A small but growing list of veggie taco options is making the San Fernando Valley an unlikely destination for people who follow the plant-based taco life in Los Angeles.
Almost anything in the taco kingdom can be made with a meat alternative. Even fast food has started to offer meatless options, so it was only a matter of time until taquerías started to embrace the diet. After all, who really wants just a salad?
To make it easier for my Valley veggie folk and visitors, here’s a shortlist of the best tacos I’ve tried from my favorite places.
El Compa Vegano
Jessie Gil, known as “El Compa Vegano” became vegan in August 2015, after being a pescatarian for six years due to health issues. He shared his plant-based recipes with friends and family over Snapchat which led to his admirers asking to try his creations. Now, curbside orders are placed weekly.
His famous CrackNBox tacos are a vegan—and really tasty—replica of Jack in the Box’s iconic 99-cent tacos. The same tacos that are rumored to be vegan but are actually made with 40% beef and 50% soy. His highly addictive CrackNBox tacos are made with pea protein and deep-fried. Then filled with cheese, lettuce, and salsa. Yes, this taco will fill that nostalgic void when you used to find yourself at the Jack in the Box drive-thru growing up.
After experimenting with a recipe, Gil started selling each taco at $4. He said the price accurately expresses the price of ingredients and preparation he puts into making the tacos.
His full menu features Baja “Shrimp” Tacos (made out of konjac), Baja “Fish” tacos (made out of banana blossoms), “carne asada” and “pollo asado tacos (soy-based), crispy chicharrón tacos (soy-based), and pozole. He isn’t stingy with his “meat” or toppings, either. My only recommendation when ordering from Gil would be to bring plenty of napkins because I guarantee you it will get messy, in the most beautiful and delicious way.
Follow El Compa Vegano on Instagram to see when he is popping up next.
When I met Chef Vargas one Friday afternoon, he led me to a corner table with a sign that read “Mi Oficina” at his Van Nuys restaurant. There were a couple of customers ordering from his well-known menu, which includes: tacos, birria tacos with consome, burritos, mulitas, and tortas. His menu offers 100% vegan meat options like chicharrón, jackfruit, mushrooms, asada, and chicken.
El Cocinero started as a pop-up shop, formally named Vegatinos, that traveled around Los Angeles serving their delicious vegan Mexican food. Now, Alex Vargas calls El Cocinero in Van Nuys home.
Like all new vegetarians and vegans, the self-taught chef stumbled on how to fill his diet when he made his decision to eat vegan eight years ago. “I was lost. I didn’t know what to eat,” said Vargas. Soon after that, he started watching videos and researching plant-based meat. He took the challenge and played with recipes then shared them with friends and family. Now, El Cocinero is a go-to for many plant-based eaters and the first choice for many when craving tacos in the Valley.
What should you order? Everything. Take it one trip at a time. Trust me it’s worth it to try it all.
My favorite is the birria tacos with consomé (you can also order a birria plate that comes with rice, beans, and tortillas). The tacos are made with their signature jackfruit and consomé that offer the taco in two ways: crunchy or dipped in delicious broth.
The soy-based chicharrón is a crunchier meat option and one of my first choices from their six meat options. Vargas’ Al Pastor tacos have turned me into a fan of the pineapple-marinated concoction.
El Cocinero is located at 6265 Sepulveda Blvd UNIT 12, Van Nuys, CA 91411.
Pacha Taco holds a special place in my heart; they were my first food review for my college newspaper and I thoroughly enjoy their food. I’ve also loved seeing them come up in the street food scene. When I met them, they were selling tacos in front of an elementary school and now you can catch them at the Vegan Exchange in NoHo and other vegan events in the Valley during the week.
Pacha Taco, a fusion of Mexican and Bolivian cuisine, was founded by Igor Zentero, along with his brother, Joseph Zentero last year with a handful of menu items like sopa de maní (peanuts), chorizo con papa, and calamari (made out of hearts of palm). Now their menu has expanded and includes nachos, quesabirria tacos, and burritos.
The quesabirria taco is super crunchy and cooked to order. It included probably the best vegan cheese (pepper jack Miyoko’s cheese). The jackfruit texture strongly resembled my grandmother’s slow-cooked birria, which was tender and full of flavor.