By Kate Buckle
Yes, it is totally possible to find delicious vegetarian and vegan food in Mexico.
With taquerias and carnitas stands on almost every corner of a typical street, eating vegan or vegetarian in Mexico might at first glance seem a difficult task.
Despite their love of meat, however, many staples of the Mexican diet are in fact vegan-friendly. Avocado, rice, corn, tortilla, and beans — as long as they haven’t been cooked in pork fat — form the basis for many veggie dishes.
And as the popularity of veganism for ethical and environmental reasons grows globally, plant-based alternatives to the traditionally meaty taco fillings are starting to make an appearance in big cities such as Mexico City and Guadalajara, which are now home to a number of vegan restaurants and even vegan taquerias.
In less touristy areas and smaller pueblitos the word “vegan” isn’t widely spoken and it’s worth clarifying your dietary requirements since vegetarians are sometimes assumed to eat white meat such as chicken or fish.
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Vegetarian & Vegan Food In Mexico
Wherever you are in the country, Mexican cuisine is flavorful and inventive.
Luckily, if you’re visiting this part of the world and wanting to stay plant-based it doesn’t mean that you have to miss out on the famous food.
Try out these delicious, meat-free and easily vegan-ized options:
Mexicans have been eating the king of dips since long before avocado on toast became an Instagram craze.
This filling and healthy snack/starter is cheap and easy and requires just a few basic ingredients; avocado, tomato, onion, coriander and a squeeze of lime.
How do Mexicans like their eggs in the morning?
Quite a lot of ways it turns out.
Go to a Mexican restaurant and you will be overwhelmed with egg options:
Estrellados, rancheros, a la Mexicana, divorciados.
And yes, that does translate to “divorced eggs.”
Vegetarians have plenty to choose from — but don’t worry, vegans, because beans are here to save the (beginning of the) day!
Mollettes are the Mexican version of beans on toast and consist of two slices of warm crusty bread — usually a bolillo, which is kind of like a short baguette — topped with refried beans and pico de gallo (tomatoes, onion, and coriander).
It is a vegetarian dish often served with melted cheese atop the beans so for a vegan version order “sin queso.”
Another good vegetarian breakfast option, though note that vegans should order it without cream or cheese.
I recommend asking for some avocado as a replacement.
Chilaquiles are a fried tortilla dish served with beans and a red or green salsa, the spiciness of which varies.
Liquados, Jugos & Aguas Frescas
Fresh fruit is available in abundance at local breakfast restaurants and in the streets of Mexico.
For a healthy start to the day try a mixed fruit juice or liquado (smoothie).
A mango chamoyada is a must-try if you want something uniquely Mexican and the sweet flavor of the mango mixes really well with the slight spiciness of the chamoy, which is a tangy mix of condiments often used to add flavor to fruits or snacks.
For a less healthy but equally delicious hydration option aguas frescas are “fresh waters” flavored with fruit and sugar available on many a street corner, served with ladles from large plastic buckets.
Popular flavors include guava, strawberry, mango, pineapple, jamaica (made from the hibiscus flower), horchata (sweet and cinnamony rice milk), and lime with chia seeds.
Tacos, Flautas, Tostadas, Gorditas
The diversity of the humble maize plant knows no boundaries.
Put some fillings in a small maize tortilla and it’s a taco.
If you roll it up and fry it in oil it becomes a flauta.
If the tortilla is fried first and then toppings are added this is a tostada.
A thick patty that is sliced open and stuffed with ingredients is known as a gordita.
Popular meat fillings for these include pastor (pork), bistec (beef), picadillo (minced beef) and many more, but soy and plant-based alternatives recreate the flavor and are available at a small number of vegan restaurants in bigger cities.
When eating at a non-vegan establishment or in smaller pueblos (towns), however, vegans still have a number of options to choose from as fillings. Note that in Mexico, you’ll hear the word “guisados,” which refers to fillings made in a pot or pan.
Try any combination of potatoes, beans, rice, nopales (described below) or spicy rajas (sliced poblano chili pepper.)
If you’re wanting to try something a bit spicy — hey, you’re in Mexico, so you probably should — this soup is traditionally made with pork or chicken broth, but vegetarian and vegan versions exist and substitute the meat for beans.
There are different versions of pozole; white, green or red, depending on the ingredients used.
It is normally garnished with finely chopped onion, radish, and lime.
Sopa de Tortilla
Tortilla finds its way into most Mexican dishes and soup is no exception. Sopa de tortilla is a rich tomato-based soup with crispy, fried tortilla strips.
It is often served with a variety of ingredients including avocado, chili, corn, cream, cheese, and chicharron (fried pork-skin.)
It can be made vegetarian or vegan by asking for it without some of these ingredients.
Known in some regions as a chaska, the esquite is a uniquely Mexican street food of boiled corn served with lashings of mayonnaise and cheese.
It can often be ordered with additional ingredients such as chili or mushrooms and then personalized by the customer at the salsa bar with a range of spicy sauces and the obligatory squeeze of lime.
Vegans should order this Mexican dish without mayo or cheese.
Vegetarians can take their esquite/chaska experience a step further by ordering a dorichaska.
A dorichaska is prepared by slicing open a bag of Doritos and pouring on the corn and other ingredients/salsas of your choice.
This is not a light snack!
If you’re feeling a bit delicate after a late night of tequila finished off with a dorichaska, the nopal plant — also known as the “prickly pear” — is an edible cactus and considered something of a superfood with great antioxidant properties.
Nopal can be barbecued or cooked “a la Mexicana” with tomatoes and onion and wrapped in a tortilla.
By the way, are you getting the theme yet?
There’s really not much that can’t be eaten with tortilla. It also finds its way into soups, salads, and side dishes.
While chocolate might not be as famously Mexican as tequila or tacos, Mexico is actually responsible for introducing chocolate to the rest of the world, according to The Telegraph.
The cacao plant is found in Central and South America and indigenous Mexican cultures were among the first to cultivate the cacao beans to produce chocolate.
Some vegan brands for making an at-home Mexican hot chocolate include Ibarra or Taza.
For chocolate bars, the brand Ki’Xocolatl produces high-quality, authentically Mexican chocolate and has a number of vegan options.
These are not widely available in supermarkets though; you’re more likely to find them in airports or upmarket gift stores.
Arroz con leche
This sweet, cinnamony, filling dessert is a great vegetarian comfort food that is widely available and fairly easy to make at home.
Veganize it by taking out the condensed milk and substituting the “leche entera” for a plant-based alternative such as soy or coconut.
What are your favorite options for vegetarian and vegan food in Mexico?
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