Some countries are easier than others for vegans and vegetarians. India, for example — probably the easiest country on Earth to be vegetarian. But… Mexico? It’s not so easy. After all, most of the famous foods and dishes everyone loves there are meat-centric. All totaled, we’ve lived in Mexico for four months so far, mainly in Puerto Vallarta and Mexico City. I didn’t see a single “veggie taco” stand during any travels there.
On the other hand, both of those cities have advantages when it comes to vegetarian options. In Mexico City, it’s such a huge metropolis that such places have arisen now by demand. In the Condesa neighborhood (Mexico City), I walked past half a dozen vegan cafe’s and/or pizza shops. In Puerto Vallarta, it’s so tourist-focused that (1) vegetarians can seek out pizza and pasta places galore, and (2) even the Mexican places will most likely accommodate special requests.
That said, it’s still not completely easy. While they definitely can be accommodating, you have to keep a few things in mind:
- First, as most vegetarians already know but somehow non-vegetarians almost never understand, there’s the whole problem of non-vegetarian ingredients in ostensibly vegetarian items. Refried beans is the big one in Mexico. If you just ask for a vegetarian version of something, you may well get beans that were made with lard or other meat products. No one’s trying to swindle you; they simply don’t think of beans as a meat dish. So, you have to drill down when ordering and make it clear that, if they’re going to use beans, you want vegetarian there, as well. (From my own experiences eating out, I’d say about 75% of beans likely have meat broth or fat inside, and about 25% don’t.)
- Same issue, more or less, with fish, although it’s a bit easier to completely avoid fish if you don’t eat it. (In other countries, like Thailand for example, this would be the big issue.)
- The next hurdle is that, while you may find a number of places that want to be accommodating (and we all appreciate that), it’s also true that it’s just not every chef who knows what to do for vegetarians. We had a good mix during our travels — a few real duds where they threw some corn chips and a handful of black beans on a plate, and a few places where they took up the challenge and came up with some real gourmet stuff.
Some of the better dishes invented for us by Mexican chefs:
Of course, I’m mainly speaking of Mexican food here, as both cities we visited and lived in seemed to have a sampling of Italian restaurants, pizza joints, Indian, Lebanese, and other non-Mex ethinc varieties, all of which had some veg options to taste.
Also, I’m mainly speaking here of lunch and dinner options, as it’s usually pretty easy breakfast-wise to get something vegetarian. For example, omlettes…
… or pancakes:
Of course, most health-conscious vegetarians will also appreciate the amazing variety of fresh juices available in tropical countries like Mexico. For the most part, I’ve had good luck with them, although in some countries you have to be careful that no water or ice gets into them. In most places in Mexico, any ice used was from filtered water (in tourist towns). In rural areas, I’d be more careful. Here’s a typical green juice:
That’s a lot of restaurant stuff… In the end, though, we mostly made our own foods. We normally stuck to vegan cooked foods, usually including beans, rice, fresh corn tortillas, and chopped veggies, such as in this pic:
One thing we started doing, and I would encourage all people who are vegan, vegetarian, or any other special type of diet to do is: When we’d eat out and find a good place, we’d make sure to review it on Google, and to include some pics in the review. This not only helps others like you, but it helps you document your travels for later. You may find yourself thinking, “Now, where did we get those amazing pancakes?!” … well, check your past reviews and it’ll be easily found.