Prehispanic Veganismo – The Tlaltequeada

A tlaltequeada is a kind of vegetable based rissole (1) typically made with vegetables, fruits, flowers and seeds. It is the perfect example of a quilitl (quelite) based dish and it could be argued that it is representative of a vegetable based cuisine as it would have been practised by prehispanic Mesoamericans.

  1. rissoles are what an Australian might call meat patties that include some grated veggies such as carrots, zucchini and herbs and spices.

There is an ongoing movement (primarily in the Americas but it is spreading into all areas we might term pre-Columbian) of the “decolonization” of dietary practices in these areas. This is a move towards not just towards local foods but also local cooking practices and philosophies. I find this to be particularly exciting when it comes to the quelites. These herbs were by and large dropped in favour of imports such as cilantro, various lettuces and herbs such as parsley and lemongrass (amongst many other things). Some were dropped due to their association with the indigenous population (1) and some such as amaranth were dropped due to religious usage of the plant (2), others have just been forgotten.

  1. this also plays somewhat into the phenomena of Malinchismo. See Post Malinche for a little more information on this.
  2. See Post Amaranth and the Tzoalli Heresy

Chef Emiliano Marquina Cruz of Nonantzin (1), a proponent of comida prehispanic artesanal, runs a stall inside the Mercado de Tepoztlán in Morelos and his tlaltequeada con flor de jamaica and mole de amaranto is an example of a prehispanic vegan dish (2). The recipe for one of Chef Emilianos tlaltequeadas follows a little further down.

  1. a stall inside the Mercado de Tepoztlán : Av. 5 de Mayo, Tepoztlán, Morelos, Mexico
  2. although the flor de jamaica originated in Africa (and was introduced via the Spanish) there is a long history of eating flowers in México. These might include squash flower (flor de calabaza), huazontle or gualumbos (maguey flowers). See Posts Las Flores Comestibles : Edible Flowers : Colorin; Flor de Maguey The Agave Flower and Bougainvillea : Bugambilia for just a few examples. Edible flowers are often described as a class of quelites.

The mercado in question lies at the heart of Tepoztlan right alongside the zocalo.

Another stall in the same mercado is that of El Tlecuil

I do love that their “comida vegetariana” stall also sells jabali (wild boar), venado (deer) and conejo (rabbit)

El Tlecuil is another proponent of artisanal prehispanic cuisine. They do not use eggs, dairy or lard (in their vegetarian cookery)(1). A short list of ingredients you might find in their food includes such things as, nopal, alache (2), quelites (3), pinole, insects (4), wild flowers (5), amaranth seed, guajes (6), chilacayote, jicama, agave flowers, epazote (7), local mushrooms, tequesquite water (used to reinforce flavours) (8) and of course the ubiquitous Mexican ingredient the chile. They are known for their tlaltequiadas , which are served with black beans, rice, hand made tortillas (and perhaps some mole if you like that sort of thing). “After trying them, you will never enter a McDonald’s again“, is how they are advertised on their Facebook page (9).

  1. egg however would have been part of a prehispanic diet, not as we eat chicken eggs today but anyone living near water had access to waterbirds and their eggs.
  2. a type of quelite. See Posts Alache : Anoda cristata for more information on this wild herb and Quelites : Quilitl for more information on the use of edible wild plants (specifically known as quelites)
  3. This word (quelites) can be a general term – See Post Quelites : Quilitl or it may be though of by some to refer to a specific plant. The plants most often described to me as quelites are that of amaranth species leaves (often also called quintonil) or that of cenizo (Chenopodium album).
  4. chapulines, jumiles, chicatanas, escamoles, ahuautli, gusanos and on and on and on……..
  5. bugambilia plays a big role
  6. see Post Guaje
  7. see Post Epazote
  8. see Posts Atole de Grano for another mention of using tequesquite water for flavouring and Tequesquite for further information on this ingredient
  9. «Después de probarlas jamás volverás a entrar a un McDonald´s»

A selection of El Tlecuils tlaltequiadas

Some of the ingredients mentioned……

What is salsa de yepatliche?

this was (and is) still a bit of a mystery to me. I have previously posted on the herb Senegalia acatlensis (1) which is also called borreguitos (or in Nahuatl yepaquilitl). Yepaquilitl has the same root word as “skunk” (yepatl/epatl) and is named as such because of the “strong and peculiar” scent of its flowers. This herb is used culinarily (2). Perhaps it is the plant used in this salsa (or perhaps it is named for its odour?). Investigation continues (if you know anything drop a comment)

  1. syn Acacia pueblensis ; Mariosousa acatlensis
  2. see Post Yepaquilitl : Another Skunk Weed for further information on this quelite.

