10 Latinx Chefs You Need to Know
These Latinx chefs put fresh vegetables center stage. | Todo Verde / Indiegogo

Most people associate Latinx food with meat and dairy, like chicken tamales, pork posole, barbacoa, and fish tacos. But today, so many meat-based Latinx dishes can be made with jackfruit or alternative meats—and a deft hand with flavor. In fact, many vegan Latinx chefs have found that a lot of Latin and South American dishes were actually plant-based prior to colonization by Europeans.

As the popularity of plant-based eating spreads, vegan Latinx chefs are opening eateries to serve the growing, hungry audience. Southern California is a hot spot for vegan Mexican food, especially. But the Golden State by no means has a monopoly on plant-based tacos. Latinx chefs are everywhere from Toronto to Boston to Miami, helming restaurants, pop-ups, and event catering companies.

Here are 10 Latinx chefs who are putting fresh vegetables center stage. They’re proving they can deliver on the traditional flavors of their origin countries in a meat-free format.

These 10 Latinx Vegan Chefs Dish Up Authentic Cuisine

1. Jasmine Hernandez

Jasmine Hernandez is only 27-years-old but already she’s reached a goal many chefs only dream of: restaurant owner. Hernandez opened her vegan Mexican restaurant Chicana Vegana in Fullerton, California, in summer 2020, after growing the business as a pop-up tent, according to the LA Times. She makes vegan Asada, al pastor, carnitas, and shrimp for street tacos, burritos, and loaded nachos. Her MexGogi tacos are a specialty: a slow-cooked plant protein, cucumber, cilantro, scallions, and spicy sauce.

Find Chicana Vegana on Instagram here.

2. Ivan Castro

It is clear why Ivan Castro calls himself Vegan Artisan on Instagram. His plant-based Mexican dishes are serious works of art. Castro is the chef at La Bartola, his vegan Mexican restaurant in Toronto. He grew up in Mexico City and cites his hometown and Oaxaca as inspiration. One impressive dish from his brunch menu is the pipian enmolatas: chicken enchiladas with a nutty, spicy house mole. Save room for chocolate atole on the rocks: Mexican hot chocolate on ice. Some of the best Mexican food you can eat might be in…Canada?

Find La Bartola on Instagram here.

3. Cecilia Flores and Ivannoe Rodriguez Sierra

Food is a family affair for this married chef duo. Cecilia Flores grew up in Massachusetts. But her parents sent her to the Dominican Republic for many summers when she was young. Today, she is a public health researcher and doctoral candidate studying racial health inequalities. (How cool is this woman?) Ivannoe Rodriguez grew up in Santo Domingo. Together, they are Coco Verde Vegan Latina Kitchen, an Afro-Latina vegan catering business in Boston. Some of their most-ordered vegan Domincan dishes are asopao, a plant-based seafood stew with rice; chimichurri mushroom sliders; and ropa vieja, a plant-based beef stew.

Find Coco Verde Vegan on Instagram here.

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When the lockdown was first enforced I really thought this would be a time to slow down and take stock of what I’ve accomplished over the last year and that I would give myself an opportunity to make my mental health and well-being a priority, but instead things just got more intense! I had to ponerme las pilas 🔋⚡️& adapt quickly. And I did. Business was great, all our patrons came through in the clutch to show us love on a regular basis & we got busier than ever! Then I just couldn’t stop! 🎢 I started to feel like I was living outside my body and just watching myself go into grind mode, neglecting all my needs. I think a small part of me was still in that survival mode, despite hitting record sales, that I felt like I had to ride the wave of abundance while I could. 😬😬😬Bad idea! I damn near burnt myself out! (If you know about Human Design, This is not the way for a Manifestor!) While I do have some assistance on a regular basis, I am pretty much a one woman show & it’s a lot of work, especially with my ambitious-ass menus & recipes that no one knows but me! 🤐 Why am I like this? 😫 So I’m gonna be taking a good break for a little bit. Not because I earned it or deserve it. But because that shit is crucial and I need to remind myself I’m not a machine! I have a really hard aspect in my 5th house that sometimes sucks the joy and fun out of my life & I’m working on remedies for that. So here’s a reminder for those of you who are like me, especially you Virgos and Earth dominate folks (but not Taurus! 😆) busting your ass in the name of productivity. It’s okay to rest. You don’t have to earn that rest. It should be yours whenever you need it. Let the universe sort that shit out. 🖤👁✨ Here’s a photo of me doing my favorite thing: making fancy food for my supper club ❤️🌹 💁🏻‍♀️ This dinner was especially beautiful given the gorgeous backdrop of my homegirl’s tattoo shop & help from @center_of_attention_events Can’t wait for this shit to be over so I can do another dinner. 😤 📸 @ndrewstuart

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4. Denise Vallejo

Denise Vallejo is the force behind Alchemy Organica. She grew up in California surrounded by Mexican food that she now makes with plant-based proteins, which more closely resemble pre-colonial indigenous diets, she told Bon Appetit. Vallejo also brings her interest in astrology and alchemy to her cooking, according to Hip Latina. It’s reflected in dishes like her Zodiac Special, which centers a dish around the current zodiac sign. Check out Vallejo’s black magick tamalli, made with blue corn masa; activated charcoal; roasted jalapenos; and her cashew quesillo, a Oaxaca-style melting cheese.

