Skip to content
Join Life Time
a variety of vegetables that make up traditional Mexican food on a yellow wood background

Growing up Mexican American in Chicago, I thought I knew everything about Mexican food — after all, I ate it for just about every meal. But after traveling throughout Mexico as a young man, I learned that most of what Americans consider Mexican cuisine is primarily influenced by the northern Mexican states, where ingredients like flour tortillas and beef are common. As you move farther south, corn tortillas and dried chilies take center stage.

This limited perspective is one reason Americans often consider Mexican food to be unhealthy. In reality, the three true pillar ingredients — maize, beans, and chili peppers — are all highly nutritious.

Corn tortillas are a naturally gluten-free, whole-grain food with more fiber than their refined flour counterparts. Beans are an excellent source of plant-based protein and fiber, and dried chilies are packed with vitamin C and other antioxidants. Plus, adapting Mexican cuisine to a plant-forward diet is remarkably easy: So much flavor comes from fresh herbs, acids, spices, and cooking techniques that there’s no need for animal protein.

If there’s one thing Mexican food is known for, it’s the generous use of hot peppers. These recipes are designed to have medium heat, but don’t be afraid to adjust the number of chilies based on your spice tolerance. If necessary, you can always cut back on how many you use or remove the ­membranes and seeds to tone down the heat.

If you’re a spice fanatic, on the other hand, leave it all intact and double the number of chilies used. My hope is that, after experimenting with these plant-based remixes of Mexican classics, you’ll come away with a new appreciation for what the cuisine has to offer.

Cauliflower “Ceviche” With Pineapple Habanero Salsa

Cauliflower “Ceviche” With Pineapple Habanero Salsa

Makes 4 to 6 servings  •  Prep time 20 minutes  •  Cook time 10 minutes


  • 1 small head cauliflower, quartered
  • 1 cup diced Roma tomatoes
  • 1 cup peeled, cored, and diced cucumber
  • ½ cup diced red onion, rinsed under cold water
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • ½ sheet nori, rolled and thinly sliced (optional)
  • ⅓ cup lime juice (roughly 3 limes)
  • ½ tsp. sea salt
  • 12 corn tostadas


  • 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups roughly chopped pineapple
  • 1 orange habanero pepper, halved and seeded
  • 1 garlic clove
  • ⅛ tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tbs. lime juice (roughly ½ a lime)
  • 1 tbs. minced cilantro

Prepare the ceviche:

  1. Bring ½ gallon of water to boil in a medium pot.
  2. Grate the cauliflower through the large holes of a box grater, yielding approximately 4 cups of “rice.” Add the cauliflower rice to the pot, reduce the heat, and simmer for four to five minutes, until al dente.
  3. Drain in a fine colander and rinse briefly with cold water to stop the cooking. Let the rice sit in the colander for a few minutes to dry.
  4. In a large bowl, combine all of the remaining ceviche ingredients, excluding the tostadas.
  5. Stir in the drained cauliflower rice. Allow to marinate while preparing the salsa.

Prepare the salsa:

  1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a small saucepan.
  2. Add the pineapple, habanero, garlic, and salt to a blender and blend until smooth. If needed, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water to help the ingredients break down in the blender.
  3. Add the salsa to the saucepan and simmer for five minutes or until the liquid has evaporated and the sauce has thickened. Cool in a small bowl for another five minutes, then add the lime juice and cilantro.
  4. To serve, top each corn tostada with ½ cup of the ceviche and a desired amount of salsa.

