An overview of Mexico
Meat may be a huge part of the Mexican diet, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t delicious vegan options available around the country. Mexico’s tropical climate makes it perfect for growing tons of juicy fruits and a variety of unique vegetables. I’ve seen fruits and veggies here that I’ve never seen before in my life, making it an absolute dream for us vegans!
If you’re going on holiday in the main tourist hubs, you won’t struggle to find delicious plant-based options and even entirely vegan restaurants. But it can get a bit trickier when visiting more authentic, local spots as veganism isn’t as common. That said, the staples of the Mexican diet are tortillas, beans, rice and avocado – which are already vegan-friendly (always check that nothing has been cooked in lard or animal-based margarine) and readily available everywhere.
Why our vegan guide to Mexico
If you’re travelling to Mexico, there are a few things you should know in advance so that you’re prepared to order food, regardless of the area that you’re visiting.
As a vegan digital nomad living in Mexico, I can give you all the information you need so you can make the most of your time here.
I’ve rounded up all of my favourite places to snag some plant-based food, the best hotel options and fun activities for vegans in Mexico. I hope you enjoy!
Key phrases to learn for vegans in Mexico
Even if you don’t speak Spanish, it’s worth learning these key travel phrases to ensure you are understood when ordering food in Mexico.
– Sin carne: without meat
– Sin leche: without milk
– Sin queso: without cheese
– Sin huevos: without eggs
– Soy vegano: I am vegan
One thing to keep in mind is that in some parts of Mexico if you say you don’t eat meat it may still be assumed you eat fish or chicken, so you may have to make that clear. You can say sin pescado for without fish, and sin pollo for without chicken.
Vegan Mexican staples
Here in Mexico, my vegan friends and I have eaten more guacamole and fries than I can count. Why? Because no matter where you are in Mexico you can always get your hands on some good ol’ guac and chips. Even if you’re in a smaller Mexican town, or at a hole-in-the-wall seafood restaurant, you know that you’ll always have options.
On top of these delicious foods, here are some other staples of Mexican cuisine that are also vegan and readily available.
Chilaquiles are basically just tortilla chips with red or green sauce. Most Mexican places will have it on the menu, and even if you don’t see it, it’s worth asking your server. They are sometimes served with cheese, chicken, beans or eggs, so make sure to specify that you only want the sauce. Or, you can make the dish more interesting by adding beans or avocado.
Nopales are a delicious vegan staple in Mexico, and you can find them just about anywhere, including in places off the beaten track. Nopal is cactus that is traditionally cooked with onion and tomato and used as filling for tacos, but you will also find it in salads too. It’s one of my go-to options when ordering from street vendors.
Molletes are open-faced sandwiches that are traditionally served with beans, cheese and salsa, although you’ll often find them available with other toppings. In less touristy destinations you can order molletes with just beans and salsa. In higher traffic cities you can find delicious vegan molletes with different types of roasted vegetables.
The best places to travel to as a vegan in Mexico
Mexico is a huge country, and while you will be able to find vegan options most places you go there are definitely some cities that make it easier than others. It goes without saying that larger cities like Mexico City and Cancun will have the largest variety of options, but there are some smaller towns that are equally as equipped.
Coastal towns often see a higher volume of tourists, meaning there is a higher demand for vegan options. Places like Playa Del Carmen and Tulum on the east, and Puerto Vallarta and Puerto Escondido on the west, are definitely vegan friendly too!
Mexico City is the largest city in Mexico, with some of the best vegan food that you’ll find in the whole country. There are food stalls everywhere that serve up plant-based versions of traditional Mexican classics along with dine-in restaurants. Here are some of our favourite vegan food options in Mexico City that you can’t miss!
Best vegan restaurants in Mexico City
Serves tacos, vegan burgers, sushi and more!
Inexpensive vegan tacos for only 10-20MXN!
Best vegan food stall in the city!
Huge variety of vegan dishes including takes on Mexican classics, Italian options, burgers and desserts
Vegan tacos, plus a shop selling homemade sauces and other goodies
Best hotels for vegans in Mexico City
Fun activities for vegans in Mexico City
There is so much to do for vegans visiting this cultural hub of Mexico. Make sure to check out the Frida Kahlo museum, which is located inside her old home. Spend the day wandering through the Bosque de Chapultepec, Mexico City’s largest park and home to the Museum of Anthropology and Castle Chapultepec (but make sure to avoid the zoo). If you’re an adrenaline junkie then don’t miss Six Flags Mexico, which is just outside the city.
