For vegans, Mexican food is simultaneously paradise and a mine field. It’s paradise because most of the main non-meat ingredients can (and probably should) be vegan:
- Seasoned or Pickled Vegetables
The problem is that you can’t just order blindly, since many restaurants will prepare these ingredients with animal products. Beans may contain scraps of bacon, and refried beans are commonly mixed with lard. Rice is often prepared with chicken stock. And guacamole may contain sour cream—not because sour cream improves the flavor, but because it’s cheaper than avocado.
Prior to the 1990s, it was very common for wheat flour tortillas to contain lard. But growing concern for health has caused most tortilla makers to switch to vegetable oil. Corn flour tortillas are made without oil so their vegan status has never been an issue.
One great thing about Mexican restaurant chains is that their websites typically list the ingredients of every menu item, which saves you the trouble of having to extract this information from counter staff.
Most of the leading burrito chains—including Chipotle, Taco Del Mar, and Qdoba—are reliably vegan. The beans (both whole and refried), rice, guac, salsa, and tortillas at these places are all vegan.