Although it is difficult if you are a vegetarian in Mexico, it can certainly be worth it. That is because although strict vegetarians have to take special care to make sure that there is no hidden meat in their food, it is possible to do so and when you’re in Mexico, you will have almost limitless options in terms of fruits and vegetables. This means that although you might have a hard time finding some vegetarian items (such as quinoa), the large variety of delicious food more than makes up for it. Here are some of the best vegetarian foods and what to look out for to be sure they are actually meat-free.
If you are walking around Mexico City or anywhere else in Mexico and want a snack (or even a meal), the best option is a fruit cocktail. You will have no doubts that it is vegetarian and all the fruits in Mexico are delicious. The cocktails usually include seasonal fruits and the most common ones to find in them include: cantaloupe, honeydew, pineapple, watermelon, banana, apple, orange and other seasonal fruits. You will usually get the choice of having your fruit plain, sweet (with honey and granola) or spicy (salt, lemon and chile powder).
Chilaquiles are one of the typical Mexican breakfast foods. The plain version consists of totopos (which are fresh tortilla chips) that are cooked in salsa and then topped with all or some of the following: onion, avocado, cream, cheese. While many people choose to eat them with chicken, they are also commonly eaten with fried egg on top for a vegetarian option. The only thing to look out for is that when the totopos are made that they are not fried using oil that had previously cooked meat, but in most cases that is not a big concern.
When people think of vegetarian Mexican food, one of the first things that comes to mind is generally quesadillas. A typical quesadilla will have some sort of food (such as potatoes or mushrooms) and queso Oaxaca (cheese from the state of Oaxaca). If you don’t mind a bit of cross contamination, you can eat them on the street, but if you are on a strict meat-free diet, keep in mind that most stands will use the same oil to cook the vegetarian ones as they will the meat ones. Your best option is to have them in a vegetarian restaurant or homemade.
Another great vegetarian meal is tacos dorados. These are the tacos that you see that are crispy and rolled up; the vegetarian ones usually consist of potatoes or beans rolled up in a tortilla and fried. Like with the quesadillas, you have look carefully that they are not cooked in the same oil as beef or chicken if you are strictly meat free, but you will still have plenty of opportunities to try them. These tacos are usually topped with lettuce, cheese and cream and will sometimes also have tomatoes, onions or avocados. These are a bit messy to eat, but well worth it.
Sopes are another delicious but hard to eat Mexican food. They consist of a thick tortilla covered in beans, lettuce, cheese, cream and salsa with occasional additions of other vegetables. Most people will eat them with chicken or some other meats on top, but as a vegetarian you can either get them plain, with potatoes or with queso Oaxaca (Oaxaca cheese). Like with the quesadillas and sopes be careful with the oil to make sure it is actually meat-free. Another concern is the beans as many re-fried beans will contain meat, so be sure to ask.
A classic Mexican dish that just happens to come in a vegetarian variety is chiles rellenos (stuffed hot peppers). When ordering, be sure to specify “chiles rellenos con queso” (stuffed hot peppers with cheese) as another popular option is to fill them with tuna. The chiles are stuffed and covered in egg batter with a bit of red broth. They are delicious, but you should be careful because the chiles themselves can vary from not spicy at all to incredibly spicy.
Tlayudas are a traditional dish from Oaxaca (in the south of the country) but you can occasionally find them other places as well. They are described as a Oaxacan take on sopes as they consist of re-fried beans, vegetables, lettuce, queso Oaxaca and salsa. These, however, are usually on a thinner tortilla that is about the size of a plate, which means that they are one of the messiest foods to eat. Some places that serve them will take pity on you and serve them folded in half or cut up for easier consumption. Just be sure to order a meat-free one as they are commonly served with various meats.
Tamales De Dulce Or Elote
Another traditional Mexican breakfast food is the tamal. Vegetarians have to be careful, however, because even the ones that do not contain chunks of meat are usually cooked in chicken stock despite their seeming vegetarian nature. Some of the only truly meat-free options are a tamal de dulce (sweet tamal) or tamal de elote (sweet corn tamal). The tamales de elote have a pinkish color although some people will do fun flavors such as tamales de guayaba (guava) while the tamales de elote will look more like the other types.
Esquites And Elote
As mentioned above, elote is sweet corn and this dish is one of the most common street foods, especially at night. You will see vendors selling the sweet corn either on a stick (called elotes) or in a cup (called esquites). They will usually ask you if you want them to add mayonnaise, cheese, lime and chile powder. Both options (esquites and elotes) will taste the same; it is just a matter of preference in terms of your eating style. This is a great vegetarian snack to eat while you are walking down the street as both forms are highly portable and it is delicious as well.