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Home » food

Viva Vegan! Si, se Puede.

Submitted by on April 14, 2011 – 1:00 am13 Comments

vegetarian week tiki tiki

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in the series, ¿Vege-Que? — A Week of Healthy Eating, ongoing from April 11 to 17 on the Tiki Tiki. Please visit the first post to learn more about the series and enter for the chance to win some awesome prizes.

Latin and Vegan. It can Happen

terry hope romero viva veganTerry Hope Romero became a vegetarian at 16, and a vegan not long after that. So, now in her 30s, it has been a good long time since the New Yorker has eaten meat, fish or dairy products.

“But my parents still don’t really get it,’’ Romero said “My parents are Venezuelan and my mom’s side is Polish/Venezuelan. When I go visit them, she still explains to waiters what I can eat. It’s still a mystery to them.”

“When I do go visit family for the holidays, I know I am not really going to be eating,’’ she said, laughing. “I try to have a really good breakfast.”

Confusion in la familia aside, Romero is a well-known vegan cookbook author, having written Viva Vegan! 200 Authentic and Famous Recipes for Latin Food Lovers, released last year by Da Capo Lifelong Books.

She also co-wrote Veganomincon, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World and Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar.  Her beautiful blog, full of recipes, is Vegan Latina.

So, Romero knows what she’s talking about, si?

Viva Vegan! was written to bring forth the flavors of Latin cuisine for everyone. It is a decadent romp with things like chocolate mole tamales, mushroom ceviche, and sweet coconut corn pudding, with a good dose of educational cooking and ingredients information.

While Latinos are stereotyped — and probably rightly so — as hearty and frequent meat eaters who wouldn’t dream of giving up the bistec, Romero says she likes to point out that the true flavors of Latin food are not meat-centered.

“A lot of things that make Latin food, Latin food — the beans, the grains, the chili peppers, the limes, the cilantro, the black beans, the avocado — those are the things that scream something Latin and these things are naturally vegan. Pork is just pork and chicken is just chicken and there is nothing particularly Latin about them.”

She’s not kidding. As you roll through the Viva Vegan! cookbook and hang out in the salsa chapter (hello, Venezuelan guasacaca!) and move on to the traditional asados made with tofu, tempeh and seitan and onto all things arepa, pupusas, tortillas and then over to the sweets like majarete, sopaipillas and arroz con leche, it hits you: Your mouth is drooling because of the spices and seasonings and fruits and beautiful vegetables and the combination of them all.

“I want more Latinos to try this,” she said. “Most of my testers were not Latinos and that is indicative of the vegan community in general.
But, I have had Latinos come over and I have given them plantains and they were like ‘Oh, we can have fried plaintains?’

“This isn’t punishment,’’ she added, laughing. “And yes, we are going to have dessert.”

And that could be papaya-lime sorbet or chocolate orange spice cake with dulce de batata.

For anyone completely confused by both veganism and Latin cooking, the book offers resources on the vegan Latin pantry and kitchen, with tips on everything from cooking oils to liquid smoke (great for giving beans and stews a meaty edge) to a primer on favorite Latin beans, hot sauces, chiles and herbs. There’s also a shopping list and menu plan.

Basically, she holds your hand throughout this Latin vegan cooking adventure.

During our interview, we spent a lot of time talking about seitan, my personal favorite meat substitute. It is made from vital wheat gluten. It looks meaty, works great in tacos and it can be sliced, cubed, or shredded. You can buy it at the grocer or make it. (I posted some photos of my seitan adventure on Facebook .)

“Nothing is really going to happen to the seitan. The homemade stuff can stand up to a lot of things,’’ she said.

The cookbook includes a “white” version for chicken-ish dishes and a “red” version for dark meat-like dishes. I made Romero’s white version for her Arroz con Seitan and was amazed by how simple, and good it was. (See recipe below)

Romero’s favorite ways to eat seitan include as a Venezuelan version of carne mechada, shredded in empanadas with olives and raisins and as kabobs.

“If people are looking for meaty, hearty foods, seitan is a good option,’’ she said.

Her favorite recipe in Viva Vegan! is the empanadas, which she said, “require a little more work, but the payoff is big. One of the recipes in the book is a creamy, corn-filled one that is really great, sweet and yummy.”

Another love of hers is the vegan Cuban sandwich, which uses vegan ham and cheese and mojo-marinated seitan.

“You bake that in the oven and it makes a really meaty sandwich,’’ she added.

We’re wondering how many Cuban readers will el flippo at the thought of a Cuban ham and pork sandwich made with non-meat?

So, we asked: What is the think people think is toughest about living vegan?

