Mexican cuisine is famous worldwide for its bold flavors and hearty dishes. While many traditional Mexican recipes often include meat and dairy, this cuisine easily lends itself to plant-based adaptations. In fact, beans, corn, peppers, tomatoes, and squash — core ingredients in Mexican cooking — are naturally vegan.
As more people embrace vegan and vegetarian diets for health or environmental reasons, plant-based Mexican cooking has gained popularity. Whether you’ve been a lifelong vegan or you’re simply looking to incorporate more meatless meals into your routine, Mexican cuisine offers a delicious way to do so.
Here are seven satisfying vegan versions of classic Mexican dishes that will add some spice to your dinner table.
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#1: Charro (Borracho) Beans
Charro beans are a Mexican specialty — traditionally containing bacon. But the vegan version of charro (borracho) beans is just as flavorful.
Start with 1 lb. of dried pinto beans, ensuring they are well-washed. Add a chopped yellow onion and two minced garlic cloves for flavor. Include two diced Roma tomatoes and a minced jalapeno for some heat, adjusting the jalapeno amount to your preference.
For seasoning, add one teaspoon of cumin and another teaspoon of dried oregano to give the beans that classic Mexican taste. Once all the ingredients are in, pour in 7 cups of vegetable broth.
Place everything in a slow cooker and set it to HIGH.
Let it cook for approximately 5-7 hours until the beans become soft. These beans pair wonderfully with rice or can be used in burritos or tacos. Enjoy a delicious Mexican dish without any meat!
#2: Vegan Enchiladas
Enchiladas are the ultimate comfort food, and you can easily fill them with plant-based protein. Stuff corn tortillas with vegan protein choices such as beans, jackfruit, soy crumbles, or seitan. You can also use sautéed vegetables as tasty fillings. Enhance the flavor by topping the enchiladas with sauces like mole, spinach, and poblano or traditional chili gravy.
For a creamy, cheesy finish, add vegan cheese before baking. Alternatively, you can use cashew cream or Greek yogurt for a tangy touch. After baking, garnish your enchiladas with fresh toppings like cilantro, onion, avocado, or cashew cream.
Vegan enchiladas offer endless possibilities to suit your tastes, so feel free to experiment with fillings and sauces. The variety of textures and flavors makes enchiladas a truly satisfying plant-based meal.
#3: Vegan Mexican Rice
In Mexican cuisine, rice serves as a meal’s foundation. Transforming traditional Mexican rice into a tasty vegan side dish is simple, with a few substitutions. Instead of using chicken or beef broth, opt for vegetable broth. The vegetable broth’s savory umami flavor effectively replaces the meaty taste. You can enhance the flavor further by making homemade vegetable broth by simmering onions, carrots, celery, mushrooms, garlic, and herbs in water.
This homemade broth adds depth. Sauté the rice with aromatic vegetables like onions and garlic to layer in flavors. Diced tomatoes provide sweetness, color, and moisture. For an authentic Mexican touch, be generous with spices like cumin, chili powder, oregano, and smoked paprika. These seasonings infuse the rice with the classic Mexican taste profile. For a heartier, more nutritious option, choose brown rice or quinoa instead of white.
This flavorful vegan Mexican rice complements any south-of-the-border entrée, such as enchiladas, tacos, burritos, or fajitas. Alternatively, enjoy it as a satisfying meatless main course garnished with sliced avocado, cilantro, and lime.
#4: Vegan Refried Beans
In Mexican cuisine, a meal often includes a side of creamy, comforting refried beans. Luckily, you can easily prepare delicious vegan versions. To make vegan refried beans, start by cooking dried pinto beans from scratch or use canned beans to save time. Ensure thorough cooking of the dried beans until they’re very soft and tender. Then, mash or blend the cooked beans with sautéed onions and garlic for added aromatic flavor.
Stir in a small amount of vegetable oil or vegan butter to lend richness and creaminess. Season the beans generously with spices like cumin, oregano, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, and salt, adding warmth, smokiness, and depth to the beans. For a twist, consider using black or white beans in place of traditional pintos.
These protein and fiber-packed vegan refried beans perfectly complement classic Mexican dishes like tacos, enchiladas, burritos, and tostadas. Enjoy them as a side, or stuff them into tortillas for a satisfying meatless meal.
#5: Vegan Quesadillas
Quesadillas make for an easy and delicious vegan meal with just a few simple ingredients.
To prepare vegan quesadillas, place your desired fillings between two tortillas. Excellent vegan fillings include beans, sautéed vegetables, mashed avocado, and dairy-free cheese like Daiya or Follow Your Heart. Consider veggies like mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, spinach, and zucchini for added variety.
Pan-fry the quesadillas in a skillet with a small amount of oil until the cheese melts and the tortillas become lightly crisped, cooking them on both sides. Serve the quesadillas with sides like guacamole, salsa, and vegan sour cream or Greek yogurt for added flavor and creaminess. For heartier quesadillas, include cooked rice, tofu crumbles, or meat substitutes like soy chorizo inside the tortilla as well. The possibilities are endless, so get creative with different quesadilla fillings tailored to your taste.
#6: Vegan Tacos
Tacos are a Mexican food staple, and fortunately, they are easy to make, completely plant-based, and delicious. With so many flavorful fillings and toppings to choose from, the possibilities for vegan tacos are endless.
When it comes to fillings, there are plenty of vegan taco meat options to explore. Try mashed and seasoned beans, jackfruit carnitas, sautéed mushrooms or cauliflower, grilled eggplant or zucchini, soy chorizo, tempeh crumbles, or seitan. Customize the fillings to your taste, whether saucy or dry, spicy or mild.
Serve the taco fillings in soft corn tortillas, crunchy taco shells, or lettuce wraps for a low-carb option. Top them with all your favorite taco toppings like guacamole, pico de gallo, salsa, cashew cream, shredded lettuce, diced onions, vegan cheese, and cilantro.
#7: Vegan Tamales
Tamales require effort to make, but the results are worth it. These stuffed and steamed masa parcels are delicious and satisfying.
To create vegan masa dough, substitute traditional lard with vegan butter, olive oil, or vegetable shortening. Stuff the masa with various vegan fillings like spiced jackfruit, sautéed vegetables, mashed beans, or vegan cheese. Wrap the tamales in corn husks or banana leaves and tie them closed. Steam the tamales for an hour or more until the masa becomes firm, infusing them with incredible flavor. Enjoy the tamales on their own, or dip them in flavorful salsas, mole sauce, or vegan crema.
From rice and beans to enchiladas and tamales, Mexican cuisine offers endless inspiration for satisfying vegan meals. The next time you’re looking to add more plant-based dishes to your dinner rotation, consider whipping up some vegan Mexican food.
With its focus on vegetables, grains, legumes, and bold flavors, Mexican cooking seamlessly translates to vegan diets. So spice up your kitchen and please your palate with these delicious vegan takes on Mexican classics.