Located in southwest Mexico, Oaxaca is one of the country’s most authentic, charming and captivating cities. Set in the shadow of three mountain-flanked valleys and surrounded by fields of agave and mezcal distilleries, this city is bursting with color, energy and a huge personality.
For years Oaxaca has been an inspiration for artists, makers and artisans through its vibrant, creative atmosphere, local traditions and stunning archaeological sites. The food scene is pretty captivating too with charming inns, gorgeous markets and excellent restaurants, including some great spots just for vegetarians. Check out our favorites below.
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Set in a beautiful courtyard surrounded by cacti, Hierba Dulce is currently the only exclusively vegan restaurant in Oaxaca, and it is a treat. With homemade vegan cheese, tacos made with huitlacoche (a flowery type of fungus that grows on corn known as the ‘Mexican truffle’), and dishes cooked in coconut-based lard, vegetarians don’t have to miss out on the best elements of Mexican food. Enchiladas, avocado toast and empanadas are the stand-out options of a superb, fully vegan menu.
One of the most popular spots in Oaxaca, this bakery, café and restaurant has grown from humble beginnings as a simple panaderia (bakery) to become one of the best places to eat in town. With an atmosphere that feels more Brooklyn than southwest Mexico, Boulenc’s bread is reputed to be the best in Mexico, a reputation backed up by the lines out of the door. The adjoining restaurant makes a magnificent vegan pizza, and the pad thai is an absolute dream. If you are in town for more than a day, try to come here more than once.
Rayón Pochote Organic Market is a charming little organic market with a decent range of vendors selling all kinds of vegetarian and vegan treats. The gem of this place, hidden away in a back corner, is Verde Vegano, a plant-based café, and is one of the best places in Oaxaca to find a proper vegan breakfast, complete with scrambled tofu and dairy-free pancakes.
Just off the Zocalo, La Matatena has built a reputation as one of the best pizza spots in Oaxaca. The menu is roughly half vegetarian options, and best of all, every pizza on the menu can be made with gluten-free dough and vegan cheese. This isn’t going to be the cheapest place to eat in town, but if you’ve got a craving for a serious slice of pizza it might well be the best.
While not a strictly vegetarian restaurant, Zandunga serves up enough fabulous plant-based options to satisfy every herbivore. This charming restaurant specializes in the cuisine of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, which includes dishes steamed in banana leaves, fresh seafood and lots of tropical fruit. With vegetarian mole and mushroom stuffed tlayudas (traditional grilled tortillas covered in frijoles) as well, this is an excellent spot to try some interesting culinary variations.
Tucked away unobtrusively in La Merced market, visitors could easily walk past La Fonda Florecita without giving it a second glance. However, this absolutely classic market food stall has been a local favorite for over 50 years, and offers a wonderful range of must-try Mexican dishes, with loads of choices for vegetarians. Try the salsa de queso (cheese in a tomato sauce), the quesadillas with zucchini flowers, or the atole de chocolate (corn-based hot chocolate). Just keep an eye out for dishes made with asiento, which is Oaxacan lard.
Mexican food can be rich, decadent and heavy, and sometimes what you really need is a dose of healthy eating. 100% Natural is a health food restaurant offering a break from the excess of traditional Mexican cuisine, as well as a gorgeous view of Oaxaca’s Parque Juárez El Llano. A breakfast of multigrain hotcakes or tofu tortillas and a green juice is a great pick-me-up, while mushroom burgers and super salad bowls are perfect for lunch or a light dinner.
With a mixed menu full of loving interpretations of classic Mexican street food and market favorites, Cabuche is worth coming to for the vegetarian pozole (hominy soup) alone. A hearty, spicy soup usually made with chicken or pork, Cabuche uses mushrooms and a variety of vegetables to make its rojo (red), blanco (white) and verde (green) varieties of pozole. The potato, poblano pepper and huitlacoche guisados (stews) are also superb, and even better washed down with its homemade craft beer.
Very much at the higher end of things in Oaxaca, La Biznaga describes itself as a ‘very slow food’ restaurant, and while this is best expressed in the service, the array of fascinating and innovative Mexican fusion dishes are worth the wait. While not a fully vegetarian menu it is extremely vegetarian friendly, with dishes like sopa del establo (a creamy Roquefort and chipotle chili soup), blackberry mole, mushroom-stuffed pastry cones and some out-of-this-world desserts.
Le Campane is a delightful little spot with an Italian-inspired menu just around the corner from the Templo de Santo Domingo. With a separate vegetarian and vegan menu, it’s a great spot for a relaxed dinner. Homemade seitan soy tacos and mole-stuffed tamales bring a Mexican flavor, while vegetarian bolognese, lentil soup and Mediterranean seitan burgers can give vegetarians a break from local cuisine.
Although Oaxaca is surprisingly well-stocked with Italian restaurants, it doesn’t come much better than Vieja Lira. It’s a great place to visit for a break from the local cuisine, as well as a touch of Florentine elegance and sophistication. It’s an upscale Italian pasta and pizza place with a stylish courtyard and a nice rooftop terrace. Vegetarians can choose from a long list of fresh pasta and homemade sauces, go for the lasagna or try a crispy thin-crust pizza. It also has an impressive international wine list, for something other than pulque (fermented agave) and mezcal.
Cafetería Xiguela is a fantastic place to enjoy delicious breakfasts, salads, ice cream and coffee. It’s a paradise for vegetarians in Oaxaca, especially those whose diet depends on organic products. Its products come from the organic shop run by the same owners next door and this guarantees deliciously fresh dishes. It has a quiet and charming ambience and is a real treat to visit.
Trigo Verde is a great place to enjoy vegetarian food and the best part is that it is located inside a health food store. Most people order a takeaway from the menu of sandwiches, tamales, soy burgers and breakfast foods. It also has a set lunch menu priced at 60 pesos (£2.14) consisting of soup, salad, a main dish, drink and dessert. It’s a quick, simple set-up, mainly used by office-goers for a healthy lunch or people in a hurry to get back to a day of sightseeing.
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