Mexico is a huge country with remarkable history, people and culture. We visited for three weeks over the New Year’s holiday. Vegan food in Mexico was great and I’ll share my favourites. I also share those moments where we had limited choices. It’s just as important to talk about those as all the delicious ones.
A few times we found ourselves in places where the only vegan food options were the guacamole with tortilla chips. Fine!
Twice, and in the most touristy of towns (Puerto Morelos), the only vegan food option was a baguette because everything was shut. So, you know what, we got two baguettes, sat down on the swing in the garden of the hotel and we ate the baguettes. Also, fine!
We also popped into the local Wal-Mart to find totopos (tortilla chips), dips and even vegan cheese as well as fruit of course. A supermarket trip to look for vegan food in Mexico or elsewhere is always fun.
Other times, we had lovely fruit, like fresh coconuts or mamey sapote, which we bought from a woman selling them from her garden. And that too was fine!
We don’t always have to have complex meals involving all sorts of things. We can go with simplicity and make do. It’s the least we can do for non-human animals and it was never a sacrifice for us. In reality, it’s fun to be able to sort yourself out in a variety of ways.
Vegan food in Mexico, whether prepared, cafés or simply rice, beans and steamed vegetables are overall very tasty. We weren’t underfed anywhere we went. I don’t list every place we visited. There’s HappyCow for that. These are the standouts for me. Mexico is a well-travelled destination and any quick Internet search will result in many vegan spots and vegan options.
CDMX – Mexico City
Vegan food in Mexico City is phenomenal. No two ways about it. CDMX itself is an incredible city.
Churreria El Moro is one where locals and visitors have been flocking to since 1935.
Churros are deep fried dough, sprinkled with sugar and optional cinnamon. Pair them with the classic, and an equally sweet and cinnamony, cafè de olla. There’s everything to love about this combo. It’s perfection.
There are loads of vegan options at El Moro, including shakes. Churros are inherently vegan-friendly.
The local Mexico City micro chain Pali Pali was a delight. They serve classic Mexican dishes made vegan.
I loved the sign inside the Alameda branch, which translates to “do more of what makes you happy without hurting anyone”. Precisely.
We had the enchiladas verdes and the enmoladas poblanas for lunch on one of our first days… giddy with excitement.
Oh and the white drink you see there, that’s a licuado de mazapán, basically liquified marzipan. Again, heavenly.
Gold Taco is a vegetarian parilleria (grill) with vegan options in Mercado Roma. A mercado is a buzzy open plan food and drinks court. Gold serves a variety of casual dishes, including flautas, enmoladas, enchiladas, tacos, enfrijoladas and soups or pozole.
Thankfully, Mercado Roma was one of the few open places on New Year’s Eve and we were able to order a delivery from Gold. On New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day many places are closed.
So, plan for that… unlike us.
One of the most photogenic restaurants in CDMX has to be Forever. It’s an all vegan spot in a beautiful Art Deco building in Roma Norte. The food is sophisticated and unpretentious.
They prepare seasonal specialties too, like this festive vegan agua chile made with oyster mushrooms instead of shrimp.
I would’ve been perfectly happy having churros for breakfast daily, but then we wouldn’t have tried La Pithaya and that would’ve been a shame. Massive savoury breakfast combos (chilaquiles and burrito) with coconut yogurt, fruit bowls, coconut water and juice. Oh and unsweetened cafè olla, if you must take it unsweetened. It was very good though.
Vegamo in central CDMX (Centro) is the final CDMX highlight with their vegan eggs and vertiginous stairs to the loft.
The enmolada was excellent too.
On New Year’s Day Teotihuacán is practically empty. And that’s an event because it’s one of the most visited sites in all of Mexico. Not only was the site a revelation, so were the grilled nopales (cactus leaves) at lunch.
Our excellent guide on this day on bikes dropped us off at Mayahuel, which despite being a non-vegan restaurant, had a separate vegan menu. In addition to the pumpkin, the molcajete, which is the lava container in which the dish is cooked, had full-sized nopales the size of my head. They’re dense leaves with a pleasant and not overwhelming chewiness.
San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas
There were three significant food highlights in San Cristobal.
The first, is La Tlacoyeria Cocina. It serves tlacoyos with a variety of fillings. Tlacoyos are thick, oval-shaped, stuffed tortillas made with masa. La Tlacoyeria makes these fresh by hand and with organic blue corn masa.
The second, is a modest sweet shop, Dulceria El Rico Manjar. It’s heaving with a variety of sweets home-made by Carmelita Villegas Mendoza, an abuelita if there ever was one, who takes great pride in her work and loves social media.
There’s not many ingredients in these sweets. They’re primarily sugar, water and whatever the primary ingredient might be, like coconut in all its physical forms, dates, figs, and even pumpkin (my favourite).
These sweets are great to carry and for picnics. They served as snacks and emergency rations!
Finally, whole-foods fresh from the gardens in bountiful Chiapas is always best. Vegan Art Libreria makes a fresh avocado salad and serves it with all the tortillas you could want. It’s well-worth the long-ish walk from the centre. Art Libreria is a tiny place with communal tables in the proprietor’s living room. There are books and videos as well.
La Maria is the place. We went twice. It was that good. It’s a non-vegan restaurant specialising in the regional cuisine and they clearly mark all vegan dishes. The patio seating in the courtyard at the back is great.
Cold chocolate drinks made with either plant milk or water are a delicious treat. They’re not too sweet and are refreshing and invigorating.
These were from La Chocolatera del Bastion right opposite the square and cathedral (left) and Chocol’Ha (right)
One place stood out in Merida: Crush. It’s an all vegan burger joint with a variety of dishes, including Mexican ones. It’s got heart and style.
Golden hour on the Parque de la Candelaría is lovely. The square is quiet when the kids aren’t out of the local school and it’s got a timeless vibe. There’s a small pub on the corner. It’s not vegan, but has vegan options clearly marked.
Wabi Gelato is an all vegan ice cream shop. It serves tropical flavours of ice cream in a water base and still make it creamy.
Perhaps, we had our finest meal in Mexico at Ix Cat Ik. The restaurant makes Mayan dishes, and staff know their stuff so they guide you through the menu. It would probably be easier to mark each veganisable dish, but the interaction is great. The restaurant is located a bit far from the centre, but we easily reached it on foot.
Local and traditional vegetable make up each of the dishes below, including chaya and pumpkin (leaves, flesh and seeds).
The reef here is beautiful, but the social scene is a bit too social, I suppose. There are two great vegan places though: Veggie Veggie and Cafe Layla.
Veggie Veggie serves great street food, including tacos, in an outdoor seating setting, covered by a palm frond roof.
Cafe Layla is in the atrium of the guesthouse. Brunch is pretty great here and you can hear the waves breaking on the shore. We had scrambled tofu with vegan chorizo and and “neo” rancheros.
For more travel-related essays see Vegan in Rwanda, Kenya and Zambia.
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