You’d be forgiven for thinking that Mexican food is off the menu as a vegan. Much of what you know is likely to be meat-filled and covered in cheese and sour cream. But take a moment to consider the other components that make up much of those familiar dishes... Guacamole, salsa, pinto beans, refried beans, black beans, vegetable chilli, corn or flour tortillas, grilled vegetables, chipotle, jalapeno and hot chilli sauces - all vegan!
In fact, the bulk of Mexican cooking is actually vegan. So let’s take a moment to reconsider, and discover the delicious and accessible world of vegan Mexican food.
Guacamole, if made traditionally, should not contain sour cream. If you’re at a chain-style Mexican restaurant, however, then it might be best to check this with your server – they often add sour cream to make the guacamole go further. (Remember this when buying pre-made, supermarket guacamole as they frequently do the same thing, for the very same reason.) Once you’ve double checked, guacamole (as it’s meant to be) will become your best friend! It is a great substitute for cheese, always on the menu and can be added to virtually anything. Avocados are wonderfully good for you as well – full of the good fats that your body needs. A great and simple appetizer is tortilla chips with guacamole and salsa; easy to share with vegan and non-vegan friends, and a perfectly acceptable and very Mexican dish. If wanting something a little more filling then you can order nachos, but you’ll need to specify that it comes with veggie chilli and/or refried beans, with no cheese or sour cream and with extra guacamole, salsa and jalapenos (if you like it hot).
Different restaurants will have different starters/appetizers, so be sure to have a chat to the staff about anything that could easily be made vegan. Because Mexican food is made up of lots of different elements it is very easy to specify which you don’t want – just make sure you get extra of the things you do to justify the price. At chain restaurants it is also a good idea to check what they fry things like fries, onion rings and potatoes in, as these are all vegan if done in veggie or olive oil. You’ll often find a heap of vegetarian side dishes that you can have at the start of a meal or incorporate into your main. Corn on the cob (very Mexican street food!), spiced rice and garlic/flat breads should be vegan, but do check that they’re not prepared using butter. If they are as standard, then politely ask whether or not it is possible to have them made without.
Using the same logic, enchiladas, tacos, chimichangas, burritos and quesadillas can all be vegan. Simply pick the vegetarian option – roasted veggies, veggie chilli, beans – check how it’s cooked, and then ask for no cheese and sour cream, but extra salsa, guacamole etc. It may even be possible to have veggies and beans, or a bowl of veggie chilli on the side. There’s absolutely no reason why your plate should look any less full or magnificent than anyone else’s at the table. Just take the time to explain to your server that you don’t eat any dairy or animal products, and the ordering process should be a smooth one. And in our humble opinion, any excuse to order extra guacamole is only ever a good thing!
At home, Mexican food can be even more fun. Tacos with bowls of flavourful fillings are brilliant when you’re having friends over. Everyone can dive in and make their own combinations; crispy lettuce, homemade chilli, veggie mince, salsa, guacamole, vegan sour cream, chopped spring onions, diced tomato, vegan cheese, hot sauce and jalapenos are just a few ideas to get you started. This also makes a quick and easy family meal, and can be adapted to suit children’s birthday parties. Take the time to experiment and enjoy!
And, why not check out our range of Mexican Vegan Recipes!