How To Order Vegan At Any Mexican Restaurant
Updated: May 21, 2018
Being vegan makes going out to eat a tricky, sometimes even traumatic experience. There are many restaurants that are completely vegan and those restaurants are easy to order from with very little (if any) anxiety involved. Then, there are restaurants that have vegan options as well as carnivorous options (like my restaurant, www.CopperVault.co) and those are usually a good fit, depending on the server. If you ask the server if the restaurant has a designated fryer and they look at you like you're from another planet, you might want to be concerned. And lastly, you have restaurants that are not vegan at all and have no fucking clue what vegan even means, and you have to apologize a thousand times during the meal because you don't murder baby (or adult) animals. This statement, "I am so sorry to be "that guy" but I am actually vegan and I was wondering if you could show me any vegan options that I could eat", usually followed with a response from the server along the lines of, "Oh, yeah. Well... we have eggs. ". Eggs are not vegan, you twit (I would never say this, but I do think it)! These restaurants undoubtedly have vegan options, the staff is just not aware of them because they don't even know what vegan means.
Obvisouly, your friends are ordering queso and chips and it's fine that they see no problem with cows being artificially insemenated their entire lives with their babies ripped from their wombs and slaughtered, but you aren't into that shit, so you don't eat cheese. Salsa is an obvious secondary choice! And it's usually free! Salsa almost never contains any dairy or meat so it's a safe bet! Plus, it's super low calorie and low fat. The chips, you may want to watch out for. The restaurant may not have a dedicated fryer (meaning, they may have one fryer where they fry everything; meat, cheese, egg battered items, etc. If hey have a dedicated fryer, that means that it's only used to fry gluten-free and vegan items), but it's worth asking! My favorite appetizer choice is guacamole casero. You may not realize this, but many Mexican restaurants put sour cream in their guacamole. They do this because it's cheaper than avocado, and it stays green longer. I never trust guacamole unless it's table side, right where I can see it. Guacamole casero is like a ceviche with no fish. It's cubes of avocado, tomato, onion, jalapeño, cilantro, and lime juice, but it isn't blend together so it keeps that chunky consistency. It tastes amazing and it's filling!
Vegetarian is easy at a mexican restaurant. You can order almost anything with no meat and you're set, but vegan is not so simple. First of all, check to see if your menu has a vegetarian section. It's always good to start here because you are less likely to scare the kitchen if you order vegetarian tacos with no cheese, than if you order steak fajitas with no steak, butter, sour cream, cheese, etc. Also, put down those refried beans and rice! There's a good chance that neither are vegan. Heck, most refried beans aren't even vegetarian! And they are usually topped with cheese. The rice usually contains animal products like butter too, so it's really better to just skip those altogether.
Vegetable fajitas are always a favorite, but be sure that the kitchen can make them with no butter because most carnivorous chefs have no idea how someone could order a meal without meat, and try to overcompensate with butter. Butter in Spanish is "mantequilla", fyi. If they can cook the vegetables with no butter, get the Vegetarian Fajitas with no rice, beans, sour cream, or guacamole. Basically, you're getting lettuce, pico, and tortillas. If they like you, they might allow you to sub avocado slices or grilled jalapeños.
The vegetable burrito is one of my husband's favorites (I prefer corn tortillas, he likes flour). He orders the vegetable with no cheese, no rice, no beens, add salsa verde and it's really good! If your mexican restaurant has black beans on the menu, these may be vegan and can substitute the refried beans, plus add some more protein and fiber to your meal.
Fajita Nachos are a favorite of mine and they're gluten-free! Just order the fajita nachos, no meat or butter (don't expect the price to be any lower because you're taking the meat off), no cheese, no sour cream. I add grilled jalapenos and hot sauce to mine. They're easy to eat and I don't feel like I need a nap afterwards.
I don't know how the taco salad ever caught on as a "salad" because the shell alone has to be 900 calories, but it is delicious and if it lets you pretend like you've made a healthy choice, you go for it! So, taco salad, no cheese, no meat, no sour cream, no dressing, add extra pico de gallo. You can use salsa, fresh squeezed lime juice, or hot sauce to give your lettuce some flavor, but let's be honest, we're eating it for the deep fried taco shell because sometimes, that's just what we need!
You can also take the ass hole option like I usually do and order corn tortillas and every ingredient you want in those tortillas separately. I know the servers at our Mexican restaurant (El Altenos) pretty well and some are better English-speakers than others. I know that Samuel is my favorite server because he lets me butcher Spanish and pretends like we can hold conversations in his native language, even though I'm terrible. But if I need to place a special order, Samuel only really understands about half of what I'm saying, so I try not to give him anything too complicated. For example, orders like, "guacamole casero with extra jalapno" come out with no jalepenos which is not the sort of risk I want to play as a vegan. My server today spoke fantastic English, which is why I felt comfortable ordering corn tortillas, a side of pico de gallo, side of avocado, side of grilled pineapple (that one wasn't even on the menu), side of grilled jalapeños, and a side of lettuce. Essentially, I ordered a build your own taco bar for myself and it was awesome!!! Oh, he also brought me their homemade hot sauce to top it all off with.
Almost all tequila is vegan. The only ones not considered vegan are ones with any honey flavoring or cream added. Patron, Hornitos, 1800 Tequila, Jose Cuervo, Sauza, etc. are all vegan. Almanac Tequila Noir, Famila Camarena Tequila, and Tequila Rose Strawberry Cream Tequila are not vegan, but the overwhelming majority are vegan. So feel free to kick back with that fishbowl-sized strawberry margarita and drink until your liver's content. Also, Dos Equis, Corona, Pacifico, Modelo Especial, Negro Modelo are all vegan beers. Modelo Especial "Cheladas"are not vegan though, and on that note, almost no bloody Mary is vegan unless it's made without worsterchire sauce, which would be very untraditional, so keep that in mind!
My final tip is to form a good relationship with your server. Become a regular. The first time may be awkward, but they will get to know you and the more often you go, the more comfortable everyone will be with your veganism. You may even inspire them to try it out! Oh, and tip well. As a restaurant owner, I know how difficult it is on the kitchen when someone comes in with a dietary restriction or allergy and the kitchen is not prepared. It is the most stressful scenario possible, so please be patient, and always tip over 20%. We don't want them rolling their eyes when the next vegan walks in, right?