, or chili recipes, this got better the second and third day in the refrigerator as the flavors married.

One tip to perk up re-heated leftovers is to garnish with a dollop of sour cream, salsa, or a sprinkling of fresh cheese.

Chips and Cheese Chili Casserole (vegetarian/GF) - Think chili nachos that meet a pan of lasagna on the way to the oven.  An easy, hearty satisfying dish the whole family loves. Perfect for Superbowl parties!

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Chips and Cheese Chili Casserole (vegetarian, GF)

An easy and hearty casserole the whole family will love. It reminds me of chili nachos that meets a pan of lasagna on the way to the oven. Great for planned leftovers and always a hit with sports fans for tailgating, Superbowl parties, or any time you need a warm, comforting dish.

Yield: one 9-by-9-inch pan, 9 to 12 squares

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: about 30 minutes, divided

Total Time: about 45 minutes


5 to 6 cups whole corn chips, crushed (about 2 1/2 cups after crushing to the size of a dime)

one 10-ounce can chili

one 10-ounce can black beans, red beans, refried beans, bean medleys

one 10-ounce jar salsa or tomato sauce

one 8-ounce package shredded cheese blend such as Mexican-style or similar (both store-brand and name-brand packages will say “2 cups” on the package)

1 1/4 cups sour cream

2 to 3 cups whole corn chips, crushed (about 1 to 1 1/2 cups after crushing to the size of a dime)


Preheat oven to 375F. Line a 9-by-9-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, spray with cooking spray, and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, add 5 to 6 cups chips (about 5 big handful of chips from the bag) and with a wooden spoon or similar, poke and crush the chips to the size of a dime. You don’t want powder, but make them small. Add the chili, beans, salsa, 2 loosely-packed cups cheese (about two-thirds of the package), and stir to combine. Pour mixture into prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, remove pan from oven and spread sour cream in an even, flat layer over the casserole. Sprinkle 1 to 1 1/2 cups loosely packed cheese (the remaining cheese in the package) evenly over the top of the sour cream. Sprinkle 1 to 1 1/4 cups crushed corn chips over the top and bake for 9 to 12 minutes, or until top is browned to desired level.

Serve immediately. Optionally, garish with a dollop of sour cream, a sprinkling of cheese, or a pinch of chopped cilantro or onion. Store leftovers in a Glad Freezerware container or similar airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Notes: Recipe is highly adaptable based on what kinds of canned goods you have on hand. Aim for about 30 ounces of wet ingredients, i.e. one 20-ounce can of beans and a 10-ounce jar of salsa. One 20-ounce jar of red pasta sauce and one 10 ounce-can of beans. Based on how chunky or wet your batter mixture is before baking, you may need to adjust baking times slightly. Bulk this up with canned corn, fresh or canned bell peppers, crushed tomatoes, or almost any vegetable you have on hand; add crumbled tofu, tempeh, pre-cooked meatballs, soy meatballs. Get creative.

*To keep vegan, use vegan cheese and vegan sour cream (or thicker-style vegan yogurt). Take care all ingredients used are suitable for your dietary needs.

Related Recipes

“Spicy Doritos” Cheezy Dip (vegan, GF)

Spicy Baked Black Beans with Mixed Vegetables (vegan, GF)

Cheezy Vegetable Bake (vegan, GF)

Salsa & Cheezey Baked Beans & Vegetables (vegan, GF)

Cheesy Taco Casserole (vegetarian with vegan option, GF)

Are you a fan of nachos? Chips and cheese?

I really don’t think there’s anyone who doesn’t like them but I’d love to hear your favorite combinations and recipes.

Do you have a favorite casserole or freezer-friendly meal that makes planned leftovers?

Link it up

Until I had a family I really wasn’t that into leftovers and didn’t see the big deal about make-ahead meals. I see the big deal now.