“I think most people miss dairy before they miss dried-out Thanksgiving turkey. It seems to be the need for creaminess and mouth feel.
“But it isn’t that hard to whip up a satisfying meal without a hunk of meat in the middle,’’ she said.

And so, we asked for tips.

Tips for Reducing Meat and Dairy

  • Check out non-dairy milks such as almond, rice, soy and coconut milk. Almond milk is great in coffee and rice milk is perfect for batidos.
  • Add fresh seasonings and spices and condiments, salsas and dips.
  • If you are craving fat, especially in colder months. then avocados and nuts are your friends.
  • Look for the foods that will make you feel full and emotionally satisfied such as beans of all kinds.
  • Eat foods with texture. Add beans, nuts and whole grains like quinoa to your dishes.
  • Start slow. Work up to it.

Viva Vegan! Recipes

Romero and her publisher are sharing three dishes with the Tiki Tiki, each available as a printable PDF:

Arroz Con Seitan from VivaVegan!
Steamed White Seitan from Viva Vegan!
Un-Dulce de Leche Sauce from Viva Vegan!

Below is the complete Arroz con Seitan, a pollo-free dish which I made and loved. The annato oil is beautiful and adds a great taste. The seitan was as simple as making a loaf of bread that you don’t have to knead. (Seriously simple.)

The Un-dulce de Leche was not exactly what we’re used to, but makes a lovely sauce, and would make a great gift for a vegan friend, or someone who is lactose intolerant and can’t enjoy the traditional dulce de leche..

Arroz con Seitan, Viva Vegan

Arroz con Seitan

from Viva Vegan! by Terry Hope Romero

Serves 4 to 6 generously

Time: About 1-1⁄2 hours

A veggie tribute to the enduring Hispanic dish (arroz con pollo) that lets the chicken cross the road for yet another day. Steamed White Seitan (page 35) or purchased seitan is lightly browned and cradled in lively yellow rice pilaf. Beer adds depth and richness to this dish but it’s not essential; veggie broth will do the job just as well. Serve with a green or cabbage salad.

Tip: If you think you can cheat and use Basic Onion-Pepper Sofrito (page 32) to start this recipe, then you are correcto! Substitute half of the Basic Onion-Pepper Sofrito recipe (about 1 cup) for the garlic, onion, and bell pepper.

Seitan (See PDF printable above for recipe)
1⁄2 recipe (two loaves) Steamed White Seitan (page 35), or 12 ounces commercially prepared seitan, sliced
into thick strips about 3 or 4 inches long
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
Big pinch dried oregano

Sofrito and Arroz
2 tablespoons Annatto-Infused Oil (page 31)
1 tablespoon olive oil
5 large cloves garlic, minced
1⁄2 pound yellow onion, finely chopped
1⁄2 pound green bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2⁄3 cup plain tomato sauce
1 cup light-colored Mexican beer or vegetable broth
1 1⁄2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 bay leaf
1⁄4 teaspoon salt, or more as desired
1 1⁄2 cups long-grain white rice
1 1⁄4 cups water or vegetable broth or a combination of the two
1 cup fresh or frozen small green peas (petit pois, small sweet peas are best)
1 carrot, peeled and diced small
1⁄2 cup sliced pimiento stuffed green olives
1⁄4 cup capers (optional)
1⁄4 cup finely chopped cilantro
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Prepare the seared seitan: In a large bowl whisk together lime juice, olive oil, and dried oregano. Add the seitan strips, using tongs to toss and coat them with the marinade. Marinate for 10 minutes, tossing occasionally. Heat a cast-iron skillet or grill pan over medium-high heat and generously coat with cooking spray or brush with peanut oil. Add a layer of marinated seitan strips, taking care not to crowd the pan. Fry seitan on each side for 1 to 2 minutes, flipping once (metal tongs work nicely here). Seitan should be crisp and dark on the edges but still look juicy. Remove from pan and set aside.

2. While preparing the seitan, prepare the sofrito: In a large Dutch oven or enamel-glazed cast-iron pot with a tight-fitting lid, combine Annatto-Infused Oil, olive oil, and garlic over medium heat. Fry until the garlic is fragrant (about 30 seconds). Add the onion and bell pepper and fry uncovered, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very soft and juicy, about 12 to 14 minutes.

3. Stir in the tomato sauce, beer (or vegetable broth), dried oregano, cumin, and bay leaf and simmer for 4 minutes. Stir in the salt, rice, water or vegetable broth, peas, and carrots; cover the pot, and bring the mixture to a boil. Remove the lid, reduce the heat to a low simmer, and push seared seitan strips down into the rice mixture. Sprinkle sliced olives and capers, if using, over everything, cover the pot, and cook for 30 to 35 minutes or until rice is tender, fluffy, and all of the liquid is absorbed.

