I’m not a vegetarian myself, but a lot of my friends are, and I know how difficult it can be to find vegetarian food in Latin America. So I asked my good friend Laura Pollard from Go Go Brownie Mission for her take on how to survive Mexico city as a vegetarian. She lived here for four months, and sought out the best tips and restaurants if you’re vegan & vegetarian in Mexico City!
Mexican cuisine is world renowned for its flavours, but it’s not exactly known for its veggie-friendly options. I had some mixed reactions when people here found out that I don’t eat meat. I eat fish from time to time, but try to keep my fish consumption to a minimum. Some people thought that I was doomed, and that without meat tacos my trip to Mexico would not be complete! Thankfully I’ve had no problems finding meat-free options here in Mexico City. In this post I will share some tips on where to go and what to eat, whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian, pescatarian, or just looking for some veggie options for a change.
Vegetarian and Vegan Restaurants in Mexico City
I’m going to start with this: yes, you can find vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Mexico City. If you are vegan, these will often be your best option for dining, as you can rest assured that everything you eat will adhere to your diet.
Two of the best areas for vegans and vegetarians in Mexico City are La Roma and Condesa. The hipster zones of the city, you can find plenty of veggie and vegan restaurants here. The added bonus is that these are good places to base yourself before a night out as you’re spoiled for choice with excellent, quirky and fun bars in these areas.
Arguably the best restaurant here is Forever Vegano, which has vegan versions of traditional Mexican dishes as well as a range of international dishes. I would highly recommend the chilaquiles and chilango if you’re after Mexican food. The vegan desserts are pretty damn good too!
Pan Comido in La Roma is another pretty awesome option, serving vegetarian sandwiches, falafel and Mexican dishes. Also important for those with a sweet tooth – it’s got a wide range of cakes and cookies as well, and right next door is Chomp Chomp which offers brownies, cookies and vegan milk shakes.
In Roma Norte you will also find a tiny, super cheap restaurant inside the yoga studio & wellness centre Aurobindo Excelencia which has a daily vegetarian/vegan set menu during the week for $58 pesos including a salad, soup, main course, dessert & drink. And on weekends they have vegetarian & vegan tacos for $10 each. Definitely no frills, but delicious food! A block away from here you’ll find La Gateria Cat Cafe, a perfect spot to have a huge piece of cake, and make friends with kitties too!
If you’re in Roma, it’s also worth heading to a small complex called Casa Quimera between calles Orizaba and Guanajuato. Here you’ll find a pretty little vegan area with a variety of small establishments: a bakery selling organic and vegan cookies, a vegan Japanese place, a juice stand and a delicious vegan taqueria – La Pitahaya Vegana.
What to Eat as a Vegan or Vegetarian in Mexico City
Vegetarian Street food in Mexico City
Street food is a big part of the Mexican culture and cuisine. Unfortunately, tacos for the most part are the domain of the carnivorous. On street stands you can sometimes find (or request) cheese (queso) or potatoes (papas) as a filling instead, but you might get some raised eyebrows unless you are in a specifically vegetarian place.
The good news is that you don’t have to miss out on this important part of Mexican life completely! Por Siempre is an awesome vegan taco stand that will satisfy any cravings, and is open till midnight too from Monday – Saturday.
Elsewhere though, meat is king, and as far as tacos go, most places will be meat, meat & more meat.
Luckily, quesadillas are another story, and are much more veggie friendly! Aside from the obvious cheese filling, there are two particular vegetarian options which are popular and delicious. While in Mexico City, be sure to check out (1) huitlacoche and (2) flor de calabaza.
The former, huitlacoche, is actually a fungus that grows on corn, and is also known as corn mushroom. Unpleasant as it sounds (and looks), this is quite a delicacy in Mexico City and is definitely worth a try. Flor de calabaza on the other hand are squash blossoms – the flowers that grow on courgettes (zucchini for you Americans) and other squashes, and are a great, filling option for veggies.
If you want to take it to the next level, check out the food market in Coyoacán (Mercado de Comida Coyoacán) and grab some deliciously unhealthy deep-fried quesadillas from one of the food stools there.
If you’re vegan, you’ll need to specify that you want your quesadillas without cheese (sin queso), as despite the name, you can have a quesadilla without queso!
You will find tamales (corn based dough steamed in a banana leaf) with various fillings – often meat, but also with mushrooms (champiñones), hiutlacoche and cheese (queso)
Esquites are another great street food for vegetarians and vegans, where corn is sautéed and served up in a polystyrene cup with cheese, chilli powder, mayonnaise and lime.
Similar but slightly messier are the elotes. This is corn on the cob which you can slather in mayo, cheese and chilli powder and eat straight up.
I find it pretty irksome when non-vegetarians ask, with a sense of wonder, “But what do you eat then? Just salad?”
No. We do not just eat salads.
So, it is with some slight reservations that I begin to talk about the availability of salads for vegetarians. But in all honesty, they can be a good option. Frutos Prohibidos is a particularly solid healthy-eating chain, with a range of salads, wraps and yummy fruit juices. It has a bunch of restaurants dotted around the city, including in Condesa, Narvarte, Roma and the historic centre. If you arrive before 1pm and don’t fancy salad, its breakfast and brunch range is impressive too, especially the yummy vegetarian chilaquiles, which are tortilla chips in a spicy sauce topped with cheese & drizzled with cream.
While we’re being virtuous (kind of), it’s worth mentioning the fruit in Mexico.
I fell in love with papaya the first time I came to Mexico. In England, it always seemed bland and boring. Here, it is fresh, juicy and delicious.
Aside from the tropical fruit we already know, like mango, pineapple and papaya, there’s a host of other fruits to try, some of which you may not have heard of or seen before. Some examples are saramuyo (sugar apple), prickly pear fruit, guayaba (guava) and pitahaya (dragon fruit).
It’s easy to pick up local and in-season fruits from street vendors or markets. Juices and smoothies are popular here too, and available at street stalls all over the city.
Chocolate and pastries
Now that we’ve got passed the healthy stuff, let’s talk about chocolate!
If you’re not vegan and thus have a little more flexibility with chocolate and what baking ingredients go into your morning croissant, you are in luck. In every supermarket and bakery you’ll find a huge selection of tasty (and cheap!) pastries and cakes.
If you’re vegan, Condesa and La Roma are probably the best places to indulge your sweet tooth. Milkella, in the Casa Quimera complex mentioned above, is a particularly good place for yummy vegan cookies. Make an afternoon of it by grabbing an inventive fruit juice from the Naat juice stand, some tacos from the vegan taqueria and then top it off with a cookie (or two or three!).
If you’re not so strict…
For flexitarians, pescatarians or people who are just trying to reduce their meat intake, you should definitely check out the fish tacos in Mexico City. One of the best choices by far is El Pescadito, a chain originally from Sonora, in the north of the country. Here you can try any combo of shrimp, fried fish tacos and marlin tacos (which are a must-try). There are branches across the city, including Coyoacan, Condesa and Centro Histórico. Expect queues at peak times; these places are popular and rightly so!
Sure, you have to be a little more careful if you’re a vegetarian in Mexico City, but it’s far from impossible.
There really is something for everyone in Mexico city, including vegans and vegetarians. If you’re looking for healthy options you’ll find plenty of fresh fruit, fruit juices and salads. Looking to indulge? Enjoy some deep-fried vegetable quesadillas followed by some vegan cookies!
Want more? Find other restaurants in Mexico City
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