What is Vegan Mexican Food?

You’ve just asked the million peso question! It can be quite hard to imagine what vegan Mexican food might look like. A quesadilla with no cheese? What about all that pork, beef, and chicken we see sizzling away in Mexican food trucks? And what are we supposed to make of the fact that ‘burrito’ means ‘little donkey’? Because we don’t eat donkeys, however small they are! 

So how do we arrive at plant-based Mexican food? Well, there are two main things to consider: meat and cheese. Let’s start with the meat. As often happens with regional cuisines, the ‘Mexican’ food we eat is often very different from its Mexican origins.

Historically, meat would have been too expensive for people to eat every day. So most traditional Mexican dishes would have originally been plant-based, which is why so many Mexican dishes are based around beans or corn - the meat was added later by Europeans! So there’s nothing to stop us vegans from enjoying delicious, traditional Mexican dishes without any meat in them!

OK, but what about the cheese? This is where history and modernity find themselves in perfect harmony. Because we are blessed to live in a time of delicious and authentic tasting Vegan cheese substitutes, like Follow Your Heart - Dairy-Free Cheese Shreds, to sprinkle all over your vegan enchiladas! 

Why is Mexican Food so Popular? 

OK, let’s get the obvious answer out of the way: because it’s delicious! But to be more serious, Mexican cuisine has developed over literally thousands of years and since its beginning, Mexico’s unique abundance of vibrant, diverse, versatile, and delicious ingredients has been central to Mexican food’s appeal. 

Zucchini, peppers, corn, hundreds of varieties of potato, cauliflower, prickly pear, guava, mango, and chili pepper— all mouth-watering, plant-based ingredients that form the historical basis for Mexican cooking.

Alongside these ancient origins, Mexican food has also incorporated other influences, in particular Spanish cuisine and cooking techniques from the age of the conquistadors and the colonization of Mexico. Since then, Mexican food has also been borrowed from (as well as lent to) food cultures of the southern states of the US, such as Texas and Arizona. As such, Mexican food is deeply tied to our own cultural tastes, which has resulted in it becoming a worldwide favorite! 

Top Brands to Try

Here on PlantX, we’ve got so many great vegan Mexican food brands for you to try. Here’s just a brief rundown of some of our favorite plant-based Mexican food brands and products:

Be honest, when you hear the words ‘Mexican food’ you don’t necessarily think “Ahh yes, of course. Soup!” But be prepared for that to change with Frontier Soup’s authentic, smokey, nutritious, and 100% plant-based Tortilla Soup Mix. Easy to make and delicious, we absolutely love this stuff!

Now in addition to making one of our all-time favorite biblical food-based puns, Garden of Eatin also makes some of our favorite Mexican tortilla chips! Simple, crunchy, and perfectly seasoned.

There’s literally never a bad time to eat a burrito, but sometimes you just don’t have the time to prepare everything from scratch. Down to Cook takes care of that little problem! Down to Cook’s Adda Veggie Protein Mix is a delicious, medium spicy meatless blend of pea protein. Seasoned to perfection with a chipotle adobe, this easy to use protein mix is perfect in a burrito, on tacos and even on its own!

For those of us looking for a hearty, convenient Mexican food option, Cadia’s Refried Vegetarian Beans are the way to go! Best of all these refried beans are a much healthier option than the traditional variety, since they’re fat-free, rich in fiber and packed full of flavor. Just open the can and go!

OK, we’ve talked about how Mexican food shouldn’t strictly require meat. But there’s no denying that chicken, pork and beef have all found a place in Mexican cooking. But with Plant Boss’s Meatless crumbles, you can substitute the traditional meats with a delicious, pea-protein-rich meat alternative that goes perfectly in tacos, chilies, burritos, and all your favorite Mexican classics. 

Enjoy Vegetable Loaded Mexican plate

Far from being a challenge to vegan chefs, Mexican food is one of the easiest types of cuisine to explore with a plant-based agenda! Despite the innovations being made with cauliflower and mushrooms, it’s fair to say that Vegan BBQ still has quite a long way to go when it comes to authenticity. 

