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Julia’s Vegan Tamales Turned Its Owner’s Dietary Restrictions Into Culinary Inspiration

We grew up with comida en la casa, but we also want to support those who make us comida en la calle. That’s why this Latinx Heritage Month, mitú has partnered with El Jimador to spotlight small business owners to aid the Latino Community Foundation. Juntos, we build on our efforts to foster inclusivity and amplify Latinx voices.

Tenoch has never been able to eat meat. He transitioned to vegetarianism at a young age and, in recent years, spends his time teaching others how to appreciate vegan alternatives to popular Mexican dishes. 

As of late, it seems like there are veggie alternatives to just about everything, but Tenoch’s cooking was ahead of the game. “[There was] a lack of vegan food when I started this,” he said. “Now you have many options.” 

Tenoch began his culinary career as a teacher, mainly to “show people how easy and delicious it is to make Mexican food without any animal products.” 

However, when his students started asking him to sell them his signature tamales, he decided to open Julia’s Vegan Tamales, an outlet for Tenoch to take his vegan recipes and share them with the world. Tenoch named his business after his mother as a way to honor her caring approach to Tenoch’s dietary restrictions.

“When she made food she always made sure to separate my food before ‘flavoring’ food with chicken stock,” he said. “I don’t remember her complaining about it.” Although Tenoch singles out his tamales, he’s always working on new and exciting vegan alternatives and continues teaching to this very day. “Most recently,” he said, he’s been teaching his students how to make “churros and vegan conchas.”

Although his experimentations with different flavor combinations may seem daunting, Tenoch trusts his process. “The simple answer is, I taste it. If I don’t say to myself, ‘this shit is delicious,’ I will continue adding spices that will improve the taste.”

Tenoch speaks humbly about his own food, but the process is a bit more complicated than he initially lets on. “I experiment with different herbs and spices until I get the flavor I want,” he explained, citing Indian street vendors as his main inspiration, mostly because there’s “no fancy equipment, no fancy plating. Just great food.” 

He mentioned a recent recipe that wasn’t quite right until he added “rice, turmeric, some dried chilis, and lime. It came out delicious. Like everything else I do in life, I stay away from mediocre dishes.” The dish was recently featured on his Instagram page, where he’s able to share vegan recipes with his 15,000 followers.

As for what he’s working on now, Tenoch is currently in the process of trying to perfect a “vegan cocktail de camarones. [Really just] vegan seafood in general.” In the meantime, check out Tenoch’s latest recipe book, “Vegan Mexican Food for Idiots: Easy 10 Minute Recipes.” Vegans and meat-eaters alike will learn a lot about how to create classic vegan dishes that are indistinguishable from their meaty counterparts.

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