I just returned from a fabulous trip to the Baja region of Mexico. It was an 8 day trip, so as eager as I was to get away… I was worried about the availability of vegan food options. Because Mexico is rich with fresh fruits and veggies, as well as delicious grains and spices, I knew I would find some basics meals. But I am a foodie, so I wanted some variety during my stay.
It took some work, but I did manage to have some great vegan dishes. Let me share what I learned so you can prepare for your next trip.
- Learn to communicate. Even in your native tongue, ordering while vegan at a non vegan establishment can be tough. So imagine what happens when you don’t speak the language. I can barely count to ten in Spanish (ok fifteen), so ordering food was challenging. One morning after asking for peanut butter toast, the waiter brought out peach jam and a serving of plain butter. As we awkwardly tried to correct this by exchanging misunderstood words, phrases and hand motions to no avail, a woman seated next to me was kind enough to step in and translate. I later spoke to the hotel manager and explained that I was vegan. Much to my delight, he assured me that he would speak to the head chef and by breakfast, I would have special vegan options for every meal. That next morning, the chef made me a special, off the menu, egg white omelet. Caramba! Later I googled “how to order vegan in spanish” and realized I was an idiot for not doing this in the first place. Learn from my mistake and prepare before go. You can find phrases like “I am vegan”, “I don’t eat meat”, “I don’t eat dairy”, “no cheese”, etc. But if you need a full guide ( including pictures of fruits and veggies next to a smily face) get The Vegan Passport. It’s a book; it’s an app; it’s everything you’ll need.
- Call Ahead. Call or email ahead to your hotel and let them know you are vegan and ask if they have a special menu or are willing to accommodate your special diet request. Again, don’t be afraid to over communicate. You’ll be surprised how often people overlook the use of butter or chicken broth.
- Ask for a refrigerator and a microwave in your room. These will come in handy if you are in a location with limited vegan options. You can go to the grocery store and keep what you need in your room. Stay tuned for my “In a Pinch” microwave vegan recipes.
- Be Creative With The Menu. Whether at the hotel or nearby restaurants, don’t be shy about asking for something that is not on the menu. I often will check a menu to see what ingredients are used in various dishes, and then I’ll ask if they can use those ingredients to makes me something special. Also, remember restaurant kitchen have staples, like peanut butter. When I asked for peanut butter that day in Mexico, it wasn’t even listed on the menu.
- Get A Vegan Restaurant App. I recommend Happy Cow. Happy Cow lists vegan and vegetarian restaurants, as well as restaurants that have vegan items on the menu. Thanks to ambassadors and reviews, the app includes details on restaurants around the world. And it’s free!
- Bring Snacks. Always be prepared. There there are plenty of delicious vegan snacks that travel well. Nuts, peanut butter, crackers, pretzels, chickpea snacks… as long as you don’t need refrigerate them, load up.
- Pack some healthy toppings. With limited options comes limited flavor and nutrition. Be sure to pack things like nutritional yeast and spirulina for protein. Also ingredients like chia seeds and hemp seeds for nutrients. And for what it’s worth a tiny bottle of hot sauce in your bag can offer much more than street cred.
Hope this is helpful. Happy, safe and yummy travels.