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June 07th, 2018

Eating vegetarian and vegan in Latin America

Every country in Latin America has their own signature dishes, but what most of them have in common is that meat and fish are central ingredients in their recipes. This fact can make travelling in Latin America slightly more challenging when you’re vegetarian or vegan. However, it doesn’t need to be a problem at all, and we share our tips and tricks below:

empanadas 

Communicate the message
The main concern is how to get the message across in local restaurants. Telling a waiter: ‘’without meat please’’ (‘’sin carne por favor’’ in Spanish)/ ‘’sem carne por favor’’ in Portuguese) is a good start. However, this can get lost in translation, as people in Latin America would possibly still assume that chicken, ham and fish are acceptable. Instead, try to communicate the message as clearly as possible:

Spanish

• ‘’Soy vegetariano/vegano’’ = ‘’I am vegetarian/vegan’’
• ‘’No como carne – no como pollo, jamón, chancho, pescado o mariscos’’ = ‘’I do not eat meat – I do not eat chicken, ham, pork, fish or shellfish’’
• ‘’No como productos de origen animal – no como huevos, productos lácteos, or comida cocinada en grasa animal’’ = ‘’I do not eat animal products – no eggs, dairy products or food cooked in animal fat’’

Portuguese

• ‘’Eu sou vegetariano/vegan’’ = ‘’I am vegetarian/vegan’’
• ‘’Não como nada de carne - nem galinha, presunto, porco, peixe ou frutos do mar’’ = ‘’I do not eat any meat – no chicken, ham, pork, fish or shellfish’’
• ‘’Não como produtos de animais – nem ouvos, lacticínios ou comida cozida na gordura do animal’’ = ‘’I do not eat animal products – no eggs, dairy products or food cooked in animal fat’’

The other way around, try to suggest some alternatives to fish and meat, such as:

Spanish

• ‘’Yo como papas/frijoles/arroz/quinoa/aguacate/verduras/ensalada/fruta/nueces’’ = ‘’I do eat potatoes/beans/rice/quinoa/avocado/vegetables/salad/fruit/nuts’’

Portuguese
• ‘’Eu como batatas/feijões/arroz/quinoa/abacate/legumes/salada/fruta/nozes’’ = ‘’I do eat potatoes/beans/rice/quinoa/avocado/vegetables/salad/fruit/nuts’’

mango

Vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Latin America

In larger cities in Latin America, it’s extremely easy to find vegetarian- and vegan- friendly restaurants. Guidebooks, online resources (such as Happy Cow), and asking your hotel reception or tour guide are usually the safest bet when it comes to researching suitable dining options.

In smaller places it might be slightly harder to find appropriate restaurants. However, there are the usual international chain restaurants that offer Italian and Chinese food which usually provide more options for a meat- and fish- free dish compared to traditional Latin American restaurants. Alternatively, por quilo restaurants in Brazil are extremely popular and offer large buffets – this means that you can choose exactly what you want.

Traditional Vegetarian food in Latin America

Looking for vegetarian-friendly snacks and food? Each country in Latin America feature their own specialities and ingredients to create their signature dishes. Try quesadillas, tortilla soup or frijoles (refried beans) in Mexico. Enjoy vegan empanadas, porontas granados (bean stew) or a quinoa salad in Chile, or have vegetarian arroz tapado (mushrooms on a bed of rice combined with vegetables) or avocado risotto in Peru. In Brazil, tutu com feijão (mashed beans with manioc flour) or pão de queijo (savoury cheese buns) are popular vegetarian dishes, while arepas (fried cheese and corn patties) are in high demand in Colombia. Most of this food is readily available from local restaurants, markets or from street vendors if that suits your fancy.

corn cakes

Recipes to try at home

Eager to enjoy a traditional Latin American dish at home? Why not take a look at some of our favourite meat- and fish-free recipes:

Snacks, starters and mains

Vegan enchiladas with coriander and avocado cream: sweet potato, black bean, spinach and pepper enchiladas
Uruguayan pascualina: a savoury pie with spinach and egg
Paraguayan chipa guasu: a cake made with corn grains, cream cheese and eggs
Ecuadorian potato soup: potato soup with cheese and avocado
Corn fritters with sour cream dip
Argentinean provoleta: grilled cheese
Peruvian potato salad a la huancaína: potato salad with a chilli and cheese sauce
Avocado quesadillas: flour tortillas with avocado and cheese
Huevos rancheros: Mexican ranch-style eggs

Desserts
Mango sorbet with a twist of lime
Tres leches cake: a soft sponge cake soaked overnight in three types of milk
Cuban-style flan
Brazilian and Caribbean tropical fruit cake

tres leches cake

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