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Vegetarian Fare

Vegetarians can do OK

Many Mexican and Mayan dishes are naturally meat free - for example the ubiquitous beans and rice - and even the cheapest restaurants offer filling vegetarian meals. If you don't see anything on the menu, just ask. In smaller places the chef will make something special for you. Yaxche Maya Cuisine in Playa del Carmen has a great selection of vegetarian dishes.

If you are tired of local fare, the larger towns like Playa del Carmen and Tulum have several vegetarian and health food restaurants. Both cities have international restaurants offering vegetarian selections - Chinese, Italian, Thai, etc.

Even Akumal has a lovely restaurant - Turtle Bay Cafe - serving fresh (and safely washed) vegetarian dishes like sandwiches and salads for lunch. For dinner in Akumal, La Lunita Restaurant has creative Mexican and Mayan inspired vegetarian entrees and can handle special requests.

Common dishes to look for:

  • quesadillas - tortillas filled with cheese, sort of a grilled cheese sandwtry the fresh fruitich
  • tacos and enchiladas - tortillas with a selection of fillings, many are meat but you can also ask for bean, vegetable and cheese filled varieties
  • chile rellenos - large, not so spicy, chile peppers stuffed with cheese
  • padadzules - tortillas stuffed with chopped hard-boiled eggs and topped with a squash seed sauce, a traditional Mayan dish

Fruits and vegetables are eaten more than meat in many homes in the region and are easy to find - so give the exotic ones a try. Here is a short list, but please experiment on your own:

  • nopales - cactus "leaves"
  • tuna - sweet cactus fruit
  • dozen or more varieties of mango
  • mamey - a brown fuzzy outside with a orange, soft melon like inside
  • guanabana - green pear-like fruit
  • chayote - crisp vegetable with flesh that looks like a pear and tastes like a potato/squash cross
  • chaya - regional spinach like vegetable, made into everything from juice to tamales

Asking if a dish has meat in it is more involved than in Europe or the USA because waiters might not think of hidden meat (chicken broth, lard, etc.) as something that would bother you. You also can't just say "sin carne" because that meaning excludes chicken to some people. To elaborate ask "Es sin carne, pollo y pescado?" (Is it without meat, chicken and fish?) if the waiter says yes, you might want to make sure by asking "Es sin caldo de pollo o manteca de puerco?" (Does it have chicken broth or pork lard?).

America's First Cuisines
Peanuts, tomatoes, chocolate, potatoes, beans, squash were all eaten by the Maya long before the Europeans arrived.

Cancun Italian Restaurant Savio's Bistro de La Dolce Vita Restaurant Cancun Mexico
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