Hands up, I am not a vegan myself, but for one reason or another, recently I got to thinking about how possible it would be to live with a vegan diet in Mexico. Of course, it’s not impossible to do so anywhere that you go, but it is certainly easier in some places than others. Mexicans have a reputation for their meat filled tacos and quesadillas filled with cheese, so just how easy is it to be a vegan in Mexico?
Actually, I don’t think it’s that hard at all – not only are there vegan options that taste great, but these vegan foods are also typically Mexican so you get the experience of eating local foods that you wouldn’t normally consume at home. Here are a few foods to indulge in if you are committed to or attempting a vegan diet in Mexico but are not exactly sure what to purchase at the market or at your nearest street food stand.
Yaaass, huitlachoche! I love this stuff, but it’s hard to describe it without it sounding totally revolting. Essentially, huitlacoche is a fungus that grows on corn. Yum. If you walk around any local market you are likely to see this blue fungus on corn cobs or cut off and sold just as the fungus. It has an earthy, mushroomy taste and it can be considered the Mexican truffle. If you are lucky, you might find street vendors who serve huitlacoche in a quesadilla (weirdly, quesadillas don’t come with cheese as standard in most places but just ask for it “sin queso” to be sure) – a tasty street food snack.
So this is huitlacoche. Image source.
Something that you will see everywhere you travel in Mexico is the cactus plant. But cacti are not just pretty to look at, they are also a popular food. I am not so keen on the texture of cooked nopales, which is a little on the slimy side for my liking, but when sautéed with onions, I have happily gobbled them down. In Mexico City, one of the most popular street foods are tlacoyos – eye shaped thick tortillas (often made with blue corn), which are topped with nopales and queso as standard. Of course, a vegan can ask for it without the cheese for a vegan street side treat.
Flor de Calabaza
Courgette flowers are something super posh and something expensive back in the UK, but in Mexico, people eat courgette flowers with gay abandon. Now, in truth these are often served with cheese. I once had a killer flor de calabaza stuffed with ricotta, which was then deep fried and smothered in salsa verde. And you often find flor de calabaza and quesillo quesadillas on the streets, but again, all you have to do is ask for that quesadilla without the cheese and you have a steaming tortilla filled with pretty courgette flowers.
Flor de Calabaza. Image source.
Okay, what about when you go to a typical Mexican fonda or small restaurant? What can a vegan eat then? I always think that a good choice is tacos dorados. Tacos dorados are rolled up tortillas with some kind of filling inside, which are then deep fried. These can be filled with chicken, pork, and most places offer potato as a filling. Be sure to mention to your waiter what you don’t want it served with cream and cheese on top (as is often the case) and instead smother it in salsa roja or salsa verde. A great, filling lunch.
The avocados here are out of this world. They are not quite as bargain basement cheap as you might expect, but they are still at least a quarter of the price of avocados in the UK, and they are much bigger and taste much better. Slice avocado inside a quesadilla to give it a bit of substance, and of course make guacamole until you are so sick of it that you can’t possibly eat another bite. For me, that time has never come.
While vegans are cut off from the world of ice cream made with dairy products, the good news is that in Mexico, people consume just as many water based ice creams as dairy based ice creams. When you are by the beach, there is nothing quite like indulging in a cup full of mango or even tequila flavoured icy deliciousness.
Plenty of options and plenty of yums! If you are a vegan worrying about what you could possibly shove inside your gob on a trip to Mexico, worry not because you can actually shove tonnes of tasty stuff into your mouth, day in, day out. Hip hip hooray.
What is your favourite vegan Mexican food?