By Karen Leibowitz

It's easy to prepare Mexican food vegan-style. Enjoy the recipes below!

Here are some of the ingredients commonly used in Mexican cuisine:

Mole (MOH-lay)

Mole is a chocolate and chili pepper sauce with a cocoa base. This dark, thick sauce contains more than 30 different spices. It can be brown, green, or yellow, depending on a few varying ingredients. Mole is more than a condiment; it's a key ingredient in many traditional Mexican dishes. Pour over enchiladas or vegan "chicken" strips. See recipe for Mole below.

Nopal (No-PAH-l)

Nopales are the pad segments of prickly pear cactus. They are commonly used as a base for main dishes. The prickly spines can be difficult to work with, but there are special knives to make it easier. Whole cactus can be found in Latino markets or Asian markets. They are also available prepared and sliced in jars in the international food aisle of most major supermarkets. See recipe for Tacos de Nopal with Tofu below.

Yuca (YOO-cah)

The root of a yuca plant, which tastes starchy like a potato, has been used by indigenous people in the Americas for centuries. Yuca (also called cassava) is commonly sliced and fried to make yuca fries or chips and paired with a garlic sauce called mojo. It is also a great addition to soups and stews. See recipe for Yuca and Avocado Stew below.


This creamy, buttery fruit is a true Mexican staple. It adds color and richness to sandwiches, soups, quesadillas, dips, and more. See recipe for Yuca and Avocado below.


This kind of chili pepper has a mild and flavorful taste, unlike other peppers that can be just too spicy. Chiles Poblanos can be used in salsas, cut into strips for tacos, or stuffed with rice and vegan cheese to make Chiles Rellenos. See recipe for Grilled Chiles Rellenos (stuffed and grilled poblano peppers) below.

Vegan Chorizo Crumbles, Soy-Free!

(Makes five ¼-cup servings)

Chorizo is a staple in traditional Mexican cuisine. There are two main types of chorizo: Spanish chorizo and Mexican chorizo. Spanish chorizo is fermented, cured, and red, while Mexican chorizo is browner and more crumbly. This recipe is to make Mexican-style chorizo, without the meat. Paprika is the main ingredient that gives chorizo its unique flavor and color. Some recipes use a spicier ingredient, Ancho chili powder, as a substitute for the paprika and cayenne pepper. This recipe is mildly spiced. If you are feeling adventurous and want to make the chorizo spicier, replace the paprika and cayenne pepper with 2 Tablespoons of Ancho chili powder.

  • ½ cup vital wheat gluten
  • 2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seed
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (or Ancho chili powder)
  • 2 Tablespoons paprika (or Ancho chili powder)
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 Tablespoons ketchup
  • 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt, to taste

Mix all the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Add wet ingredients and mix very well until the mixture resembles loose dough. Crumble or tear dough into small pieces with your hands. Fry pieces in a skillet and crush pieces into smaller crumbles with a wooden spatula. Keep frying on medium heat for 8-10 minutes or until browned.

Enjoy the vegan chorizo crumbles mixed with mashed black beans and chopped fresh cilantro, wrapped in a corn tortilla.

Total calories per serving: 107 Fat: 4 grams
Carbohydrates: 8 grams Protein: 12 grams
Sodium: 74 milligrams Fiber: 2 grams

Yuca and Avocado Stew

(Serves 6)

  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 green onions, sliced thin
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced into thin disks
  • 2 big handfuls fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, very thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, very thinly sliced
  • One 14.5-ounce can stewed tomatoes, fire roasted if possible
  • One 15.5-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • Salt and cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 7 cups water
  • Lime juice from 2 limes
  • 1 Tablespoon organic sugar
  • 1 vegan bouillon cube
  • 1 large yuca root, peeled and cut into disks
  • 2 ripe avocados, sliced
  • 4 small handfuls corn tortilla chips
  • Vegan shredded Monterey Jack or Pepper Jack cheese to sprinkle on top (optional)

Heat olive oil in pot and add garlic, onions, carrots, and half of the cilantro. Sauté on medium heat until onions become soft. Add green and red peppers, the canned tomatoes and beans, and some cracked black pepper and salt, to taste. Stir and cook for a few minutes. Then add water, lime juice, sugar, and the veggie bouillon cube and increase heat to bring to a boil.