Playa del Carmen
Playa Del Carmen is located south of Cancun and is becoming very popular amongst the digital nomad community. It is a tourist hotspot as it’s close to many Mayan ruins and cenotes, and with that comes the demand for vegan options. Although some parts of Playa Del Carmen can get quite touristy, there are other areas that still retain tons of local charm. There are fantastic vegan restaurants in Playa Del Carmen, as well as some hidden gems that serve up plant-based options.
Best vegan restaurants in Playa del Carmen
The most popular vegan restaurant in PDC, serving breakfast, sandwiches, salads and juices
50s style diner, serving vegan burgers and hotdogs
A hidden gem serving delicious vegan Mexican fare at affordable prices
Smoothie bowls, hummus bowls, pita pizza and desserts
Independent cerveceria serving craft beer with many vegan food options on the menu
Best hotels for vegans in Playa del Carmen
Fun activities for vegans in Playa del Carmen
Playa Del Carmen is located in the heart of the Riviera Maya, and is the gateway to many Mayan Ruins and cenotes (fresh water sinkholes). If you’re visiting Playa Del Carmen you can’t miss Cenote Azul, Cenote Dos Ojos and Cenote Jardin Del Eden, which are all easy to get to from Playa Del Carmen.
You can also take a day trip to Chichen Itza, which is the largest Mayan ruin in the area and usually includes a stop off at one of the cenotes in the area.
If you like snorkelling or diving you can head out to Cozumel for the day from the port in central Playa Del Carmen. It’s one of the best places to snorkel and dive in the world, with some beautiful reefs. The best place to snorkel and dive is Playa El Cielo, which you can reach only by boat.
Tulum is becoming extremely popular for the spiritual/yogi crowd, which also attracts the vegan community. It’s one of the priciest places in all of Mexico, but if you’re visiting Tulum then you’ve still got to eat! One thing to note about Tulum is that it is separated into two parts – beachfront and downtown. If you’re staying/eating on the beachfront, you can expect to pay western prices, but downtown has a more authentic, local feel.
Best vegan restaurants in Tulum
Vegan lounge serving smoothies/juices, salad bowls, burgers, pizza and other snacks
Vegetarian café with vegan versions of Mexican classics like ceviche, tacos and burritos
Authentic Mexican dishes like nopales and poblano peppers, but made entirely vegan. They also have wood-fired vegan pizza in the evenings
Best hotels for vegans in Tulum
(By the beach)
Fun activities for vegans in Tulum
Similar to Playa del Carmen, Tulum is surrounded by natural cenotes and ruins. You should definitely check out the Tulum ruins, which are some of the only ruins located directly on the beachfront. The closest cenotes to Tulum include Cenote Sac Actun and Gran Cenote, plus Kaan Luum lagoon is a tranquil place to spend a day.
Even if you aren’t staying on the beach road, you need to spend a day checking it out. Not only are the beaches world-class but the architecture is something to behold. There are giant wood sculptures lining the road, along with structures built from eco-friendly materials like coconut husks.
What to avoid as a vegan in Mexico
As with any country, there are some less than ethical activities that you’ll want to avoid when you’re choosing where to visit. Many zoos in Mexico will operate under the name of “sanctuary”, such as the Akumal Monkey Sanctuary, making them seem ethical. As a general rule, avoid supporting any business that allows large amounts of tourists to view or take pictures with captive animals. Also, if they don’t have a rescue and release program, and instead keep animals captive for life then they are most likely not a sanctuary.
There are exceptions, where sanctuaries rescue animals from the pet trade or zoos, and unfortunately they are unable to be released. The main thing is to do your research to ensure you’re not supporting the exploitation of animals.
Travelling as a vegan in Mexico
One of the best parts of travelling is enjoying authentic local cuisine. As vegans, we can often sacrifice these cultural experiences when restaurants have limited vegan options.
Luckily, you shouldn’t have this problem in Mexico. In the larger hubs mentioned above, there are so many delicious vegan renditions of traditional Mexican food, so you can have a cruelty-free cultural experience. In smaller villages and towns, you might have to get a bit creative and build your own dishes using the culinary staples they have on hand (rice, avocado, beans, etc). But that’s all part of the fun!