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When it comes to crowd-pleasing cuisine, it’s hard to beat Mexican food. Because seriously — who doesn’t love tacos, tamales, and churros?! These delicious dishes are often made with meat and dairy, but Eddie Garza is helping you recreate your favorite Mexican foods entirely vegan!
The vegan chef extraordinaire is revealing his cruelty-free culinary secrets in a new cookbook: ¡Salud! Vegan Mexican Cookbook. Now, home cooks can create incredible Mexican feasts — no animals involved.
In addition to his international culinary reputation, Garza is also a speaker, food coach, Latino Health thought leader, and Senior Manager of Food & Nutrition for the Humane Society of the United States. ¡Salud! includes all kinds of creative, cruelty-free concoctions from Eddie’s kitchen, ranging from Spicy Eggplant Barbacoa Tacos and Jackfruit Guisado Tortas to Classic Chile Relleno and Black Bean and Guacamole Sopes.
We spoke to Eddie about his inspiration, his fave Mexican dish — and what readers can look forward to in the pages of ¡Salud!.
COK: What’s your culinary background?
Eddie Garza: I’ve been cooking for as long as I can remember. In ¡Salud! Vegan Mexican Cookbook, I talk about how it has always played a major role in my life. I spent the majority of my childhood in the kitchen with my amazing grandmother, Soledad, who taught me everything about Mexican cooking. She came to the United States from Guanajuato, Mexico and brought with her many wonderful traditions and food rituals. From her, I learned how to make Mexican staples like homemade tortillas, beans a la charra, Mexican red rice and even more elaborate dishes like tamales and moles.
In 2008 I made the leap from passionate home cook to pro at Spiral Diner & Bakery in Dallas, where I truly honed my skills and learned all about commercial food service. Since my days at Spiral, my culinary work has been exciting and varied – from conducting culinary trainings and ideations for major hospitals, restaurant groups and culinary schools, to working as a plant-based TV chef for Spanish-language networks in both the United States and Mexico.
What level of cooking experience do readers need to have to whip up your recipes?
¡Salud! Vegan Mexican Cookbook is an all-levels cookbook – from novice to pro. To boot, more than half of the 150 recipes can be whipped up in under 30 minutes with basic kitchen tools!
What’s your all-time favorite Mexican dish?
I love tacos – anytime, all the time! When I was a kid, nearly every weekend my family and I would walk across the international bridge from Brownsville, TX to Matamoros, Mexico just to feast on street tacos. My go-to tacos were the Tacos al Pastor—pineapple and chile-rubbed shawarma-style tacos that were made popular by Lebanese immigrants to Mexico, who incorporated local ingredients into their cooking methods.
In ¡Salud! Vegan Mexican Cookbook, I offer up a vegan version of this fusion classic, featuring chile-and-pineapple-marinated seitan topped with the standard diced white onion, cilantro, and a juicy pineapple relish. Fusion food at its finest!
What inspired you to create a vegan cookbook centered around Mexican cuisine?
Mexico has a rich and diverse food history. In pre-Hispanic Mesoamerican cuisine, there was a big focus on fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains. In the ancient Mayan civilization, growing plants for food was so vital that the vast majority of the people were involved in vegetable farming, developing sophisticated systems to maximize production of beans, squash, and maize.
The Aztec civilization used Mayan staples like beans and corn, and also cultivated other crops like chile peppers, sweet potatoes, jicama, nopal cactus, peanuts, and other grains like amaranth. The Aztec also grew an assortment of fruits, including tomatoes, guavas, papayas, and chirimoyas. When the Spanish settled in Mexico in the 1500s, their main contributions to food culture were meat and dairy products. They also introduced different cooking techniques, including frying foods in pork fat.
Today’s Mexican cuisine, the fusion of Mesoamerican and European cooking, is now notoriously known for its excessive use of meat, lard, and other animal products that have been linked to chronic, preventable diseases caused by obesity, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
In recent years, there’s been a social gastronomic movement in Mexico focusing on indigenous foods, like legumes and grains, to combat the country’s obesity epidemic. It’s the momentum of this movement and my deep love for the kitchen that have made it such a joy to help take all Mexican food—from pre-Hispanic Mesoamerican to modern Mexican cuisine—back to its plant-centric roots.
Can you give us a sneak peek of what the new cookbook includes?
Food lovers are going to go crazy for my Garbanzorizo, an intensely spiced garbanzo-based Mexican chorizo that can be used for an assortment of dishes; Classic Chile Relleno, featuring an aquafaba-based ‘egg’ batter; and Cashew Queso Fundido, a super stretchy cashew-and-tapioca-based cheesy dip that’ll make any cheese lover a believer in the power of plants!
We can’t wait to get cooking! Pre-order your copy of ¡Salud! Vegan Mexican Cookbook today!