how to order vegan mexican restaurant
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How to Order Vegan at Any Mexican Restaurant

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Dec. 9 2020, Published 4:57 p.m. ET

Eating vegan at a restaurant can sometimes be difficult, especially if that establishment is not sensible of the dietary restrictions that come with a vegan lifestyle. Not every Mexcian eatery is going to be knowledgeable about these things, of course. The idea of a meatless, cheeseless world is difficult for some people to wrap their heads around. Especially if those people specialize in cooking seasoned meat and cheese wrapped in tortillas. Traditional tacos notwithstanding, it’s fairly easy to understand how to order vegan at a Mexican restaurant

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how to order vegan mexican restaurant
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Do Mexican restaurants serve vegan options?

Even if the establishment is not strictly vegan, most Mexican restaurants have a pretty good mix of beans, rice, vegetables, and tortillas — all of which are often completely vegan on their own. It’s only when you start to mix up the proteins and add cheese, crema, or sour cream to your dishes, that the vegan thing goes out the window. That said, there are plenty of ways to order vegan, as long as you know the right questions to ask. 

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How to order vegan at a Mexican restaurant?

Many restaurants — especially in this day and age — will likely already have a vegetarian section of their menu dedicated to meatless eaters. Unfortunately, they won’t always have very many options laid out. And even if they do have a vegetarian menu, it’s possible they won't have a vegan one. If that’s the case, you might have to have some questions prepared for when it’s time to order. 

how to order vegan mexican restaurant
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Are rice and beans vegan safe?

If you’re looking for a good source of protein to start with, look no further than beans. You can swap the meat out of most burritos, tacos, or tortas with black or refried beans without creating too much of a problem. Note that some refried beans are prepared with meat or lard, however, so it’s important to confirm that they are vegan before settling on them. Some restaurants might even be willing to make a separate, lard-free option for you if you ask nicely. 

Rice is also a pretty safe bet in these places, but remember to ask if they make their rice with chicken stock rather than water. If their rice is prepared using some sort of meat-based stock or broth, it doesn’t hurt to ask if you can have plain rice instead. 

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Can I order vegan fajitas?

Absolutely you can! Fajitas are generally a mix of grilled meats and veggies served with tortillas and sides so that you can make your own little wraps. Considering that a good half of the mix is usually just peppers and onions, it’s pretty easy for most Mexican restaurants to eliminate the meat and grill you up a nice, tasty plate of vegetables. Even if they don’t have a vegan or vegetarian option in their fajita menu (honestly, why wouldn’t they?) you can simply order the meat fajitas as “hold the meat, extra veggies.” It would be unusual for any restaurant to take issue with such a request. 

how to order vegan mexican restaurant
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Do Mexican restaurants serve vegan cheese or protein?

Unfortunately, most traditional Mexican restaurants will not have any vegan cheeses available for you to eat. Sour cream is pretty much off the menu as well, as are many types of cream-based sauces or toppings. Those with a more robust or modern menu might have one or two vegan cheese alternatives on the menu, but it would be a rare thing to find at a non-vegan restaurant. 

Proteins are about the same. Tofu might be available as a meat substitute but seitan probably would not. If tofu is available though, it might actually make for a pretty tasty burrito, especially once it’s had time to get to know all those yummy Mexican spices and sauces. Just make sure that it’s not cooked in any stock or meat-based broth of any kind. 

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Guacamole is always vegan, right?

Guacamole is just about the only purely vegan item you’ll find on most Mexican restaurant menus, especially if it is made fresh and at the table. Some restaurants might have their guac brought in, however, and you’ll have to make sure that no mayo or milk is added as a type of thickener before you order it. Though, as to why anyone would willingly ruin their guacamole with such needless additives is beyond mortal reasoning.  

Salad is also a pretty safe bet too. In the absolute worst-case scenario, some Mexican restaurants might either not want to work with your dietary needs or simply not be knowledgeable enough to amend their cherished recipes to meet those restrictions. If this is the case, you can always order a salad for the moment and then perhaps try a different establishment the next time you have a hankering for a burrito. 

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how to order vegan mexican restaurant
Source: Getty Images

Are there any strictly vegan Mexican restaurants?

There are a number of family-owned, local, meat-free Mexican restaurants out there. In fact, according to Seitan Beats Your Meat, there are a few strictly vegan eateries that specialize in Mexican cuisine right in Chicago. Both Quesadilla La Reina del Sur, Vegetarian Express, El Nuevo Mexicano, La Cocina, and La Cantina Grill all offer vegan seitan and soy meat options for their tacos, quesadillas, and other sundries. 

A quick Google search in other cities, like say, New York City, will reveal even more vegan Mexican options. Jaja Plantas Mexicana, Bar Verde, El Rinconcito Mix, and La Contenta, are just a few of the four-star restaurants specializing in vegan cuisine with a Mexican twist. And if those two cities have their fair share of vegan Mexican options, you can be sure places like Portland and Austin have plenty of options as well.

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