How to Be Plant-Based in Mexico City!
First off, Mexico City is very vegan-friendly. If you had any doubts about your ability to enjoy the food scene in CDMX as a vegan, I hope this post puts you at ease!
(For context: I'm Julie, the founder of the Hackberry app. I eat whole-foods, plant-based ~80-90% of the time, but I do love to enjoy processed vegan food, oily restaurant food, and the odd piece of seafood/eggs every once in a while too!)
This trip made me realize how much of my culinary understanding of "Mexican" food was based solely on Tex-Mex and/or SoCal Mexican food (not a knock on either of those - they are both great in their own ways!). But I am really glad I had the chance to immerse myself in true Mexican cuisine while I was on this trip. :)
Overall, Mexican food is much lighter on meat and dairy than the Tex-Mex I was used to having in the US. Quesadillas, for example, come without cheese in Mexico (you have to ask for it if you want it). And most of the tacos and tostadas only have a sprinkle of cotija on top (rather than the heaping piles of melted cheese we are used to seeing in the US). Meat was definitely a big part of the cuisine, but it was sooo easy to swap out the meat for a vegetable option. Also, we didn’t come across a single restaurant or vendor who cooked with butter (the places we ate at used primarily canola and/or corn oil).
There is also a really high awareness of veganism in Mexico City, particularly in areas like Condesa, Juarez, Roma, and Polanco. All you have to do is say “Soy vegana” or “¿Tienes opciones veganas?” And most people will have a speedy answer for you. :)
If you don’t know any Spanish, definitely learn a few phrases before you go to help you order at restaurants!
Now for a run-down of our favorite culinary experiences:
Expendio de Maiz Sin Nombre - Hands-down my favorite place we ate at in Mexico City. It’s a small restaurant that cooks prehispanic food over a wood fire. There is no menu - you tell the chef what your dietary restrictions are, and they prepare you food one plate at a time right in front of you. They will continue to bring you dishes until you tell them you are full. There are no reservations and there are only a couple of tables out front, so it’s best to get there early (we got there right when they opened and were able to get seated, but the group immediately after us was told they would have a 1 hour wait).
We told them we were vegan, but that we also ate eggs. They brought us an assortment of plant-heavy dishes that were truly out of this world - honestly one of the best culinary experiences of my life. The food was incredibly fresh and flavorful, but also simple and healthy. Each dish relied on spices and unique plant combinations rather than salt and oil to bring out the flavors.
Our meal here was probably the “most WFPB” meal we had in CDMX. The restaurant (of course!) cooks with oil, but they don't use a lot of it. The dishes themselves consisted of whole grain corn tortillas, avocado, mushrooms, corn mushroom, fresh herbs, things like that. When we finished, we noticed that we felt full but just as “good” as we feel at home after we eat a filling WFPB meal.
Expendio is def my #1 CDMX recommendation for healthy plant-based eaters! We chose to eat an egg here (we were there during breakfast hours), but they can easily accommodate a fully vegan meal.
Our meal was about $35 USD for two people (no alcohol).
Por Siempre Vegana Taqueria - This spot is HUGE with locals in Roma Norte (we didn’t see a single tourist while we were there). I had read SO MUCH about this place on vegan blogs, and I was really excited to go here and support the vegan community in Mexico City.
The entire menu is vegan, so we went wayyyy overboard when we ordered lol. We got the chorizo rojo tacos, al pastor chimichurri tacos, the al pastor torta, an order of guacamole, and queso. For dessert, we got deep-fried ice cream and regular ice cream.
The BEST part about this place is the seitan al pastor - there is someone out front prepping it right on the grill, and it is truly INCREDIBLE - unlike anything I’ve had at vegan taco places in the US. The torta al pastor was our favorite dish, but literally everything here was good (you can't go wrong, just order the whole menu).
This place is popular, so there was a bit of a wait - the street is very cute and busy though, so we were able to grab a quick beer at a bar nearby while we waited to be seated.
All of our food was about $35 USD for two people (no alcohol).
Rosetta - I was so, SO excited to have dinner at Rosetta because I had read so much about Elena Reygadas. She is one of the most famous female chefs in Latin America, and is known for her genius and creative uses of Mexican flavors. The restaurant itself has huge double (triple?) ceilings flowing with greenery - the plates, details, and general dining experience were distinctly feminine and wonderful.
I ordered the potato gnocchi with corn mushroom, and holy shit - I had never imagined putting these two things together. The heaviness of the gnocchi perfectly complemented the heaviness of the corn mushroom. It was both Mexican and Italian, and 100% Elena Reygadas. The gnocchi dough contained some egg, but they were easily able to prepare the dish dairy-free.
There were vegan options here, but not a ton of them. That said, the waiters were all SUPER knowledgeable about what was already “vegano” (or what could be made “vegano” with some small changes). For appetizers, I had the pipian tacos and the white mole - both of which were 100% vegan and INCREDIBLE.
Like virtually all nice restaurants, Rosetta is SUPER heavy on oil - but it was truly a dreamy experience that you cannot miss. Reygadas is truly a genius artist and a master of her craft - so you CANNOT pass up a chance to dine here!
Our meal cost about $100 USD for two people including alcohol.
Street Food Tour with Devoured! - Thanks to my friend Sarah, we were able to go on a street food tour with the one and only Anais Martinez. Anais founded her company Devoured! ~7 years ago, and has been delighting foreigners with her extensive knowledge of Mexican cuisine ever since. She runs street food tours (and many other food-based tourist experiences) that run about ~4 hours and take you all over Mexico City.