They are such a time saver and even if I didn’t have a family, the whole “cook once, eat twice” strategy would be in full-swing. Knowing I have something in the freezer or fridge already made and all I have to do is re-heat it, makes the dinner hour so much more sane not having to start from scratch. Add a salad and dinner is ready.

As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, I received a stipend and coupons for free Glad® FreezerWareTM containers.


  1. Averie, when you mention doritos chips in this post, I immediately though of how nacho cheese doritos would taste in cookies. Is that weird?? ;) I also used to melt shredded cheese on the nacho cheese doritos! And I would eat the cool ranch doritos like it was my job. How was I not 1000 lbs growing up?!

    Love this dish though. Casseroles are amazing. 1 pan and you’re done!

  2. Woah is all I have to say to this. It would be perfect for leftover chili!

  3. Oh my gosh… the best is when you nuke the tortillas with the cheese and overcook them so the cheese gets all hard. Used to be my absolute FAVORITE! This casserole looks amazing, yum!

  4. oh my god..these look AMAZING. this is the perfect snack to have during football games or baseball games..heck, any time! I can make an excuse for these any day of the week. this is fabulous!!

  5. This is a VERY persuasive post, you’ve utterly convinced me that I need to make these asap. I laughed because my younger daughter practically lives on microwaved chips and shredded cheese when she’s home from college. This really does look good, and I would never have guessed that it would freeze well.

  6. My step-mother used to make that type of casserole using Doritos. My sister was so sweet and actually made me a veggie version once. I used to be a HUGE nacho eater.

  7. I’ve always been a big fan of dipping foods ! My friends used to make fun of me and say I ate Ketchup instead of what I was using to dip it in. I would like to think I’m a bit healthier now and try to control my dipping habits

  8. oh my gosh that looks SO incredible! Crunchy, cheesy, and fabulous!! I’m going to HAVE to make this! thanks for the fantastic recipe!

  9. Wow, this looks like the ultimate comfort food! I’ll have to try this soon, and I’ll be sure not to share with anyone :)

  10. Nachos for dinner….my boys love when it’s nacho night! This kicks nachos up many, many notches! Yum!

  11. Not being a college student has never stopped me from eating nachos for dinner, haha! ;-) Looks spectacularly delicious!

  12. I could eat the whole pan. No, I’m serious! Craaaaaving.

  13. Nachos for dinner? Yes please!

  14. I am a fan of all of those things and that recipe sounds divine!

  15. This looks incredibly appealing. Like, curl up on the couch in my jammies with a nice Old Fashioned and watch Mad Men appealing. Can’t wait to try it – Thanks! And the pics are mouthwatering.

    Also, I know it’s been a minute, but I wanted to tell you that I love your new blog format. Beautiful.

  16. this looks A-mazing. I adore the make ahead meal!

  17. I love a good casserole. Mainly because they don’t take a ton of time and you have days of leftovers. Here is one of my favorites – Tater Tot Casserole:

  18. Making Doritos on nachos, I totally did that in HS too!! My dad would love this casserole, he is the biggest nachos fan. Saving this one, thanks Averie!

    • It’s funny; another commenter was asking about Doritos in cookies and I said, Liz made them! Well, in brownies. I just did potato chips in cookies with the Compost Cookies…but I LOVE Doritos!

  19. Ok, this is totally up my alley! Lovely!

  20. I know my stepdaughter would love this! I’ve made a similar dish with the same basic ingredients but instead of the chips I layered it between flour tortillas. I like the chips in there for some texture and casseroles are such a time saver. Great recipe Averie!

