Thursday, December 8

Eating Vegan in Oaxaca

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Oaxaca City is a point of pilgrimage for food lovers from all over the world. Once you start exploring this incredible city you find a wealth and breadth of flavour that is unparalleled. Famous for rich moles, edible insects and mezcal, pozole, tacos and tlayudas, Oaxacan food incorporates an incredible abundance of herbs, corn, and chiles – many of which are unique to the region.

There has always been a culture of market life, hosting a treasure chest of fruit and vegetables, and although you can find great plates without meat, completely vegan options have been limited until quite recently. It is exciting to find that many restaurants have begun to offer significant vegetarian options, with a few locations spotlighting Oaxaca’s amazing produce with completely vegan menus.

Vegan Restaurants
Hierba Dulce

This is the first exclusively vegan place I visited in Oaxaca. They are set in a pretty, walled courtyard lined with organ cacti. The concept was developed as a reaction to the industrialisation of the food industry. Based on the belief that organic and healthy food is a right, they only use locally sourced produce. All ingredients are processed on-site using traditional cooking and fermentation practices to ensure organic, chemical-free meals, which include bread, jams, mustards, pickles and vegetable cheeses.

Dishes are cooked in coconut oil meaning that vegans don’t have to miss out on elements of Mexican food that might not always be available without asiento (lard). Huitlacoche tacos and empanadas with vegan queso fresco are a highlight. This is a restaurant that offers a unique experience, coming from an authentic desire to explore the ingredients and methods that ground Oaxacan food in history and quality.

Porfirio Díaz 311, Centro
www.hierba-dulce.com

Restaurant Sin Nombre

This restaurant has an amazing new chef, Francisco Cortes Blobaum, who joined the team in March 2022. He and partner Diego have designed a fresh, new tasting menu that highlights the exquisite flavours of Oaxaca’s vegetables and spices. Six vegan plates take you on a journey from cool fresh guacamole, to a fresh heirloom salad, roasted cauliflower tostada, an exceptional carrot dish and a bold squash curry. Blobaum has a culinary background that spans work in Asia and New York, with experience working at restaurants like Cosme and Momofuku. His menu and techniques show the influence of this travel, complimenting distinct Oaxacan ingredients sourced from Rancho Tres Catorce.  Since opening in 2020, Sin Nombre has made waves in the world of Oaxacan cuisine and hospitality. Housed within a 17th-century hacienda, it is a treat for the senses as soon as you walk through the door.

“The main proposal of our kitchen is to attract any type of public, to enjoy a highly technical dish based on vegetables and discover that it can be as attractive and even more interesting than any dish based on animal protein.”

20 de Noviembre 208, Centro
FB: HotelSinNombre

Agua que Canta

This is a wonderful little breakfast/brunch spot opened by Yuvila Salinas to cater to people who want to focus on a clean diet. Self-described as a place to feel free and happy “with no guilt”, there is a clear emphasis on health. There is a peaceful courtyard and an extensive menu of open sandwiches, bowls and smoothies. You can also choose from a selection of items to make your own. Many of the options are leaning towards the macrobiotic, with raw vegetables, healthy grains and nutritionally rich bread. They also have a small shop where you can buy all kinds of healthy treats to take home.

Segunda Privada del Panteón 114, San Felipe del Agua
FB: Agua que Canta

Calabacitas Tiernas/ Librespacio La Jícara

Calabacitas Tiernas runs the restaurant inside Librespacio La Jicara. This is a fun setup of bookshop (where they often hold events) and restaurant offering vegetarian and vegan options. The menu changes every day and evolves with the seasons, but usually includes soup, salad, a main dish, fruit water and homemade bread. They occasionally have guest chefs and offer cooking workshops. Their space is beautiful and cool with vines winding up the walls. There is a small shop in the entrance selling a variety of health foods like cacao, coffee and granola and personal care products.

Porfirio Díaz 1105, Colonia Figueroa
FB: Calabacitas Tiernas Oaxaca

Etno Food

Etno Food describe themselves as a food lab, offering training and guidance in the kitchen with a focus on a vegan menu that promotes the appreciation of Oaxacan products.  It’s a narrow corridor where you can order some delicious vegan options, such as the carrot pastor sandwich. There is a more open space in the back where they host workshops. Their aim is to transform the community through food, integrating the philosophy of slow food with good, clean, locally sourced products.

Murguia 407, Centro
www.ethnofood.org

Restaurants with Vegan Options

Happily, there is a rise in the number of restaurants in the city that are either offering vegan options, or are happy to make vegan alternatives. Examples include some of Oaxaca’s classic fine dining options like Criollo and Los Danzantes.

Tika-aya (previously Teocintle) offers a Mixtec cooking concept. The recipes they serve have been passed down for multiple generations and have been modernised (and veganised on request) by their talented chefs.

Dulce Peligro is based in San Agustin, Etla. They have developed a beautiful new space with a bakery and garden seating. They offer vegan, keto and gluten-free options.

Oaxaca also hosts some great international cuisines that offer vegan options, including the Italian focused Cabane and Israeli Adama. Adama is still quite new but has earned its place as a favourite in Oaxaca, especially for Vegans. There is a sense of a secret garden, with its small door opening off a pretty courtyard that is accessed via an archway below the aqueduct. Sandstone walls and carefully chosen furniture and tableware give a well-curated aesthetic, enhanced by soft lighting and an intimate atmosphere. The menu isn’t completely vegan, but there are some great options available.

If you want to eat vegan in a market there are options, but might not be as simple as ordering in a restaurant like one of the above. La Merced market has a food court and many of the vendors have appropriate options, and the market itself is fun to explore for a sweet bun and a fruit juice. La Cosecha market is also a dynamic spot to visit. and as well as having some classic Oaxacan street food, they offer a range of Oaxacan drinks like pulque, tepache, tejate and hot/cold chocolate. In the Pochote Organic Market on calle Rayón, you can find some great vegan options too. If you are ordering street fare like tacos and tlayudas there are often vegetarian or vegan options, just be sure to check that they are not using asiento.

There are many types of mole to try in Oaxaca both in markets and in more fine dining environments. These are so rich in flavour and complexity, and can also be made vegan! If you are interested in taking a vegan cooking class, Nomad Cook offers a great experience, negotiating the markets to source the 30+ ingredients, cooking and finally tasting a rich vegan mole Oaxaqueño. It’s a wonderful way to really embrace the variety of local produce in Oaxaca and the different methods used to bring their unique flavours to the table.

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