Latin Food Goes Vegan: Terry Hope Romero and Our Top Vegan Picks in NYC

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Terry Hope Romero’s pantry in Queens contains all of the staples of a home cook, but one ingredient she always keeps at hand stands out: vital wheat gluten flour.

She mixes it with vegetable broth, flour, yeast and spices to make seitan, the “meat” she uses in her “chicken” and “pork” -style dishes. “Seitan is made out of wheat, it’s high protein, chewy, you can roast it and grill it,” she says.

It also provides the heartiness you find in a lot of the Latin dishes she prepares at home. Romero uses it as a filling for empanadas, in arroz con “pollo”, and her Cubano sandwiches. Her latest book Viva Vegan! 200 Authentic and Fabulous Recipes for Latin Food Lovers is a nod to her Venezuelan roots; however, it’s a far departure from the meat-centric dishes we grew up with.

Going vegan may be a far stretch for anyone who loves their pollo guisado and lechon asado, unthinkable even. But with so many vegan-friendly choices in NYC, you no longer have to trek to the west coast to find vegan dishes with sazón. Now it’s easier than ever to savor these Latin options around the city and incorporate some of these ideas into your own kitchen.

“New York is probably one of the most vegan-friendly cities,” said Romero, who moved to NYC in the 1990’s to work as a pastry chef at the now defunct Colombian vegan eatery Bachué. Even though this restaurant is long gone, kitchens all over the city continue to be captivated by the vibrant flavors and ingredients of our cuisine, incorporating Latin-inspired dishes to their vegan menus. (So perhaps it’s vegan food that’s going Latin, eh?)

Check out a few of our top picks from around the city:

Candle 79

This elegant organic “oasis” in the Upper East Side serves fresh seasonal favorites like Grilled Seitan Chimichurri and Summer Harvest Paella.

154 East 79th Street

New York, NY 10021


Pure Food and Wine

Spend a breezy summer night in this outdoor garden and prepare yourself for a raw experience: order the Sweet Corn and Cashew Tamal with Chili Spiced Portabella and a delicate Mexican Cinnamon Mousse for dessert.

54 Irving Pl

(between 17th St & 18th St)

New York, NY 10003

(212) 477-1010

Food Swings

Vegan doesn’t have to mean serious food. Indulge in buffalo wings, cheesesteaks, corn dogs and milkshakes, as well as burgers and nachos, and enjoy vegan junk food at its finest.

295 Grand Street

Brooklyn, NY


The V-Spot Café

This family-owned spot in Park Slope is known for its empanadas and sweet potato fries. For a vegan stick-to-your-ribs alternative, try their Colombian Bandeja Paisa, a filling plate of seitan steak, onions, chorizo, brown rice, black beans, crepa con queso, maduro and avocado.

156 5th Ave

Brooklyn, NY 11215

(718) 622-2275