  21. Oh my word…I think I’m in love and I just drooled all over myself. This looks sooooo insanely good. Mmmm. :)

  22. oh good gravy.

    a friend of mine elaborated on her favorite dinner (pre-pregnancy, when she’s forced to do things like drink water! haha). multigrain tostitos + extra sharp cheddar cheese. she broiled (i microwaved, because i simply didn’t have time for that), and dipped in salsa.

    it is heaven. this sounds amazing! does it get less crunchy because of all the toppings or day-after reheating? still sounds delicious, just wondering if i should save chips to sprinkle afterward. :-)

    • It’s still got some crunch…more of a chew than crunch b/c the chips get all coated in sauce and beans and salsa before baking so they lose some crunch but by no means is it all lost. Big step up from microwaved nachos :)

  23. YUM!!! This reminds me of something we had as kids, been a long time! Might have to make it soon!

  24. This is the best casserole I have ever seen!!! It sounds amazing, and I love all the ingredients!

  25. Oh man, this is EVERYthing I love about nachos in one pan – trouble! I know I’ll be trying this one :) I adore nachos…I make them all the time at home, serve them to guests for lunch, and always have to be talked out of ordering them at restaurants…I recently started throwing an old cookie sheet loaded with nachos on the bbq and the smokiness and nice even cheese melting is aMAZing!

  26. Wow that looks soooo good!
    My BF is a huge fan of Doritos. I think I will have to save this for our next potluck! He will love it!

    It almost reminds me of walking tacos…have you tried those? You take yoru meat, cheese, and fixin’s and add them to a bag of Doritos or Fritos. So good!!!

  27. this is the recipe i’ve been waiting for, averie!

  28. In high school and college I was renowned for my nacho-making prowess. I perfected the art of the nacho. I usually went the simple is best route – chips and cheese – but sometimes I went a little wild with the add-ins.

    “good” nachos MUST be made with crap cheese – velveeta is the best. I would nuke the mexican velveeta, thinned with a bit of milk, utnil it was pourable. Spread out some tostitos bite size white chips on a cookie sheet. Pour on the cheese and broil for about 5 minutes. Perfection everytime. nice and warm throughout with some little crowned crispy cheesy bites.


    • Ok I want to try your nachos! You are from Wisc and an official Cheesehead after all! And yes, the crappier the cheese, the better the nachos. I like your melt, then pour, then broil method in all seriousness though!

  29. gah! i already had dinner but want to go and make this right now! my boys especially will love to see this in the freezer :)

  30. This looks so good! Right up our alley.

  31. I used to just microwave cheese straight and eat it :P

  32. Woah! Combining chips, chili and cheese is just genius! Great pictures, Averie!

  33. Holy, this sounds beyond delicious – I love it! Dinner toonnniiiiight! haha not really, but SOON!

  34. This sounds amazing!!! And ha – I love your college Doritos treat. They used to be my favorite back in college. (Sigh….the days of eating anything we wanted!)

  35. How sinful! This sounds like the ultimate comfort food.

  36. I love, love those nacho chips. They r my families fav!!!
    Plus u can’t beat the price :)
    Growing up I would take Muenster Cheese & put it on a plate & melt it in micro. Soft @ gooeeyyyy in the middle & crispy on the outside. Never thought I would need a fork 4 cheese.
    I hav now showed my kids this @ they do it.
    Thanks 4 the recipe !

  37. Yum! I love anything with tortilla chips! I’ll have to make this one vegan though!

  38. okay my boys would be in heaven!!

  39. This looks delicious! And I’m totally jealous of people who can still eat crunchy things. I need to heal from this gum surgery STAT! Going to have to eat some beans and cheese and rice without the chips for now!

  40. Nachos for dinner? I am SOLD. Absolutely adore this Averie!

  41. What a fun recipe and it looks great! I adore nachos, definitely a guilty pleasure! The best were some at Sugar Plum Vegan, a vegan restaurant in Sacramento, that used spicy cashew “cheese” and plenty of guac and black beans.

  42. Mmmmm, now this is a recipe for me!!!!

  43. My husband just made a big vat of chili this weekend and I didn’t know how we were ever going to eat it all up between the two of us! Now I do =)

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  45. Seriously – this is so my kind of dinner lately. Easy, tasty and comforting. A winner!

  46. Haha, so I totally just had a salad for lunch. After looking at this, I am completely unsatisfied with my meal. I need to make some chili soon. Next time I’m going to add the chips :)

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