Find Alchemy Organica on Instagram here.

5. Charly Garcia

Charly Garcia calls his Tulum, Mexican-inspired plant-based meals “designed for meat lovers, made for vegans.” Whether you’re eating at his shop, Charly’s Vegan Tacos, in Wynwood, Miami, or Quintana Roo, Tulum, Garcia makes his thick tortillas and his traditional toppings and sauces in-house. Yum. His nachos are a big hit on his Instagram, because obviously. But of course, tacos are the main attraction, like his carne asada tacos: grilled seitan steak roasted in garlic, with creamy avocado salsa, onion, and cilantro.

Find Charly’s Vegan Tacos on Instagram here.

6. Jocelyn Ramirez

Jocelyn Ramirez, both a yogi and a talented chef, leans on her Ecuadorian and Mexican roots at Todo Verde, her plant-based restaurant in East Los Angeles. According to Bon Appetit, she began selling smoothies at farmers’ markets in Los Angeles and then broached vegan Latin American food. Ramirez grew the business into a pop-up and catering business, serving dishes like jackfruit al pastor or papas con chorizo for lunch. This spring she published a cookbook, La Vida Verde: Plant-based Cooking with Mexican Flare. It’s ideal if you’re looking to spice up your quarantine cooking with some vegan Latin-American dishes.

Find Todo Verde on Instagram here.

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Tonight at 9pm tune into @viceland 's bong appetit and watch me face off against actual chefs in a timed battle to use cannabis in cooking… I'm just a bitter taquero from the streets hating on the system that makes us second class citizens and have to be forced to eat filth and low quality foods, our very right to living a healthy life being stripped from us as every facet of our being and soul cowers under the daily stress of financial life… We are forced to buy at Walmart, we are forced to eat cheap junk, and we're forced to teach the same to our young, veganism is the only way out of this ingrained system of oppression nothing can tackle the many many issues we face as a whole like proper nutrition, responsible agriculture, and educating ourselves about the food system… Our fruits and vegetables are picked by immigrants, our animals are slaughtered by them and the suffering, PTSD and health issues that arise are not dealt with…they simply get deported. We separate mother's from their children in order to steal their milk for our consumption, ulcers develop from the metal connections… pus and blood and inevitably hormones/antibiotics are present in your cheese attributing to your cancer. Our culture does not have to suffer the economic injustice that allows afluent people to buy hormone free antibiotic free meats and organic veggies at whole foods. Even tho this is what our parents ate in Mexico when they were "poor" I am vegan for many many reasons but seeing people suffer from this twisted economic system is the only reason I do any of this. Thank you for coming my ted talk.

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7. Raul Medina

His taqueria was named the best tacos in Los Angeles in 2018. But native Californian Raul Medina promises his plant-based tacos will always be $3—accessible to anyone who wants them, he told OC Weekly. Head to the Taqueria La Venganza Instagram to see what he’s preparing: it’s usually a Pollo Loco pack (grilled, marinated vegan chicken); a Barbacoa Pack (smoky, fatty vegan barbacoa); or BBQ chicken.

Find Taqueria La Veganza on Instagram here.

8. Loreta Ruiz

Loreta Ruiz began exploring plant-based foods after her daughter was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and became vegan. Her Mexican father introduced the style of eating to Ruiz as a kid. But she eschewed for a typical diet with meat and dairy. She soon realized that many Mexican foods are already plant-based, though. Now she helms La Vegana Mexicana, a vegan Mexican restaurant in Santa Ana. Look to Instagram for what’s available from La Vegana Mexicana’s pickup menu: a tamal variety pack, including a black bean and mole tamal and the El Enamorado tamal, made with pozole and cashew cheese.

Find La Vegana Mexicana on Instagram here.

9. Desiree Flores

Desiree Flores’ grandmother and mom raised her in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles. She credits her grandmother with teaching her how to cook. Flores began transitioning to a plant-based diet at 17 before heading to college to study business management and marketing, she told VoyageLA. Now she is the owner and chef behind Dear Mama LA, a pop-up restaurant and catering business serving plant-based Mexican-inspired dishes. (Perhaps you’ve seen them on episode two of the Starz show Vida?) Check out her Jalisco-style birria (meat stew) or asado tacos.

Find Dear Mama LA on Instagram here.

10. Maria Laura Alemann

The word “delicatessen” probably brings to mind thick sandwiches stuffed with cold cuts. But not at The Plantisserie, a plant-based deli in Miami that makes it easy to grab a vegan lunch. Chef and co-owner Maria Laura Alemann is from Buenos Aires, Argentina. She came to Florida at age 18 to study hospitality, according to the Miami Herald. The Plantisserie, which opened in 2015, offers an extensive menu of fresh foods and frozen goods, including empanadas; quiches made with cashew cheese or cashew mozzarella; tempeh kabobs; and even shepard’s pie made with Beyond Meat. A pasta-less, almond ricotta lasagna is one of their top sellers and it’s no surprise why.

Find The Plantisserie on Instagram here.