Vibrant, delicious, creative, vegetarian Mexican cuisine
October 20, 2018 3:55 PM   Subscribe

Can you recommend an English-language cookbook for Mexican food? Not Tex-Mex, Mexican. Oh, and vegetarian, or at least with a lot of vegetables-only recipes.

I live in Phoenix, so I have access to a lot of staple Mexican ingredients.

What I don't want is (yet another) cookbook that "introduces" white Americans to Mexican/Tex-Mex food -- I know how to make tacos and a basic pico de gallo. Instead, I want a cookbook that will actually introduce me to regional cuisine throughout Mexico. I'm especially interested in recipes for sauces, as well as recipes that call for a lot of fresh vegetables. Since my husband is vegetarian (and I mostly am) any cookbook that focuses mostly on meat preparation will be a bit of a waste for us...

What can you recommend?
posted by meese to Food & Drink (10 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
My go to is Mexican Cookery by Barbara Hansen. Not specifically regional but lots of variety. I've had mine for over 30 years! (it's in 3 pieces now but still on the shelf).
posted by Zedcaster at 4:13 PM on October 20, 2018

Bayless’ Everyday Mexican. (Setting aside the surface level colonial ickiness of an upscale white chef profiting off of recipes he learned from very poor people in Mexico) he’s generally very good about respecting the cultural heritage of Mexican food, not claiming any personal stake in it, and not homogenizing the regional variation.

Several years ago, when I wanted to get one of his cookbooks for my vegetarian mother, that was the one he personally recommended in a Twitter-asked question.
posted by supercres at 4:16 PM on October 20, 2018 [3 favorites]

You might be interested in Decolonize your diet: Plant-Based Mexican-American Recipes for Health and Healing. I haven’t actually cooked from it but can confirm it’s a pretty book with a fresh approach and makes for interesting reading.
posted by The Toad at 4:21 PM on October 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

You want anything by Diana Kennedy. She has spent most of her adult life in Mexico, not only delving into the vast diversity of cuisines available but also documenting its native edible flora. Craig Claiborne encouraged her to write her first cookbook, and she’s been working ever since (she’s now 95). Mexico awarded her the Order of the Aztec Eagle, the highest award the government gives to foreigners. I’ve had The Essential Cuisines of Mexico for years and have learned so much from its thoroughness. It does reflect Mexican cuisine in all its variety, so there are plenty of meat/fish dishes, but there is also much for vegetarians as well.
posted by tractorfeed at 5:40 PM on October 20, 2018 [4 favorites]

Came here to recommend Decolonize Yiur Diet like The Toad, above. I’ve actually cooked a lot of their recipes and it’s tasty.

Another book I really like is Truly Mexican. Focuses a lot on salsas and how to use them.

One that I refer to a lot but has broader Latin recipes in addition to Mexican is Gran Cocina Latina. Really recommend this one, despite not being vegetarian specific.
posted by vivzan at 5:45 PM on October 20, 2018

One more thing: don’t be afraid to take a meat-specific recipe in these books and substitute tofu. I often do that and follow the spirit of the recipe instead of being exact with the measurements.
posted by vivzan at 5:47 PM on October 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

2nding tractorfeed. You want Dianna Kennedy. If possible, browse through the books in person to find the one that has the best assortment of vegetarian dishes for your liking as well as the overall fit for you. That being said, once you get a handle on the flavors of the sauces and moles, you can exercise more creativity in using them with vegetables and tofu. For example we've made some of the moles using fried tofu instead of meat, and some of the chile sauces made for serving with meats poured over roasted assorted vegetables to great satisfaction. Unfortunately I can't suggest a particular book or recipes because my cookbook collection is in storage. One note about following Kennedy's recipes is don't be afraid to sometimes take shortcuts; she is a stickler for taking every possible pain in some of the recipes. I was making something, I think the picadillo for using in the chiles en nogada recipe, and I was up super late peeling, coring, and seeding tomatoes for the tomato sauce, and painstakingly peeling every bit of skin out of the walnut crevasses. The next morning, the woman I was living with (Mexican, only a few years younger than Kennedy herself) laughed and said she would have skipped most of those steps. Kennedy is the authority on regional Mexican cuisine in English for a reason. I always think of her as a trio: Dianna Kennedy for Mexican, Marcella Hazan for Italian, and Julia Child for French.
posted by perrouno at 5:15 AM on October 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

Bayless’ Everyday Mexican

This is a good cookbook for vegetarians in that for nearly every recipe Bayless provides an alternative vegetarian version, usually substituting potatoes or mushrooms. However, it's focused on fast recipes to make for everyday cooking. You should check out some of the recipes on his website. Just google Bayless recipes, to get a sense of whether or not you're interested. He has some other books as well you might want to check out. He does generally cover more than tacos and really showcases some authentic meals, moles, and the like. He also turned me on to some great shortcuts and super quick meals with authentic flavors.

I make his enchilada sauce from Everyday Mexican all the time. Two seedless dried guajillo chiles toasted in a little oil until they lightly brown (about 20 seconds) blended with a 16 oz can of roasted tomatoes and garlic. Pretty easy. So much better than store bought sauce.
posted by xammerboy at 9:58 PM on October 21, 2018

Pati Jinich is a Jewish-Mexican chef. She currently lives in DC, and serves as the resident chef for the Mexican Cultural Institute. She also has a PBS show dedicated to highlighting traditional Mexican cuisine. There has been a vegetarian episode, and her cookbook is an utter delight, and has a whole chapter dedicated to vegetarian recipes.
posted by PearlRose at 2:01 PM on October 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

We've really enjoyed America's Test Kitchen's book Best Mexican Recipes.
posted by msbrauer at 7:17 AM on October 23, 2018

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