Plant-Based Pozole

Plant-Based Pozole

Makes 5 1-cup servings  •  Prep time 15 minutes  •  Cook time 30 minutes

Pozole Base

  • 1 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 8-oz. package button mushrooms, quartered
  • ⅛ tsp. black pepper, plus more to taste
  • ¾ tsp. sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 30-oz. can white hominy, drained and rinsed
  • 1 32-oz. carton unsalted vegetable stock

Green Sauce

  • 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 large tomatillos, husks removed, quartered (or use 1 11-oz. can)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 ½ cups loosely packed chopped cilantro, including stems
  • 1 medium poblano pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
  • ½ cup roughly chopped white onion
  • 1 whole serrano pepper
  • ¼ cup toasted pumpkin seeds
  • ½ tsp. ground Mexican oregano (or Italian oregano)
  • ¼ cup water


  • 1 cup diced red radish
  • 1 cup minced white onion, rinsed under cold water
  • 1 medium avocado, chopped
  • 2 limes, halved
  • 10 corn tostadas (optional)

Prepare the pozole base:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the quartered mushrooms and cook for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown, adding the pepper and a pinch of salt halfway through cooking.
  3. Add the hominy, vegetable stock, and remaining salt. Bring to a simmer while preparing the green sauce.

Prepare the green sauce:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat.
  2. In a blender, combine all of the remaining sauce ingredients and blend until smooth.
  3. Add the sauce to the pan and simmer for five minutes, until slightly thickened.
  4. Add the reduced sauce to the pozole base and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
  5. To serve, ladle the pozole into bowls and garnish with the radish, onion, avocado, and lime juice. Use the tostadas as scoops or break them into bite-sized pieces directly over the soup.

Black Bean and Roasted Poblano Tacos

Black Bean and Roasted Poblano Tacos

Makes 8 tacos  •  Prep time 20 minutes  •  Cook time 25 minutes

Pickled Slaw

  • 2 cups shredded white cabbage
  • ¾ cup thinly sliced white onion
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and thinly sliced into half-moons
  • 2 tbs. white vinegar
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • ¼ tsp. ground Mexican oregano (or Italian oregano)
  • ¼ tsp. sea salt


  • 2 medium poblano peppers
  • ½ tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup diced white onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ tsp. smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 15-oz. can no-sodium black beans, drained, with ½ cup of canning liquid reserved
  • ¼ tsp. sea salt
  • 8 corn tortillas

Tomatillo Salsa

  • 4 medium tomatillos, husks removed, quartered (or use 1 11-oz. can)
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves
  • 1 jalapeño, roughly chopped
  • 1 garlic clove
  • ¼ tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Prepare the slaw:

  1. Combine the slaw ingredients in a large mixing bowl. ­Allow them to pickle at room temperature while you continue cooking.

Prepare the taco filling:

  1. Roast the poblano peppers directly over a gas-stove flame at medium heat, turning often to completely char and blister all sides of the peppers, for a total of eight to 10 minutes.
  2. Alternatively, spray or coat the peppers lightly with oil and place under a broiler for the same amount of time, turning once or twice during cooking. Enclose peppers in a paper bag, with the top folded, to soften while you prepare the beans.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a medium pan over medium heat.
  4. Add the onion, garlic, and spices. Cook for five minutes, or until the onions are translucent.
  5. Add the beans, reserved bean liquid, and salt. Simmer for eight to 10 minutes, or until the liquid has evaporated.
  6. As the beans simmer, peel the poblanos by scraping down their sides with a knife or paper towel. Cut in half, seed, and slice each poblano into ¼-inch-thick pieces. Add them to the bean mixture.

Prepare the salsa and assembly:

  1. Add all salsa ingredients except the olive oil to a blender. Blend until smooth, adding 1 to 2 tablespoons of water if needed. With the blender running, add the oil to emulsify.
  2. Heat the corn tortillas three or four at a time in a large skillet over medium heat until soft and pliable, about 30 seconds per side. Keep tortillas warm by wrapping them with a large kitchen towel.
  3. Assemble each taco with ¼ cup of the filling and some slaw. Top with salsa to taste.