4. Remove from heat, keeping the pot covered, and set it aside for 10 minutes to cool slightly. Add chopped cilantro and gently fluff the rice. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and serve right away.

What about you?

Would you consider eliminating or reducing all animal products — including dairy — from your diet?

Check out the Giveaways

Please be sure to read today’s ¿Vege-Que? Giveaways post to enter for some great prizes, including cookware from IMUSA, copies of Viva Vegan, the e-book Healthy Snacks to Go; and new EatStrong trail mix and bars.

***You must comment in the giveaways post and in one essay, such as this one, this week to be entered to win.


Share, por favor!


  • Tracy says:

    I’ve had almond milk and really loved it. I may have to go back to buying it, (it’s just my kids are drinking 2 gallons of milk per week and the regular stuff is more affordable.)

    Terry makes such a great point how the Latin-ness of the food isn’t in the meat – in any culture, it’s the flavoring that’s added – the spices, etc., that make such a difference. Really cool to think about.

    If Terry came to live with me and cook for me, I think I could totally do the vegan thing… If I win the cookbook, I’ll try it for dinner at least once a week with the entire family though :)

  • Daniela says:

    I don’t think I could ever go vegan (I just love dairy products way too much!), but I think I need to get my hands on Terry’s book. I would definitely love to learn how to incorporate tofu into Latin dishes and it sounds like her book is full of stuff that I would love to try and make. :)

  • Noelle says:

    I have cooked from this cookbook! It is fab and super tasty!
    Noelle´s last [fabulousness] ..Baked Tofu and Veggie Egg Rolls with Sweet and Sour Sauce

  • Dariela says:

    I already eat less meat than I did way back. I don’t eat meat everyday and I don’t do red meat or cochino. But reducing to non-animal products would be really hard for me. The milk is one of my favorite things!! Sobretodo con el cafecito!
    But just the fact that this kind of book exists makes me happy cause I’m always looking for recipes that don’t have meat and they go well with latino cousine and it’s hard to find.
    Would love to take a look at Terry’s book, bravo for doing this!!
    Dariela´s last [fabulousness] ..Wordless Wednesday – Adrian writes

  • OMG, seriously and honestly, this book sounds and looks awesome!
    I am so happy to see that we’re talking about topics (e.g., vegan and vegetarian diets) that many people think are not “Latino enough,” or of interest to Latinos. I, personally, want to learn more about other types of foods, meals and diets.

    I like how this book adds that Latino touch to make the dishes feel cultural and tasty!

    Thanks for sharing.

  • I love that you have this series because I would otherwise not know about all these great substitutes and recipes! This book looks great!
    Melanie (ModernMami)´s last [fabulousness] ..On Being Told to Go Back

  • Monica says:

    Ay! My mouth is watering! I want to try this Arroz con Seitan recipe immediately! I love all your suggestions for reducing meat and dairy. Especially because most of the women in my family are lactose intolerant and I see myself headed in that direction, which is really sad because I LOVE leche! :(

    Have been looking for lighter and healthier Latin dishes, so I am excited about this book!

    Monica´s last [fabulousness] ..Reader Recommendation- Un pez es un pez by Leo Lionni

  • Marcela says:

    Audrey and I do almond milk . It’s been hard to get the men in the house to change.
    I definitely need to explore more meatless recipes.
    I have no idea what’s for dinner tonight. I think I will give this recipe a try!

  • Liz says:

    Yuuuuuummmm-o! This recipe esta para chuparse los dedos! I can’t wait to try this out!

    Gracias Tiki Tiki!!!

    Baby steps for us to reduce our meat intake. Thank you for the inspiration.
    Liz´s last [fabulousness] ..The Virtual Currency

  • I was vegetarian for 8 years until I was pregnant with my girl. I really need a book like this to get me back in the veggie groove!!!! De todos modos, my girl is content with eating plátanos con crema every day! Need a vegan crema..

  • Migdalia says:

    It looks delicious, I being a vegetarian for 13 years, my first 5 years I was a vegan, then I started eating fish and eggs, but I am thinking about going back to be vegan very, very seriously. I love this recipe, it remember me of the Arroz con Gandules from my childhood. Thank you for sharing!!

  • Carla says:

    I think each of these recipes is going into my meal plan this week! Seriously. I’ve struggled with sharing my Cuban culture with my daughters because we choose to vegetarians. So excited to discover you and your blog!
    Carla´s last [fabulousness] ..Monday Morsels 1

  • Silvia says:

    thanks for your tips and for sharing your book with us, I need it!! I honestly don’t think I can be 100% vegan but I’m very open to try to do it 2 or 3 times per week!

    I can’t wait to try your recipe!
    Silvia´s last [fabulousness] ..Felíz Cumpleaños

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