LA's Best Vegan Mexican Restaurants, Panaderías And Pop-ups
If you think vegan Mexican food is all soyrizo and jackfruit, it's time to rethink your assumptions. Born of vegetables, legumes, maiz, tradition and a desire to avoid harming animals, vegan-Mexican has, in the past few years, become one of the most innovative cuisines in the United States.
Excavating Mexico's pre-colonial foodways, it reimagines childhood favorites, weeknight staples and classic dishes. Plant-based Mexican fare also highlights the genius required to create exquisitely gooey nut-based cheeses, charred vegetable-stacked trompos and flowers that double as carne asada.
So, respectfully, if you're not tucking into a vegan pambazo or tilting your head to these jamaica tacos, what are you waiting for?
The home of the hibiscus asada taco, Xochitl Vegan greets you with a garden of maiz, muskmelon and tobacco at its Soto Street Junction location. Founded in 2017, it operated as a pop-up for three years before chef Stephanie "Xochitl" Villegas made the leap to a brick-and-mortar. (It's operating as a pick-up site right now while Villegas turns it into a full-service restaurant.) The signature dish, which reimagines the meat in asada with jamaica (hibiscus) flowers, packs a ton of flavor and has a delightful, chewy texture. Jamaica also makes an appearance in the "chef's special" birria, served with a rich, slow-cooked consomé. Try her lentil-walnut chorizo in a mulita or in an al pastor burrito with red cabbage, pico de gallo and beans. Don't forget the tortas, with your choice of protein, pureed beans, tomatoes, cucumbers and radishes on a fresh-baked bolillo.
2806 E. Washington Blvd., Boyle Heights.
Doomie's NextMex, the sister restaurant to Doomie's Home Cookin' (located next door), is a casual spot that serves munchies and comfort food such as quesadillas, tacos, soy chicken flautas, ceviche. Their carnitas tostada, which layers refried beans, lettuce, tomato and crisp, gluten-free soy-based protein on a tostada de maiz, is a crunchy, savory delight that's both hearty and fresh, making it the perfect summer lunch. Bonus! Doomie's stays open until midnight or 1 a.m. to satisfy your late-night nacho cravings.
1253 Vine St., # 8, Hollywood.
After a successful three-year run with the vegan Mexican pop-up Vegatinos, chef and owner Alex Vargas decided to open a restaurant. He chose Van Nuys because he wanted more healthy options in the area. At El Cocinero, he has created plant-based versions of the recipes his mom and grandma brought with them from Jalisco. Standouts include the soy chicharron taco, the al pastor burrito and the carne asada mulita. Do not leave without a slice of the flan! El Cocinero is only doing takeout right now but it has set a fast in-store ordering and pick-up system.
6265 Sepulveda Blvd., Unit 12, Van Nuys.
Masataco in Whittier didn't set out to be a vegan hub. After chef David Fuerte launched the business in 2016 as a food truck, he added a few vegan items to the menu. They were a hit and eventually accounted for 90% of the truck's sales, L.A. Taco reports. At Masataco's brick-and-mortar iteration, Fuerte dishes out al pastor tempeh tacos, lobster tacos, vegan chile rellenos and mushroom mole. Don't expect your food to be ready immediately. Good things take time, like the handmade maiz tortillas he uses.
14103 Lambert Rd., Whittier.
Head to this eco-centric taquería on Tuesdays and you'll score jackfruit carnitas, soybean pollo or seitan carne asada tacos for $2 each––bang for your buck. Sugar Taco also serves delicious burritos, stacked nachos, quesadillas, loaded fries. But it’s their fluffy conchas that take the cake. The vibe is casual and fun with bright colors, rustic wood accents and a patio that's perfect for sipping micheladas, rum-chatas or one of their five margaritas. Feel free to bring your pooch. This canine-friendly spot has a dog menu.
7257 Melrose Ave., Fairfax District.
Looking for a crisp mushroom asada taco and a third-wave cortado? Power up at chef Jared Simons' fast-casual Taco Vega. The 100% plant-based restaurant uses locally sourced ingredients in its salads, asada fries, burritos and other dishes. If you want calm amid the chaos of Hollywood, the patio is an inviting spot to sip an iced horchata latte while nibbling a Baja-style cauliflower taco with lemon cilantro aioli.
456 N. Fairfax Ave., Fairfax District.
Veggie y Qué
Laura Jardon's vegan deli Veggie y Qué has a deceptively simple menu of burritos, burgers, tortas and wraps but everything is prepared with a deft hand. This summer, Jardon added scratch-made vanilla and chocolate conchas that are begging to be dunked in her housemade café de olla. For anyone who has a hankering for Taco Bell but wants more mindful ingredients, the crunchy, gluten-free "Veg outta the box" tacos are ideal.
12924 Bailey St., Whittier.
Delicias Bakery & Some
Going strong since 1990, Delicias Bakery is a traditional panadería that rolls out a noteworthy selection of vegan baked goods. Come between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. to score them fresh from the oven. The marranito cookies, elote bread and conchas make a terrific breakfast, especially with a cup of their café de olla. Craving something more savory? They also offer a few vegan tortas, all of which are hefty and shareable ($9.50 - $12.50), like the milanesa, served with a honking baked potato wedge sprinkled with Tajin. Delicias, which closed for two months at the start of the pandemic, has been struggling. Consider donating to help them stay open.