Tofu Tinga Burritos

Tofu Tinga Burritos

Makes 4 large burritos •  Prep time 15 minutes •  Cook time 35 minutes

Tofu Mixture

  • 1 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 16-oz. block extra-firm tofu
  • ½ tbs. smoked paprika
  • ½ tbs. ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp. ground Mexican oregano (or Italian oregano)
  • ¼ tsp. sea salt
  • 1 ½ cups thinly sliced white onion

Tinga Sauce

  • 2 medium Roma tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup chipotle peppers in adobo (approximately 2 chipotle peppers plus adobo sauce)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • ¼ cup water


  • 4 large burrito-size tortillas
  • 1 cup crumbled queso fresco
  • 1 medium avocado, sliced
  • ½ cup cilantro leaves

Prepare the tofu mixture:

  1. Slice the tofu block in half and press each half firmly between a thick kitchen towel to remove excess moisture. Tear the tofu into dime-size chunks and add to a large bowl with the spices and salt. Stir to evenly coat the tofu in the spice mixture.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Turn heat to medium-high and add tofu mixture. Stir quickly, then allow tofu to thoroughly brown for a total of 18 to 20 minutes, stirring only once halfway through cooking.
  3. Add the onions and cook for an additional five minutes.

While onions are cooking, prepare the tinga sauce:

  1. Blend all sauce ingredients until smooth.
  2. Add the sauce to the tofu mixture and cook down for eight to 10 minutes, or until the liquid has evaporated and the onions are fully cooked. Adjust the salt if needed.

Prepare the tortillas and assembly:

  1. Warm the tortillas in a heated pan for about one minute per side.
  2. Fill with about ½ cup of tinga mixture, ¼ cup queso fresco, a fourth of the avocado slices, and fresh cilantro to your liking. Pair with The Only Salsa You’ll Ever Need (below).

The Only Salsa You’ll Ever Need

The only salsa you'll ever need

Makes 2 cups •  Prep time 5 minutes •  Cook time 15 minutes

  • 3 cups water
  • 1 large guajillo chili, butterflied open, seeds and veins removed (or 1 ancho or pasilla pepper)
  • 4 medium tomatillos, husks removed (or use canned)
  • 2 medium Roma tomatoes
  • 2 unpeeled garlic cloves
  • 1 whole serrano pepper
  • ¼ tsp. sea salt
  • ¼ cup minced white onion, rinsed under cold water
  • 2 tbs. minced cilantro
  1. Bring water to boil in a tea kettle or small pot. Heat a cast-iron skillet or other heavy-bottom pan over medium heat until it begins to smoke slightly.
  2. Briefly toast each side of the guajillo pepper for about five seconds, pressing it against the pan with a utensil. It should be aromatic but not have any black, blistered spots. (If this occurs, it will be bitter, so repeat with another pepper.)
  3. Transfer the toasted chili to a small bowl and submerge it completely in hot water. Cover and allow to sit while preparing the rest of the salsa.
  4. Add the tomatillos, tomatoes, unpeeled garlic cloves, and serrano pepper to the hot pan. Cook, flipping the ingredients every two to three minutes, or until all sides are black and blistered. The garlic and serrano pepper should be done after about eight minutes; the rest of the ingredients should take approximately 12 to 15 minutes.
  5. Peel the garlic, then add all ingredients from the pan to the blender with the guajillo chili and the salt. Blend until smooth.
  6. To serve, pour into a bowl and stir in the onion and cilantro, adjusting salt if needed.
Photography: Terry Brennan; Food Styling: Betsy Nelson
Jose Guzman, RDN

Jose Guzman, RDN, is a New Mexico-based dietitian and chef.

Thoughts to share?

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. All of these look authentic!! I am Mexican and vegetarian since I was born. So, I know the struggle of making authentic Mexican food without all the meat. I honestly can’t wait to try the green pozole! This is a recipe I have been looking for everywhere! Thank you for compiling such delicious and yet healthy treats❤️🌱

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


More Like This


Tempeh Tacos

By Cary Neff

Tempeh mixed with Mexican spices is ideal for taco night. Get as creative as you like with the toppings.

Mexican chocolate chia pudding

Mexican Chocolate Chia Pudding

By The Life Time Health Team

Enjoy this chocolate-rich dessert alternative with the option to add a kick of spice. 

Back To Top