Add yuca just before the pot starts to boil. Let boil, partially covered, for several minutes and then reduce heat to medium low. Continue cooking until yuca is cooked through. Yuca should be soft through the center. Stir in the remaining cilantro.

To serve, fill bowls half way with stew. Add tortilla chips and avocado slices, and top with a sprinkle of vegan Monterey or Pepper Jack cheese, if desired.

Total calories per serving: 434 Fat: 16 grams
Carbohydrates: 68 grams Protein: 10 grams
Sodium: 473 milligrams Fiber: 14 grams

Grilled Chiles Rellenos

(Serves 6)

  • 6 large poblano chili peppers or green bell peppers
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 jalapeños, seeded and chopped
  • ½ red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • One 28-ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1-3 teaspoons hot sauce, to taste
  • 1 cup shredded vegan Pepper Jack or Monterey Jack cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Cut poblano chili (or green) peppers in half lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds to create a boat for stuffing.

Heat olive oil in a nonstick skillet. Add onion, garlic, jalapeños, red bell pepper, cilantro, and cumin, and cook over medium heat for about 4 minutes until golden brown. Remove pan from heat and stir in pinto beans, hot sauce, and 3/4 cup of the vegan cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste. Spoon the mixture into the hollowed chili peppers and sprinkle with remaining ¼ cup of cheese.

Set up a grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium. Arrange the peppers on the grill away from the heat. Cook until peppers are tender and vegan cheese is melted, about 30-40 minutes. Remove from grill and serve at once.

Total calories per serving: 245 Fat: 10 grams
Carbohydrates: 32 grams Protein: 8 grams
Sodium: 459 milligrams Fiber: 8 grams

Tacos de Nopal with Tofu

(Serves 4)

Tacos are a classic Mexican dish commonly eaten daily for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or all three! Regions of Northern Mexico typically eat flour tortillas, while Central and Southern Mexicans favor corn tortillas.

  • 1 ½ cups nopalitos (about 1 chopped nopal - cactus pad)
  • 2 ½ cups blended silken tofu
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 cups chopped tomato
  • 16 six-inch corn tortillas
  • 8 teaspoons minced cilantro
  • Hot sauce (optional)

Cook nopalitos in boiling water for 10 minutes. Drain. In a medium bowl, combine tofu, salt and pepper; stir well with a whisk. Heat a medium nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté 2 minutes or until tender. Add the tofu mixture, and cook until bottom begins to harden, stirring gently to scramble. Stir in the tomato and nopalitos, and cook 1 minute. Warm the tortillas. Spoon the tofu mixture onto each tortilla. Sprinkle evenly with minced cilantro, and fold in half. Top with hot sauce if desired.

Total calories per serving: 282 Fat: 6 grams
Carbohydrates: 47 grams Protein: 13 grams
Sodium: 54 milligrams Fiber: 7 grams


(Serves 4)

  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried cilantro
  • ¼ teaspoon dried minced garlic
  • One 10.75-ounce can vegan condensed tomato soup
  • One 4-ounce can diced green chili peppers

Heat the vegetable oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat; cook the onion until tender. Mix in the cocoa powder, cumin, cilantro, and garlic. Stir in the tomato soup and green chili peppers. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Transfer sauce to a bowl or pour directly over food to serve. Add more chili peppers for a spicier sauce.

Total calories per serving: 79 Fat: 3 grams
Carbohydrates: 13 grams Protein: 2 grams
Sodium: 533 milligrams Fiber: 2 grams

Note about sodium: Sodium in these recipes could greatly be reduced by using fresh tomatoes and beans instead of canned or bottled items. If you use canned beans for convenience, you can rinse them to reduce salt. Also you may want to look at the amount of sodium in the brand of bouillon, tortilla chips (use no salt), olives, crumbles, and vegan cheeses you select. You can omit added salt.

Karen Leibowitz wrote this article while interning with The Vegetarian Resource Group.