Chef Emiliano Marquina Cruz’ Tlaltequeada de hoja de chaya con zanahoria y flor de Calabaza

(tlaltequeda of chaya leaf with carrot and squash flower)


  • 20 chaya leaves
  • 3 cebollas en pluma (“feathered” onions – see below recipe)
  • 20 pumpkin blossoms
  • 10 carrots
  • Pinole blanco – White pinole – quantity not given. This ingredient will be a binding agent in the recipe. See recipe below for Zucchini Fritters so you’ll catch my drift.
  • Agua de alpiste – Birdseed water??? – see below
  • White chia

Method :

  1. Cortamos 20 hojas de chaya, picamos 3 cebollas en pluma, deshebramos 20 flores de calabaza y rayamos (*) 10 zanahorias. (We cut 20 chaya leaves, we chop 3 onions in a feather, we shred 20 pumpkin flowers and we scratch 10 carrots.)
  2. add the pinole, birdseed water and white chia.
  3. mix all the ingredients with the base and ready your tlaltequeada.
  4. serve with a savory xitomamolli sauce. (a red tomato sauce)

(*) Rayamos (rayado) = scratched. This is a slang equivalent of the word “rallado” or “grated”

Some of the ingredients mentioned….

Chaya – Chayamansa – Tree Spinach – Cnidoscolus aconitifolius

There are a few varieties of leaf shape involved with chaya. Some are very similar to the poisonous plant Ricinus communis or the Castor oil plant so you must ABSOLUTELY NOT wildcraft this plant unless you are 100% (1) sure you have the right plant. See my previous Post Chaya for more in depth info on this plant.

  1. this level of assuredness is the equivalent of knowing the difference between milk and orange juice when you are getting the carton from the fridge.
Pinole blanco

Pinole (from the Nahuatl pinolli) is a traditional ingredient/food from prehispanic Mesoamerica. Made from ground, dried and toasted corn it was an ideal food for carrying on long journeys. It was light and could be easily rehydrated with water to create a drink similar in many ways to atole. It was (and is) carried by those ultramarathon running maniacs the Tarahumara on their monumental runs, some of which are over 100 miles (that’s right miles – not kilometres) long. These runners often add chia seed to this blend. Modern additions include cane sugar (panela, piloncillo) and cinnamon although anise, cocoa, chile, ginger or orange peel (zest) also provide complementary additions.

The benefits of pinole consumption are said to include….

  • it is an excellent source of energy (due to its carbohydrate content)
  • it is a rich source of  minerals such as iron, phosphorus and magnesium.
  • it reduces the risk of anaemia.
  • it encourages bowel regularity due to its fibre content
  • it improves the functioning of the kidneys and blood circulation.
  • it is a natural antioxidant
  • it is excellent for those suffering from coeliac disease (or gluten intolerance in general) as maize is gluten free
  • it helps reduce cholesterol

NONE of these claims have been exhaustively researched by myself as of yet. This is anecdotal (or as I prefer to say uncontrolled scientific observation) evidence.

Due to its main ingredient (un-nixtamalised corn), traditional pinoles show deficiency in some essential amino acids, which limits their protein quality (Aguliar etal 2008). This can be offset by adding local ingredients such as amaranth or chia seed or imports such as rice, lentils, barley or chickpeas (garbanzo beans).

Pinole (recipe)

  1. Pick, wash and clean 1 kg of corn kernels.
  2. Put the corn kernels to dry in the sun. (this may take days)
  3. Toast the corn kernels in a comal or casserole, cook for 20 minutes or until the kernels begin to pop.
  4. Grind the corn kernels, you can use a metate, coffee grinder or food processor.
  5. Add the piloncillo or sugar.
  6. Grind to a fine powder.

A couple of terms I had not come across before in my recipe research

For reference sake

Bird Seed Water (leche de alpiste)

This one had me for a minute. Bird seed water?

NOT this.

I had not come across this term before. It took some searching and what I discovered is that it is indeed a type of seed you feed to your birds from a plant called Canary Grass (Phalaris canariensis). You make a kind of nut milk (or probably more like amaranth grain milk – which I guess you could use as a substitute) (1)

  1. See Post Amaranth and the Tzoalli Heresy for a recipe for leche de amarantos (amaranth milk) and also amaranth horchata too if that interests you.

Agua de alpiste is said to have many health benefits (and will likely recieve a Post of its in the future)


  1. Soak the birdseed in 1 cup of water overnight.
  2. In the morning drain the seeds well, place the soaked seeds in a blender and add a litre of clean water. Blend as smooth as you can and strain.
  3. Take a glass in the morning on an empty stomach and another before going to sleep. Do not add fruit or sugar.

Some of the purported benefits of birdseed water are…

  • Helps with weight loss. It accelerates metabolism by starting the digestive system by activating the intestines and improving digestion.(sic)
  • It is an antioxidant. Great contribution of enzymes that delay aging.
  • It is diuretic and anti-inflammatory. Indicated for inflammation of the kidney, liver and pancreas. Inhibits bacterial urinary tract infections.
  • Fight cirrhosis (1) and arteriosclerosis (2). Eliminates fat deposits from our body. Indicated for people with cholesterol.
  • Indicated for diabetics. It can help regulate blood sugars (3).
  1. liver damage
  2. The build-up of fats, cholesterol and other substances in and on the artery walls
  3. WARNING. This is also an indication that it might interfere with diabetic medications. Exercise caution (or seek professional advice) if using in conjunction with antidiabetic medications.