So much of Mexican food is based on a rich roster of delicious vegetables that form the core of Mexican cooking. We’re talking bright yellow corn, we’re talking all kinds of beans. Juicy ripe tomatoes and succulent zucchini. 

Fresh avocado mashed into creamy guacamole; spicy salsas and electrifying chili peppers. It’s all delicious and it’s all plant-based! So if you’ve got a hankering for vegan Mexican food, you’re already halfway there! Just find a nifty alternative to the cheese and you’re away!

Try Traditional Homestyle Mexican Recipes

OK, OK, so we’ve got a sense of some of the great ready-made vegan food products available on the market. But what if you want to make your own delicious plant-based Mexican, just like your Mamacita used to make? After all, all great Mexican food is based on the principles of excellent home cooking. So if you want the real thing, you probably want to make it at home!

Here at PlantX, we’ve got you covered. You might try our glorious homemade Guacamole recipe. You can keep things fresh and simple with some Mexican-style Crunchy Salad Raps. Or maybe attempt a little fusion cooking with a delightful Mexican Tortilla Lasagne! There’s a whole world of vegan Mexican recipes out there to explore!

Frequently asked questions

Can I eat Mexican food on a Mediterranean diet?

Yes! Many of the ingredients which form the core of the Mediterranean diet are also found in Mexican food: nutritious vegetables, complex carbohydrates, whole grains, and so on. 

Now, if you want to avoid compromising your Mediterranean diet, then you might want to avoid Mexican dishes that rely on white rice or consider substituting the rice for an alternative. Similarly, fried red meat is to be avoided, but there isn’t much risk of that if you’re vegan anyway! 

The main idea of the Mediterranean diet is to reduce your intake of processed foods and refined sugars. Both of these things can be avoided by choosing healthily prepared and responsibly sourced Mexican food. 

Is Mexican food spicy? 

Well, it’s hard to say a conclusive ‘no’ to that question! This is the country that gave us the chili pepper after all! And we’ve probably all been caught out while enjoying a nice taco and suddenly felt the flames of Hades engulf our tongue from nowhere… So, on the one hand, Mexican food can be spicy. In fact, it can be very spicy! But as with the cuisines of East and South Asia, spice is only one small part of the rich and diverse range of Mexican food. 

There are delicious, authentic, and mild sauces, sweet treats, and complex earthy flavors to enjoy in Mexican food, as well as mind-bending spices. So ironically, variety is the (mild) spice of life and Mexican food… If you're looking for some extra spice in your life, make sure to try out Tia Lupita's Hot Sauce. Vegan, gluten-free, and nothing artificial!

Is Mexican Food Gluten-Free? 

While Mexican food is less dependent on wheat than other cuisines, that does not mean that all Mexican food is gluten-free. Many varieties of cornbread are gluten-free, but not all. Similarly, most tortillas and tortilla chips are gluten-free, but not all. 

In short, Mexican food is a great option for those seeking a gluten-free diet, but as ever, it is worth checking the label on individual products and ingredients to make sure. As for the many Mexican dishes that rely on rice and beans, most of these are gluten-free too! Rice, in its natural form, does not contain gluten. 

Do you use rice in Mexican food? 

We hate to say “that depends” but… that depends! Classic Mexican dishes that contain (or are served with) rice include chili, burritos, and tacos. Classic Mexican dishes where the rice is nowhere to be seen include enchiladas, fajitas, tamales, quesadillas, and a great many more. 

With its historical roots based in beans and corn— and the fact that rice is not a native grain to Mexico— Mexican food did not traditionally depend on rice. However, rice has been incorporated into a number of Mexican dishes since the arrival of the Spanish in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. 

So as with most cuisines, a few centuries of colonial cross-fertilization have made it impossible to entirely rule out any one ingredient or technique from our understanding of Mexican food. But if you’re looking for a tasty, rice-free dish, Mexico has plenty to offer!