If you're a vegetarian contemplating travel to Mexico, don't worry - you won't starve, and you don't have to survive on a diet of rice and beans either, though these may end up being staples.Fresh produce is plentiful, but you may have to do a bit of extra work in restaurants to make sure there is no meat added. Here are some tips:
Ovo-lacto vegetarians will find plenty of options to choose from. Vegans will have a more difficult time and though most Mexicans understand the concept of not eating meat and consider it to be a heathful lifestyle, those who don't consume any animal products at all may meet with incomprehension.
Chicken broth (caldo de pollo) is often used in making rice and soups, and lard (manteca) is also used in the preparation of many dishes. Avoiding these hidden ingredients is difficult and if you're able to overlook them your food options will be a lot more varied. If you must have food prepared without these ingredients, you may be in for lengthy negotiations before meals in restaurants, so you may prefer to prepare food yourself.
Buying and Treating Produce
Mexican markets are overflowing with fresh fruit and vegetables. Fruits with edible skin and vegetables that are eaten raw can be disinfected with a product called Microdyn or Bacdyn (brand names), which you can purchase at most grocery stores in Mexico. Add 8 drops for each liter of water, and soak your fruits and vegetables in the mixture for 10 minutes (you can do this in a plastic bag in your hotel sink if you don't have a kitchen).
Good restaurants in tourist areas will treat their veggies in this way so you shouldn't have to worry about eating salads.
Read more tips for preventing Montezuma's Revenge.
Vegetarian Restaurants in Mexico
There are vegetarian restaurants in large cities and tourist areas throughout Mexico. The restaurant chain 100% Natural has restaurants throughout the country and they serve many tasty vegetarian options though these may not be traditional Mexican dishes.
Vegetarian Dishes to Try:
- Entomatadas: fried tortillas in tomato sauce, sprinkled with cheese, and garnished with onion slices and parsley
- Enfrijoladas: fried tortillas in bean sauce, sprinkled with cheese and garnished with onion and parsley
- Quesadillas: tortilla with cheese inside, sometimes with mushrooms or squash blossom
- Chile relleno de queso: stuffed chile pepper - (usually chile poblano) stuffed with cheese
- Papadzules - tortillas stuffed with chopped hard-boiled eggs and topped with a squash seed sauce, a traditional Mayan dish served in the Yucatan.
Useful Phrases for Vegetarians:
Soy vegetariano/a ("soy ve-heh-ta-ree-ah-no") I'm vegetarian
No como carne ("no como car-nay") I don't eat meat
No como pollo ("no como po-yo") I don't eat chicken
No como pescado ("no como pes-cah-doe") I don't eat fish
No como mariscos ("no como ma-ris-kose") I don't eat seafood
Sin carne, por favor ("sin car-nay por fah-voor") Without meat, please
¿Tiene carne? ("tee-en-ay car-nay?") Does it have meat?
¿Hay algun platillo que no tiene carne? ("Ay al-goon plah-tee-yo kay no tee-en-ay car-nay?") Do you have a dish that doesn't have meat?
¿Me podrian preparar una ensalada? ("Meh poh-dree-an pray-par-ar oona en-sah-la-da?") Could you prepare a salad for me?
Resources for vegetarians in Mexico:
Happy Cow's Vegetarian Restaurant Guide