Mexico is a huge country with lots of great food. Unfortunately meat is very common and cheese is ubiquitous. Also, "vegetarian" here means "without red meat", so you can easily find chicken in vegetarian section of mexican menu. Some tips for eating well (my experience is in the south of the country, ie Oaxaca):
- You may find that the diet can be very monotonous with a rotating lineup of corn, beans, squash, tomato and onion. Fresh fruits and vegetables can be hard to find in a cooked meal, but are plentiful in markets. It's advisable to cook for yourself every once in a while to make sure you get some leafy greens in.
- Enjoy the fruit juices! In Spanish juice is jugo. You can find it in most markets and some food carts. The standard lineup is orange, papaya, carrot, and beet (with any combination you want), but most places have more than that. "Jugo verde", or green juice, is a base of pineapple juice with parsley, "nopal" (a kind of cactus leaf), celery and sometimes spinach. It's super tasty.
- "Licuados", or milkshakes, have milk. You can ask for a "licuado con agua", and whatever fruit you ask for will be blended with water instead. Bananas ("plátanos") are recommended.
- Food stands and late night fast food restaurants will almost always say they have nothing vegetarian or vegan, or they'll offer the "alambra vegetariana", which is like a vegetable stirfry served with tortillas (think "fajitas"). However the alambra is a meal and rather expensive. For an awesome snack, ask if they can heat up some tortillas and put nothing but avocado and tomato ("aguacate y tomate, nada más"). Or just look at the ingredients they have and see what you can create!
- Another great deal for a sunny day is an ice-cream: in Mexico there are many kinds of ice-cream without milk that could be found in "neverias" or "heladerias". Remember that "nieve" is without milk and "helado" is with milk, but it's always better to ask something "sin leche".
- Hint to save money: buy refried beans ("frijoles refritos") in nearest supermarket, look for "tortilleria" to buy some bread, add fresh avocado and tomato - you have a lunch for two persons for about 1 USD. Enjoy! But remember to check if beans don't have lard ("manteca").
Things to avoid
- "Sin": without, as in "una quesadilla sin asiento, por favor".
- "Asiento": pig oil, often used in quesadillas, tlayudas, or any other street food. Very easy to avoid.
- "Manteca": lard, often used in cooking beans. Always ask if the beans have "manteca" or not ("Los frijoles llevan manteca?").
- "Carne": meat, but sometimes used only to refer to beef.
- "Pollo": chicken, not necessarily included in the category of "carne".
- "Pescado" or "mariscos": seafood.
- "Queso": cheese.
- "Huevos": eggs.
- "Miel": honey.
Things to seek out:
- "Aguacate": avocado.
- "Calabaza": squash, pumpkin or gourd.
- "Frijoles sin manteca": beans without lard.
- "Betabel": beet.
- "Chocolate con agua": hot chocolate made with water instead of milk, tastier than the non-vegan alternative.
- "Panela": unrefined sugar.
- "Soy vegetariano(a)": I'm vegetarian.
- "Soy vegano(a)": I'm vegan (this isn't understood by everyone).
- "No como ningún producto hecho de animales": i don't eat any animal products.
- "No como carne, pollo, pescado, leche, queso, huevos, ni miel": I don't eat meat, chicken, fish, milk, cheese, eggs, or honey