Who doesn’t love Mexican food?!
And guess what, it is really easy to make vegan Mexican food. Mostly because Mexican food is rich in fresh veg and plant-based foods.
I have spent a lot of time travelling around Mexico as a vegan, so let me take you through some tasty vegan Mexican food that you can try around the country! Plus, keep an eye out for some juicy bonus recipes to make for yourself at home.
What is Mexican Food?
My partner recently asked me, ‘what does Mexico smell of?’ to which he quickly responded saying ‘chilli and lime’ with a little smirk on his face.
I have to admit, that pretty much sums it up. And I love it!
Mexican food is spicy and zesty. You’ll struggle to find food that doesn’t involve a chilli somewhere.
Mexican Food Staples
As you’ve probably already guessed, chillis are a large staple food in Mexico, along with corn and beans. Corn is usually found in the form of a tortilla and these tortillas are used in many different dishes, including tacos and quesadillas.
Other core staples of Mexican food may vary as you move around the country. In the North you’ll find a lot more wheat-based tortillas. Around Yucatan you’ll get to experience all the fresh tropical fruits used in their savoury dishes. And in Oaxaca you’ll find plenty of tamales and mole.
Nationwide, you’ll be sure to see plenty of avocados, tomatoes, and rice.
What Mexican Food is Vegan?
What you have probably already noticed is that many of the Mexican food staples are naturally vegan.
Throughout the country you can easily pick up tortillas (corn & wheat), beans, avocados, tomatoes and more. Giving you a mix of fresh veg and protein sources.
Admittedly, there is still a lot of meat present in Mexico, but it can be easily avoided. What’s more, there are plenty of 100% vegan restaurants popping up around the country so you can get vegan versions of the meat-based dishes too!
Turns out that 19% of Mexicans claimed to be vegetarian or vegan in 2016. Pretty cool, right?
So, we now know that there are many vegan-friendly Mexican food staples, but what about Mexican dishes?
What Mexican Dishes Are Vegan?
There is one go-to vegan Mexican dish that you can pick up pretty much anywhere in Mexico, and that is Guacamole.
You’ll see it on most restaurant menus, and if you don’t, try asking for it! You’ll be served up a big bowl of freshly made guacamole, normally mixed together with some chopped onion, garlic, and chilli, alongside a bowl of tortilla chips. The avocados in Mexico are incredible, and therefore, so is the guacamole.
Beats the typical vegan order of french fries and a salad.
This is one of the only dishes that you can be pretty much certain is going to be vegan. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t loads more Mexican dishes that can be easily veganised.
Traditional Mexican Food
Mexican food is extremely rich and diverse, and you definitely wouldn’t have tried it all just by exploring the world foods section of your local supermarket. Especially since most Mexican food you think you know is most likely Tex-Mex, but that is a big topic for another day.
So let me take you through a large portion of traditional Mexican food, and of course, how to veganise it.
Mexican Food & How To Veganise It
Now I’m not talking about those hard-shelled Old El Paso style tacos, I’m talking soft mini tortillas (usually corn-based) served up with different kinds of fresh fillings.
One of the most common, and traditional, taco fillings is Tacos al Pastor and it isn’t vegan. But it can be quite easily made vegan. Al Pastor is spit-grilled pork mixed with spices and served alongside onion, coriander and pineapple chunks. To make it vegan, simply use a meat alternative, mushrooms, jackfruit, or soy. Easy peasy!
Another popular taco is the Baja taco, which is a fish based taco coming from Baja California. Many vegan restaurants veganise this by serving it with battered cauliflower or banana blossom instead.
Often considered to be a celebration dish, mole is a sauce which is normally poured over meat and served alongside rice, and is so rich that you really would only want to eat it every so often.
It is made with a base of seeds, spices and you’ll often find chocolate added to it also.
A vegan version would be to serve it with a vegan meat substitute, or a grilled portobello mushroom. Make sure to find out if any mole you buy is made using veg based stock. Most pre-made moles we’ve found in supermarkets are vegan-friendly.
Another way of eating mole is as an Enmolada, like an enchilada, but covered in mole. Yum.
One of my favourite Mexican dishes, quesadillas. It’s like eating a crispy hot taco, nom.
A quesadilla is a corn tortilla that has been filled with cheese, meat, and other fillings, then folded in half and cooked either-side on a griddle.
To veganise them, use vegan cheese (or just leave it out) and add vegan meat substitutes, y disfrutar!
You’ll surely know this one, the burrito is a popular dish all around the world.
There are many different fillings, including rice, meat, veg, cheese, salsa, and beans.
Vegan versions include vegan meat substitutes, vegan cheese, beans, and veg.
Chilaquiles are a typical breakfast dish. They consist of chopped up tortilla which is lightly fried and topped with red or green salsa. This can then be topped with cheese, cream, beans, and egg.
Vegan versions are made without egg and cream, and the cheese can be replaced with vegan cheese.
These are like a more traditional Mexican nacho dish.
Tamales are a very popular street food dish. In Mérida we often heard a lady come past our apartment shouting out ‘Tamales!’.
They are made using a corn based dough, filled with either sweet or savoury fillings. They are then steamed in a corn or banana leaf.
The fillings can be meat or veg based, so for vegan versions make sure to leave out the meat. Sweet fillings often consist of chocolate, so opt for vegan-friendly chocolate.
There are many many more Mexican dishes that can be easily veganised and I’ll continue to update this blog as I try veganising more of them!
How to make vegan Mexican food?
There are many ways in which you can learn to make vegan Mexican food.
I recommend visiting Mexico and learning from the locals. Try their food and enjoy it. Then learn how to replicate it. There are plenty of vegan restaurants and chefs in Mexico who would be willing to teach you.
If you can’t make it to Mexico, then buy yourself a vegan Mexican cookbook. I recommend this one:
Or keep an eye out on my blog here as I document my own vegan Mexican creations!
So you took my advice and you’ve booked yourself a flight to Mexico to try all the food. Next up, you should learn a few handy phrases.