In a city flush with tacos, finding good vegan taco can be a challenge. Discernible vegetables and vegan proteins tucked into folds of tortilla (or sometimes jicama) are popping up throughout the county. Built without meat or cheese, these 19 options in San Diego prove that vegetables under good salsa or a fat slice of avocado can carry a meal a long way.Read More
19 Vegan Tacos To Try in San Diego
Vegetables take the spotlight in this quintessential San Diego dish
A line always forms under the “Vegan Mexican Food” banner rising from the crowd at the Oceanside Sunset Market. At the grill, Victor Gamboa braises Jackfruit Carnitas, crumbles Adobada spiced soy under fresh cilantro and onions, and crisps up vegan fish for his cabbage dressed Phish Tacos.
Craft and Taco Lounge
At Craft and Taco Lounge (or C.A.T Lounge which explains the pointy ears adorning the menu) Chef Héctor Lozano brings his sushi chef sensibility to tacos. The vegan options begins with a Cauliflower Taco, a salad-like concoction of florets laid with arugula, apples, and lemon oil over thinly sliced jicama. Other choices include the Vegan Pastor with grilled pineapple and Buffalo Zucchini drizzled in vegan ranch.
Haggo's Organic Taco
Along the Encinitas stretch of Coast Highway, James Haggard’s modern incarnation of Haggo’s offers three vegan tacos, all of which are 100% organic. The Veronica Corningstone, much like the namesake Anchorman 2 character, is a standout. A hidden base of sweet potato supports tumbling red quinoa, avocado, vegan cheese, and fresh salsa cruda.
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Tocaya Organica, a high-design counter service Los Angeles-based chain now boasts two San Diego locations. Here all taco start vegan—from the Baja with shaved cabbage and vega chipotle crema, to the Tulum with sweet grilled pineapple and spicy arbol salsa. Vegan protein choices include cubed adobo spiced tofu, vegan chicken, and a richly seasoned Beyond Meat-based picadillo stew.
Galaxy Tacos are built, tortilla up, from scratch. The breezy La Jolla Shores patio serves two vegetarian tacos that can be modified vegan. Favorites include Chef Trey Foshee’s Grilled Avocado set on a swath of bean puree, with corn and a splash of lime.
Puesto La Jolla
Chef Luisteen Gonzalez’s plant-based menu omits the cheese from his popular Mexico City-style tacos, allowing the delicate flavors of vegetables to shine. The Mushroom Taco is a work of art with garlic braised morels and beec, dressed in pink pickled onions, sweet and spicy stone fruit serrano salsa, and delicate hearts on fire leaves. The Verduras Taco—a sautee of rajas, tatume squash, potatoes, corn, and nopales—arrives under a lobe of avocado with a fluttering zucchini blossom.
HI Street Kitchen and Tap
Spinning off the popular vegetarian restaurant Sipz, restaurateur Sylvia Le has hit her stride with the flavors of Hawaii. The Kickin’ Krispy Tacos comes filled with her signature vegan chicken under purple slaw and gochujang aioli with a drizzle of sriracha. Similarly, the Kalbi Kine Tacos come with deep fried vegan shrimp and saaw under wasabi aioli with a side of cabbage laced fried rice.
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In the heart of La Mesa local chain City Tacos offers two vegan tacos. Thin sheets of jicama stand in for tortillas under spinach, cauliflower, and green beans on the Coliflor Taco. A soft corn tortilla cradles chunky baby cremini and pasilla chilies in the Portobello and Vegetable taco (hold the cheese to make this one vegan).
Looming on the edge of Kensington, Ponce’s is a neighborhood mainstay. At first glance the menu doesn’t offer much for vegans, but the kitchen recently started stocking Impossible Meat which can be substituted into any dish for +$1. The seasoned crumbles fit snugly into the Mini Street Taco topped with avocado salsa. The Vegetarian Street Taco—with potatoes, pepper, mushroom, squash, and corn—is also vegan as-is.
FaVe Taco’s Elizabeth Cramer sources her vegetables at the farmer’s markets she serves. Her ancho braised Mountain Meadow mushroom are a year-round favorite, while selections like roasted Rodney Kawano Farms Rainbow Cauliflower and Squash and Sweet Corn pop up at their peak season. The tacos are finished in scratch-made toppings like almond jalapeno lime crema, sweet and spicy Valdivia Farms apple radish slaw, and house-made salda verde.
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An astounding amount of North Park’s Ranchos Cocina can made vegan including nearly every taco. From corn tortillas stuffed with classic nopales all the way to battered vegan shrimp, there is little off limit to vegans on this 100+ item menu.
At this very vegan-friendly Ocean Beach outpost, a stalk of battered tempeh steps into the vegan version of their Fish Taco. Other choices include sweet potato taco, vegan chicken, carne asada seasoned seitan under a fury of cabbage and vegan cheese.
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El Jardín Cantina
El Jardin Cantina’s menu offers a notable number of vegan options, a signature of most Rise and Shine’s restaurants. Among the choices is the Portobello Mushroom Taco. Crescents of mushroom fill the blue corn tortilla finished with with guacamole, grilled jalapeno, molcajete salsa (roasted tomato and chipotle adobo), grilled onions, and cilantro.
Vegan Tacos SD
On the edge of a Target parking lot a white food truck bluntly states “Vegan Tacos.” Although they carry more than tacos (like the notable tortas), they are San Diego’s the main source of vegan birria—a spiced stew stringy with enoki mushrooms—tacos. The classic asada taco comes with minced soy meat under cilantro and guacamole while their most popular taco, the Ensenada, arrives with battered and fried portabellos under purple cabbage and chipotle mayo.
Pokez Mexican Restaurant
One of San Diego earliest vegan-friendly restaurants, this multi-generational restaurant is now run by its namesake, Alfonzo “Pokey” Reyes. A favorite combination at this East Village icon is the mash-up of San Diego Soy Dairy herbed tofu into silky seasoned potato and earthy mushrooms. The filling is amply stuffed into paper swaddled taco and served with Pokez’s famous cabbage salad.
Frank Vizcarra and chef Drew Bent may have been surprised to win Michelin’s Bib Gourmand, but anyone who has eaten at Lola 55 was not. With concentrated obsession the kitchen chars cauliflower, plumps sweet golden raisins, and turns thin cuts of eggplant into “bacon” to build a taco experience not often gifted to vegetables. The Stuffed Squash Blossom, one of the restaurant’s most popular tacos, fills the delicate squash petals with almond cheese, sealed with a light batter and fry. The unassuming blossom is set with beet soyrizo, poblano salsa, and potato skin chicharron and arrives ready to bust diner’s expectation of vegan tacos.
Asada spiced chopped tempeh fill the Vegan Tempeh Tacos at Barrio Logan’s MishMash. Chef Doug Cook finishes the tacos with a burst of cabbage under chipotle cream and guacamole. Served with savory soyrizo refried beans and your choice of hot sauce from the cart next to the door.
¡Salud! National City
When Ernie Becerra’s taquizas (street taco catering) was ready to set roots in Barrio Logan, the vegan options were brought along as well. Options include the Mushroom Taco brimming with sauteed portabella and nopal with avocado (hold the cheese, not available at the National City location) and the Veggie Taco filled with a mash of soyrizo potato topped with bell pepper onion, zucchini with avocado. The crunch of chili oil added depth of texture for those who can handle the heat.
Eastlake vegans know to hit up Taco Lounge for their portabello tacos on handmade tortillas. Served mild under guacamole, the salad bar offers kicks of habanero and birria salsa.
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