5567 N. Figueroa St., Highland Park.
Swing by Panadería Cuscatleca before 11 a.m. to snag some of the softest, lightest vegan conchas in Southern California. This Salvadoran, Guatemalan and Mexican bakery makes Salvadorean apple pañuelo, a sweet bread with vegan butter and vegan empanadas filled with guayaba. Still hungry? Try the fried elote tamales or one of the bakery's three vegan tortas. You'll find a fridge full of refreshments and Latin snacks including Mexican Coke, yucca chips, Takis and Flamin' Hot Cheetos. Take note — come Dia de Los Reyes Magos, this panadería offers a vegan version of the traditional rosca.
1566 W. Pico Blvd., Pico Union.
Alchemy Organica prides itself on sourcing organic ingredients. Everything on chef Denise Vallejo's menu is either made from scratch (please try her 48-72 hour beans with crema!) or sourced from purveyors who are masters of their craft. The buttery, chewy Enjoy Mejorado tortillas she uses in her seriously dank quesadillas, are anchored by her housemade cheese and topped with her own salsa macha. Order online and don't be late.
Beverly Blvd. and Kenmore Ave., Koreatown.
Cena Vegan, my recommendation for the vegan-curious, is available for pick-up at its Lincoln Heights site during the week or at Smorgasburg L.A. on Sundays. Their Big Vegan Torta tastes just like the tortas of my childhood — a layer of refried beans, chipotle cashew crema, a heap of chopped lettuce and tomatoes, pickled red onions and your choice of "meat" sandwiched between a toasted roll. Cena Vegan has all the chart-toppers. Packed nacho boats, taco trios, rice and beans platters, gluten-free barbacoa. If you're feeding a group, they do family-sized meal kits for $45.
242 North Avenue 25, Lincoln Heights.
777 S. Alameda St., downtown L.A.
Evil Cooks founders Alex Garcia and Elvia Huerta do a wicked job of making both vegan and non-vegan food. (We've paid homage to their flan taco and noted their pandemic pivot.) Their vegan trompo, made of eggplant, cabbage and mushrooms slathered in a black, Yucatan-style al pastor sauce, is torched to a mouthwatering delight. Their chicharron con salsa verde taco, a personal favorite, is an umami bomb. You can try these items, and their other vegan dishes (known as their "heaven menu"), every Friday and Saturday evening at their El Sereno pop-up, which feels like the punk concert of your dreams complete with loud jams, cool merch and exquisite tacos. Visit them at Smoragsburg L.A. in DTLA on Sundays, where they're planning to feature vegan options in the near future. Follow them on Instagram.
2416 N. Eastern Ave., El Sereno.
777 S. Alameda St., downtown L.A.
Three words: carrot hot dog. Born and raised in the San Gabriel Valley, chef Joaquin Flores, who previously worked with his family on Sin Karma, has veganized the classic hot dog by swapping the mystery meat for grilled carrot. At Masaya, his plant-based street food pop-up, he aims to "mas alla" or "go beyond" with his plant-based creations. Although he's taking time off this summer, Flores plans to bring his flair to dishes like bahn mi tacos and curry tacos when he returns. Follow Masaya on Instagram to keep up.
Plant Food for People
Plant Food for People, one of the first jackfruit tacos to emerge in Los Angeles, is alive and well with a monthly pop-up at Verdugo Bar in Glassell Park. Try one served on a pair of Kernel of Truth tortillas or check out the HLP special, a taco filled with jackfruit, creamy slaw, chipotle mayo and tomatillo salsa. If you want to go hard, their tacomali is a hybrid taco and tamal that involves pan-fried masa stuffed with mushrooms. Once orders are back up, you can get squash steak, tortas and cheesecake cups shipped to you.
3408 Verdugo Rd., Glassell Park.
In November 2020, chef Bella Benson opened Raices Kitchen with a menu inspired by her Mexican roots and her abuelita's recipes. Start with the pambazo, a popular Mexico City street sandwich. Benson makes it with telera bread, potatoes, plant-based chorizo, dairy-free queso fresco, cashew crema, salsa verde and lettuce then dips it in red guajillo sauce and fries it until it's toasted and infused with sazon. Raices Kitchen turns up at Vegan Valley Nights, held some Friday evenings in Van Nuys, and hosts pop-ups across Los Angeles. Benson also offers deliveries and pick-ups in the Whittier area. Keep up with her via Instagram.
From strawberry agua frescas with chia seeds to mushroom mole tacos and heart of palm ceviche, chef Jocelyn Ramirez's Todo Verde leads the pack when it comes to healthy vegan Mexican food. You'll find her rocking Smorgasburg L.A. every Sunday, showcasing plant-based versions of her family recipes. You'll also find Todo Verde's food in Hollywood, at the Ford amphitheater where the menu features hearts of palm ceviche, poblano mac and cheese, mulitas with plant-based "chorizo" and cashew cheese, cacao pudding and three types of tacos served on blue corn tortillas — mushroom and mole, jackfruit carnitas with pipian verde and chorizo-spiced mushroom. Keep up with Todo Verde's pop-ups and events on Instagram or their website.
777 S. Alameda St., DTLA.