As the weather warms, we’re more inclined to get outside, breathe in the fresh air, and soak up some radiant sunlight. Growing up, warm weather also meant running around outside, endless laughter, and listening for that beauteous, goose-like honking of the bicycle horn wielded by the elote man.
Throughout the southwestern United States, street vendors wheeling carts of food such as hot corn and amped-up fruit are a welcomed sight during summertime. From flavorful steamed ears of corn and crunchy lemon-dressed “pork rinds” to shaved ice in myriad flavors and colors—these snacks might not be organic, free of GMOs, or completely gluten-free, but they will hit the spot on a hot day. Plus, because many of these are already vegan (or easily veganizable), there’s little reason not to indulge in the sabor de México.
The king of street snacks are elotes—piping hot corn skewered and served with an assortment of toppings. But with most including mayonnaise, butter, cheese, and crema, you’ll be completely out of luck if you spot an elotero. Luckily, they’re a cinch to whip up in your own kitchen. If you’ve never had one, it surely sounds weird … and fatty, but give it a try, and you’ll discover why vegan restaurants are adapting this favorite on menus across the country.
How to prepare: Cook whole ears of corn per your preferred method (grilling or roasting brings out a great nutty, charred flavor), slather on vegan mayo, dust with a vegan almond-parmesan or nutritional yeast, and top with chili powder, lime juice, and/or a drizzle of melted dairy-free butter before finishing off with cilantro.
Modeled after (and often referred to as) chicharrónes (or fried pork skins), these crunchy, wheat-based wheels are airy, light, and completely vegan.
How to prepare: Uncooked duros are hard, quarter-sized, orange wagon wheels often stored in bulk bins alongside beans and other dried goods in many Latin supermarkets. Scoop yourself a bag, take them home, and prepare a pot of hot oil. Drop a few wheels into your oil, and watch as they puff up after just a few seconds until they’re a light golden color. Overcooking your duros is notoriously easy—the whole process of preparing a batch takes less than 30 seconds—and will leave you with mottled brown, hard inedibles. So keep an eye on them, drain them of excess oil, and listen to them crackle and pop when you douse them in lemon juice—and Tapatío hot sauce.
If you want to get back with the pure, unadulterated basics on a warm day, nothing does the trick quite like a heaping helping of fruit. But Mexicans don’t do basic snacks. A popular seasoning blend comprised of of chili powder, salt, and dehydrated lime juice called Tajín is key here, but if you can’t find it, the separate components are fine, too.
How to prepare: Chop your fruit—mango, papaya, pineapple, oranges, strawberries, cucumber, jicama, melon, coconut, and tuna (“prickly pear” or cactus fruit) are the usual suspects—into bite-sized chunks. Sprinkle with Tajín, then top with fresh lime juice. The salt accentuates the fruits’ sweetness and draws out even more juiciness, while the lime and chili ensure you won’t be bringing regular ol’ fruit salad to outings anymore.
Raspados—freshly shaved ice with endless topping and flavor combinations—have become so popular that dedicated storefronts have opened to serve the frozen treats. Almost all variants of the icy, slushy concoctions are vegan, but they’re sometimes paired with sweetened condensed milk or ice cream, so be wary.
How to prepare: Finely shaved ice makes the base for traditional raspados, which are sweetened and colored with a rainbow of sweet, flavored syrups. Make your own lip-smacking simple syrup using equal parts vegan cane sugar, water, and fruit (zest, juice, oils, and crushed fruit all work great). Mango, pineapple, and guava will impart an authentic, tropical flair, or get creative with almonds, vanilla, rosewater, or basil. Mixing and matching syrups is always fun, and a scoop of non-dairy ice cream below your raspa—or a drizzle of coconut cream—makes things that much more luscious.
In a grand amalgamation of many of the flavors and ingredients that tie together Mexican street snacks, chamoyada checks the boxes for sweet, salty, spicy, and tart all at once. This variant on a raspado combines chamoy—a popular spiced paste made from pickled apricot or mango, easily found in Latin supermarkets—with mango, ice, and orange and lime juice and finished with salt and chili powder.
How to prepare: Blend mangos with salt, chili powder, orange juice, ice, and a little chamoy to a slush. Add more chamoy to a glass, pour in mango slush, finish with lime juice and chili powder, and top with fresh mango, vegan gummy candy, or tamarind candy.
Photo courtesy of MarthaStewart.com