Anais was easily able to accommodate a vegan diet for most of the tour (every place had a plant-based option except for one chorizo stand). We started off with a latte at a local place in town (almost all coffee places have almond milk - “leche de almendra”). After that, Anais took us to get tamales and chilaquile tortas (sauce + chips in a roll - easily made vegan if you skip the meat and cheese!).
After that, we headed to a market where we had soo many amazing, simple, and healthy plant-based delights: corn mushroom quesadillas, squash blossom quesadillas, fava bean tlacoyo with nopales and salsa, various types of corn, fresh mango, and mamey. All of these things were healthy, light on oil, and very WFPB-forward. We felt really good after eating them. :)
My favorite dish we had was the huitlacoche (corn mushroom) quesadilla. I had read a lot about huitlacoche (a fungus that grows on/with corn, super popular in Mexico), and had been DYING to try it. It did NOT disappoint - it had a really deep, sharp flavor that went great with tortillas and salsa.
The fava bean tlacoyo (mashed fava bean cooked within corn dough) was another one of my favorites - delicious, healthy, and very WFPB-friendly. (Before this tour, I did not realize that fava bean was so prominent in Mexican cuisine. Anais told me it came from the various waves of Lebanese immigration that occurred in the 19th and 20th centuries... also where al pastor came from!)
Another thing I loved was tasting mamey, a fruit native to Mexico and Central America. Kind of like a combination of an avocado + a sweet potato + a blood orange. Really unique and delicious - I’m definitely going to try to find these back home in LA.
If you love learning about global cuisine, doing a street food tour in CDMX is a MUST. I don’t think I would’ve left Mexico with such a better understanding of true Mexican cuisine had it not been for this tour!
Na Tlali - This was a small restaurant in San Angel that was recommended to me by my friend Sheel. It is fully vegan and serves all prehispanic food. Not a lot of tourists visit this place, but I definitely recommend it - it’s about a 10-15 minute ride from Coyaocan, so it’s perfect for a late lunch after walking around and shopping.
We told the waiter we were from out of town and asked him to recommend us a few dishes. He brought us a variety of amazing traditional Mexican dishes: enmoladas (enchiladas with three types of mole), pozole (traditional Mexican stew) with mushrooms and hominy, a corn mushroom quesadilla, banana bread, Mexican pepper leaf bread, and a Mexican hot chocolate with cinnamon. All of the cheese was almond-based and FANTASTIC. Our favorite items were the enmoladas and the quesadilla.
I loved eating here, and it was also another great opportunity to support the plant-based community in Mexico City! The food was super healthy and light on oil. I couldn’t find any other restaurants quite like this one, so definitely try to go there if you can.
Our meal cost about $35 USD for two people (no alcohol).
Rosetta Panaderia - This is another one by the one-and-only Elena Reygadas. It is very busy and popular with tourists, so you might have to wait in line. We were able to get a vegan raspberry muffin, a vegan chocolate chip cookie, and a few vegan breads. All of them were AMAZING - but if you’re pressed for time and you are a strict vegan, you’ll be okay if you skip this one! Most of her super famous pastries are butter-based (croissants, rolls, that kind of thing), so you won't be able to experience that as much.
Azul Condesa - This was recommended to me by my friend Erik. It is located in a nice spot right in the heart of Condesa, and it was perfect for our first night in the city after a long day of traveling.
They did not have a ton of vegan options here, but we were able to order the vegan tamales, guacamole, and black beans. Our meal was very filling, healthy, and clean - there was minimal oil, and we felt really good/healthy afterwards! Definitely going to come back here.
Our meal was about $50 USD for two people (with alcohol).
Pujol - I am obsessed with food, so I was NOT going to go to CDMX without having dinner at Pujol. Pujol is one of the most famous restaurants in the world, and consistently ranks in the top 25 globally.
The restaurant itself is VERY posh - it is located in Polanco (very upscale, fancy neighborhood) and the vibes inside the restaurant are immaculate. There is (I think?) only a tasting menu - ours was 7-9 courses and they were able to accommodate pretty much any dietary restriction. We got everything “dairy-free plus seafood” (no chicken, no beef, etc.).
If you are open to eating meat occasionally, you might want to consider having the seafood here because Pujol is famous for it - in general, the dishes are definitely not “heavy” on the meat, it’s there more for flavor. All of the dishes were SUPER oily and not the healthiest lol (again, pretty much always the case at upscale restaurants!), but going to Pujol is definitely worth it if you’re a foodie (gotta live your life, even if you’re a WFPB nut like me!).
Each dish was so unbelievably good, I can barely remember what any of them were lol. We had some kind of carrots in a smoking pumpkin pot (so weird, and so amazing), eggplant with pine nuts and squid ink, octopus with carrot puree, ceviche with cilantro oil, pulque ice cream, and a few other things. They were all SO good and the presentation made it such a fun experience.
The best part by FAR was the 2500+ day old mole - this is what the restaurant is famous for. It was truly incredible, unlike any mole I’ve ever had before.
Our meal was about $450 USD for two people, but we also had 7 mezcal cocktails… I think the alcohol made up for almost half the bill. You probably don’t need to have 7 mezcal cocktails if you go lol but hey WHEN IN MEXICO CITY.
El Morro Churros - They have these all over CDMX. If you’re looking for a sweet treat, this place has great churros and a cool vibe. The churros are vegan, but none of the dipping sauces are. The coconut ice cream is vegan though, so we ended up ordering a vegan coconut milkshake (malteada de coco) and vegan coconut ice cream (helado de coco). It complemented the churros beautifully and was a great late-night snack!