NONE of these claims have been exhaustively researched by myself as of yet. These are uncontrolled scientific observations and I will research further and Post on this in the future. There are other “milks” such as horchata or amaranth seed milk which will likely be the basis of their own Post in the future (although these do already appear in various other Posts). See Posts Horchata and Amaranth and the Tzoalli Heresy.

(Photo Laura Berrones Perez)

At Restaurante El Cuatecomate just up the road from the Tepoztlan market at  Revolución 10, Santo Domingo also has an excellent selection of tlaltequeadas.

Don Hancel, the owner of El Cuatecomate, says that this particular tlaltequeada is his star dish (tortitas de vegetales elaboradas a base de pinole blanco, alpiste y chia blanca,) vegetable pancakes made from white pinole, birdseed and white chia,

When I say “tortita”, which is often translated as “pancake” I mean this….

This is a tortita (for the purposes of this Post anyway)

…and not this……

and this is a pancake.

Other flavours on offer include….

  • Hojas de chaya con zanahoria y flor de calabaza
  • Betabel con pétalos de rosa de Castilla, flor de Jamaica, tallos de apio y avena tostada
  • Quintoniles con hoja de alache, y hoja de cenizos
  • De siete semillas con quinoa y arándano
  • Chapulines con cebolla asada y hongos de casahuate
  • Nopalitos con verdolaga
  • Berros con terminados, hojas de alfalfa y hojas de moringa
  • Chiles rellenos de chapulines y salsa de cacahuate o rellenos de semillas con salsa de hierbas
  • Yuca con pera asada, manzana y coco rallado
  • Plátano, piña, arándanos, ajonjolí y amaranto

Another tlaltequiada from the Tepoztlan mercado.
This one is a take on the famous Mexican dish Chiles en Nogada.

Tlaltequiada en nogada de tres tipos de plátano: macho, manzano y dominico, rellena de arándanos y cubierta en ajonjolí garrapiñado. Y esa granada, y esa bugambilia.

Tlatequiada “en nogada” (with a walnut sauce) with 3 types of banana, stuffed with blueberries and covered with candied sesame seeds; garnished with pomegranate seeds and bougainvillea flowers

Although I have never eaten a tlaltequeada we often ate a version of it as shown in the recipe below. I guess technically this recipe is a form of tlaltequeada as it is made from zucchini. Zucchinis are ancestors of a type of summer squash that originated in the Americas. The zucchini as I know it is said to have been developed from its Mesoamerican grandparents by Italians some time in the 18th century. (Paris 1996) (Lust 2016)

Zucchini Fritters (tortitas de calabacín)


  • 3 (about 400g) medium zucchini
  • 75g (1/2 cup) self-raising flour
  • 40g (1/2 cup) parmesan, finely grated, plus extra to serve
  • 3 spring onions (often called scallions – sometimes called shallots) thinly sliced
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • 1/4 cup fresh continental parsley (flat leaved) , chopped
  • 2 tsp dried oregano leaves
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil


  1. Trim the ends from zucchini and coarsely grate it
  2. Place in a colander (or wrap tightly in a teatowel) and squeeze out as much excess moisture as possible. Transfer to a bowl.
  3. Stir in self-raising flour, parmesan, spring onion, egg, parsley, oregano, salt and nutmeg.
  4. Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat.
  5. Drop dollops of zucchini mixture (about the size of a golf ball) into the pan. Ensure that the oil is hot so it fries rather than absorbing into the fritter. Do not overcrowd the pan. Cook for a couple of minutes each side or until golden and cooked through. This shouldn’t take too long if your oil and pan is hot.
  6. Transfer to a plate. Place on paper towels to absorb excess oil.
  7. Continue cooking until all your fritters are done.


  • Aguilar, Olaydes & Vega, Esteban & Bernal, Irma & Robles, Hugo & Jacinto-Hernández, Carmen. (2008). “PINOLE” OF HIGH NUTRITIONAL VALUE OBTAIN FROM CEREALS AND LEGUMES. Ra Ximhai.
  • Carrera, Y.; Utrilla-Coello, R.; Bello-Pérez, A.; Alvarez-Ramirez, J.; Vernon-Carter, E.J. (2015). In vitro digestibility, crystallinity, rheological, thermal, particle size and morphological characteristics of pinole, a traditional energy food obtained from toasted ground maize. Carbohydrate Polymers, 123(), 246–255. doi:10.1016/j.carbpol.2015.01.044
  • Lust, T. A., & Paris, H. S. (2016). Italian horticultural and culinary records of summer squash (Cucurbita pepo, Cucurbitaceae) and emergence of the zucchini in 19th-century Milan. Annals of botany, 118(1), 53–69.
  • Paris, Harry. (1996). Summer Squash: History, Diversity, and Distribution. Hort Technology. 6. 6-13. 10.21273/HORTTECH.6.1.6.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s