How To Be Vegan In Thailand
Welcome friends! In this post you will find out all you need to know about vegan Thailand- how to order vegan Thai food, the best vegan friendly Thai dishes and what to look out for in various Thai recipes, as well as some vegan restaurant recommendations for traveling Thailand.
I have traveled in several Asian countries as a vegan. I found Bali in Indonesia, and Sri Lanka, to have amazing vegan food that was easily accessible, tasty and healthy.
I enjoyed all kinds of vegetable curries, tofu in various forms, tempeh (a new and wonderful vegan discovery) and of course rice and noodles. I assumed that Thailand would be as easy for vegan travelers- in reality it was a big challenge. This was mainly for four reasons:
- I usually stayed in non-touristy areas, and the vegan specialist cafes are often in the westernized areas as they are more expensive.
- I eat a protein-heavy diet; it’s the only way I feel satisfied, eating loads of fruit makes me feel sick so I need something like tofu or tempeh. Rice and veggies alone for every meal just does not cut it for me.
- When I ordered pretty much any vegetarian dish, there was usually some sort of animal product used to make it. If I ordered stir-fried greens they were very likely to come in oyster sauce or fish sauce. Even the papaya salad I’d been loving usually has ground up shrimp, which I would never have guessed if I hadn’t seen a chef make it at a food court.
- Meat is everywhere. Street food stalls, restaurants, microwave meals from 7/11 (the national convenience store), all meat based. I’ve been in restaurants and food courts where there is not one vegetarian dish on the menu, let alone vegan.
So it’s a challenge, but I did it and you can too! Here are my top tips to ensure you can eat a happy vegan Thailand diet while travelling in the beautiful country.
How to say “I am Vegan” in Thai
For women: “Chan gin jay”
For men: “Pom gin jay”
Ordering tips and Thai phrases you’ll need in vegan Thailand
When ordering a seemingly vegan dish, ensure that you ask for no fish sauce, no oyster sauce and no dried shrimp. These are standard additions to many Thai dishes and are obviously not vegan.
Here are the Thai phrases vegan travelers will need (the spellings are NOT accurate, I have written them as you’ll need to say them):
“Mimi nam pla” (No fish sauce)
“Mimi kung” (No shrimp)
“Mimi horee nangrom” (no oyster sauce)
“Mimi nooah” (no meat)
“Mimi kai” (no egg)
“Mimi nom” (no milk)
“Mimi cheez” (no cheese)
“Man saweerat borisu” (pure vegetarian / vegan)
Vegan Thai food that doesn’t need altering
So here are some of my favourite vegan Thai foods that I’ve been having. There aren’t many because seriously, almost all Thai dishes have some animal additions.
When I got a fruit smoothie I realised they’d added condensed milk. TO A FRUIT SMOOTHIE, WHY? So here’s the stuff that I’ve found that is naturally vegan without having to ask for special changes:
- Sticky rice and mango– this is a sweet dish that is actually made in Heaven, sent down to be served on Khao San road and across Thailand. Sticky rice is cooked in sweet coconut milk and served with slices of fresh mango. Bliss.
2. Deep-fried tofu. I had this in Bangkok and it was gorgeous- cubes of tofu in a crispy, salty coating with a soft inside, served with quick-fried garlic, onion and chilli garnish. There’s a picture of this in my vegan for beginners guide and seeing it makes my mouth water!
3. Rice. Obviously.
4. Rice noodles. See above.
5. Veggies stir-fried in soy sauce
Yup, writing this really feels like stating the obvious but that’s how it is! When you want something more substantial, use the tips below to ensure your food is cooked vegan.
Vegan Thailand: Thai dishes that can be made vegan
So here’s some of my favourite Thai dishes that, with a bit of fine tuning, you can order as a vegan when traveling in Thailand.
Green Thai curry– check for chicken stock and fish sauce
Red Thai curry– check for shrimp paste
Massaman curry– check for beef stock, shrimp paste and fish sauce
Yellow Thai curry– check for fish sauce
Pad Thai- check for fish sauce, chicken stock and egg
Papaya Salad– check for ground dried shrimp
Stir-fried morning glory– check for oyster sauce
Stir-fried broccoli- check for added shrimp
Fruit smoothies, tea and coffee– check for added condensed milk
Vegan Thailand: Vegan cafes & restaurants
Here’s a round-up of Thailand’s vegan restaurants (or vegetarian with vegan options) to start you vegan travelers off with some foolproof, ethical, tasty food before you start trying to order from local places! Many of the restaurants have their own website for contact details.
Bangkok Vegan Restaurants
Bonita cafe and social club: A vintage-inspired cafe run by a cute couple and a few cats!
Govinda Italian restaurant: A vegan and vegetarian restaurant serving delicious Italian cuisine
May Veggie home: Serving local and international dishes plus a vegan bakery and vegan ice cream!
Veganerie Bangkok: A classy joint with hearty dishes, breakfasts and smoothies
Broccoli Revolution: Organic Thai and Burmese vegan cuisine and cold-pressed juices
Chiang Mai Vegan Restaurants
Amrita Garden: Organic vegan dishes in a cozy atmosphere
Free Bird Cafe: Vegan eatery with 100% of the proceeds going to support Burmese refugees
Reform Kafe: Vegan cafe in beautiful surroundings within the Old City
Tea Tree Cafe: Another popular cafe with an open mic night on Saturdays
Taste From Heaven: Vegan food from $3 a dish, plus vegan desserts
Phuket vegan restaurants
Pure Vegan Heaven: Vegan burgers, salads and even creme brûlée…
Yo Green Vegetarian and Vegan: Large portions of hearty vegan dishes
Koh Samui restaurants
Vikasai Life Organic: High end raw vegan cuisine
Thailand is a great place to travel, with loads of fresh, delicious food, beautiful weather and scenery. I love traveling in Thailand and have spent five months there over the years; it is beautiful and full of adventure and there is certainly a vegan Thailand that, with a little effort, is waiting to be discovered!