Do you believe that being vegan in Mexico City is hard? Well, let me tell you that it absolutely isn’t. And I am not making this claim from a “quick-stop-in-Mexico-traveler” point of view. This is an insider’s perspective on how a vegan lifestyle in Mexico is a piece of vegan “flan” (= custard).
I lived almost ten years just outside of Mexico City before leaving for college. Though I was not vegan when I lived there, whenever I go back to visit my parents, I spend a few weeks in the city, running from restaurant to coffee shop to meet with family and friends. So, I am quite exposed to the food scene there, and I can confirm that Mexico City has become a vegan heaven.
I always look forward to going out for a meal or even just to do groceries. And since I am mentioning groceries, let me say something about buying fruit. Mexicans are very blessed to have a variety of climates to produce many different kinds of fruits, especially tropical fruits. In pretty much any grocery store you will find domestic watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple, papaya, bananas, and avocados, among others, all quite cheap and usually not wrapped in plastic.
Fruit might sound alright to you, but you are probably looking for the authentic (plant-based) Mexican food experience when in Mexico City. Authentic Mexican food is a bit different than the more commonly known Tex-Mex variety, yet still of remarkable quality and flavor, so much that Mexican food was even declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage by the UNESCO. The question might now be, how do you “veganize” authentic Mexican food? Quite easily, in fact: At any typical Mexican restaurant, I know that I can ask the kind waiter/waitress to switch out the chicken for beans in the enchiladas or order bean chilaquiles with green or red mole sauce. For dessert, I can be very pleased with a fresh fruit platter or lemon sorbet. If visiting Mexico City during a holiday, such as the Day of the Dead on November 1st, you won’t have any trouble finding vegan “bread of the dead” at the annual Day of the Dead fair. If you are spending Christmas in the city, go for some savory vegetable or sweet tamales; the base is usually made with vegetable shortening.
If you aren’t much into spicy Mexican food, that’s all right as well. No judgment—you will not have to starve yourself. With roughly 25 million people living in Mexico City, we are blessed with various international cuisines. Sushi places have many vegan options, oriental Asian fine dining experiences always include vegetable and tofu dishes, Lebanese restaurants have always been extremely vegan-friendly with their hummus, pita bread, and lentil soup. At Italian pizza and pasta bars, a pizza without cheese or a pasta with tomato sauce and vegetables is usually quite pleasing.
If you are looking for fully vegan restaurants, though, my personal favorite is Forever Vegano. And though my parents aren’t vegan (yet), they also love this internationally-minded place and often suggest it when we go out for lunch. I can highly recommend the “gorditas de setas” (small mushroom-stuffed tortillas), the Forever salad with homemade nut cheese and the Dragon Bowl with baked tofu and chipotle mayo. The restaurant also has its own little store, where they sell a few Mexican-made, but also many imported vegan treats from the US, such as the Beyond Burger, Gardein “meats,” vegan desserts, and protein powders and vitamins (don’t forget to take your B12!).
There are actually two Forever’s in the city, one in a neighborhood called Polanco and one in the Colonia Roma, both areas famous for being quite up and coming and favored by young people. Also in the Colonia Roma, you can find the “mercado Roma” (Roma market)—an arty, gourmet market with lots of delicious vegan options, including my favorite vegan/vegetarian taco bar in Mexico, called Gold Taco.
Another neighborhood I recommend checking out is called Condensa, which is famous for being a vegan haven. One extremely cute cafe in this area is Pan Comido, which literally translates into “eaten bread/bread that has been eaten,” but in this context also means”easy peasy,” i.e. piece of cake. This vegetarian, almost fully vegan cafe offers traditional Mexican dishes like “chiles en nogada,” as well as international dishes like falafel, burgers, and pasta, and has great breakfast options, including many fruit bowls and French toast. Further, like Polanco and the Colonia Roma, the Condesa is a very nice area for walking around. Many streets in these three neighborhoods are lined with trees and small parks; they are quite pedestrian-friendly and also tend to be safer than other places in Mexico City. Nonetheless, Mexican or not, you should still apply the common safety rules in all areas in Mexico City: don’t wear showy jewelry, watch your bag and don’t walk around alone at night.
Of course, I only mentioned a few vegan places in Mexico City, but by doing some Google search, you will find that there is much more vegan food to try or vegan fairs to visit. Pretty much anywhere in the world, Mexico City included, you can also use a website and app called Happy Cow that will be your best friend to find vegan, vegetarian of vegan-friendly restaurants. Even though I usually hear about vegan restaurants in Mexico through word of mouth, I occasionally still use this app, especially to find stores that sell vegan goodies.
All in all, I can just say that being vegan in Mexico is definitely very, very easy. With all these tips I just gave you based on my own experiences, I hope you will consider a trip to Mexico City to explore this bustling and lively city and to try some good, spicy, cruelty-free Mexican (or international) food.
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Photo: Tatiana von Rheinbaben; Forever Vegano; Pan Comido