Thailand is one of the best destinations in the world for foodies, including vegetarians and vegans. This is a country where you can find fresh fruit and vegetables at a plethora of food markets and restaurants across the nation. If you’re travelling to Thailand and need to keep to your vegetarian or vegan diet, check out our handy tips and advice below.
Ordering vegetarian and vegan food
When you are ordering vegetarian food from a restaurant or street stall in Thailand there are some things to be aware of, especially if you are vegan. Thai vegetarian food may include eggs (e.g. a vegetarian pad Thai) but is unlikely to include dairy products (coconut milk is more likely to be used). Although most stir-fried dishes are prepared using vegetable oil you may need to double-check. Fish sauce (nam pla) is a commonly used ingredient in Thai cooking and may be included in some vegetarian dishes. That delicious looking plate of stir-fried vegetables may at first glance appear to be vegan-friendly, but oyster sauce (nam mon hoi) may have been added.
Food courts are located at shopping centres across Thailand and offer inexpensive food and air-conditioned comfort. They are often a good choice for vegetarians seeking something quick and easy.
When seeking out vegetarian restaurants in Thailand, look for venues displaying a yellow flag or pennant with red writing in either Thai or Chinese script (and sometimes both).
The Thai word for vegetarian is mungsawirat, but the word jay is also commonly used and one to know if you are vegan. The word jay is derived from Jainism, an ancient eastern religion with some similarities to Buddhism. Jains follow a strict vegetarian diet that even precludes eating some root vegetables such as potatoes and onions.
Useful Thai phrases
- Vegetarian: mungsawirat
- Vegan: jay
- I only eat vegetarian/vegan food: di-chan kin jay ka (female) / pom kin jay khap (male)
- I only eat vegetables: di-chan kin tae pak ka (female) / pom kin tae pak khap (male)
- Restaurant: raan ahaan
- Vegetarian restaurant: raan ahaan mungsawarit/jay
- Fish sauce: nam plaa
- Oyster sauce: nam mon hoi
- Soy sauce: nam see-ew
- Tofu: tao-huu
- Vegetable oil: nam mam pheut
- Please don’t use fish sauce: mai sai nam pla ka/khap
- Please don’t use oyster sauce: mai sai nam mon hoi ka/khap
- Please use vegetable oil: sai nam mam pheut ka/khap
The polite way of saying I/me is to say di-chan (used by females) or pom (used by males). Remember to add the polite word ka (female) or khap (male) at the end of the phrase you are using.
Online translators do a good job with English-Thai translations, but you can also ask your hotel or guest-house to write down on paper the key phrases you’ll need. This will make it easier for the vendor and also provide you with an opportunity to learn how to pronounce it in Thai. Even if English isn’t always spoken or you’re struggling to get the right Thai pronunciation, a smile goes a long way in Thailand.
With an array of tasty tropical fruits readily available, there’s no excuse not to get your 5 A Day during your travels in Thailand. You’ll find fresh fruit for sale along with refreshing fruit smoothies at markets across Thailand. A number of smaller cafes and hotels also serve up satisfying and healthy smoothie bowls which make for the perfect way to start the day.
- Banana: kluay
- Coconut: maphrao
- Lime: manao
- Mango: mamuang
- Mangosteen: mangkhut
- Orange: som
- Pineapple: sapporot
- Watermelon: taeng moh
- Orange juice: nam som
- Fruit: pon-la-mai
- Fruit shake: pon-la-mai pan
An annual Vegetarian Festival (Tesagan Kin Jay) takes place at locations around Thailand including Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Krabi, Pattaya, Phuket and Trang. The exact dates of the event vary each year, but it is usually held over a nine day period in September/October.
The Vegetarian Festival has links to the Thai-Chinese community with the most prominent event held in Phuket. Thailand’s largest island hosts this fascinating event which in Phuket is also known as the Nine Emperor Gods Festival. There is a traditional belief amongst Phuket’s Chinese community that abstinence from meat and other negative stimulants during the festival will lead to overall good health and a clear mind. While eating vegetarian food is part of this, the acts of self-mutilation and extreme body piercing are what grabs the headlines. The Nine Emperor Gods Festival is an unforgettable event to witness in person, but not for the faint-hearted.
Vegan and vegetarian locations
We’ve put together some suggestions below for you to try, but vegetarian restaurants and street stalls can be found at locations across Thailand. Ask at your accommodation for any local recommendations. Using the Grab app, you can go online to scout out the location of the local vegetarian restaurants. Grab take a cut on all food deliveries, so if possible try to visit the restaurant in person.
For accommodation, an increasing number of hotels in Thailand are vegan-friendly as part of their responsible and sustainable tourism initiatives. This includes sourcing bathroom and spa products that aren’t tested on animals, providing non-feather pillows, and using locally produced and organic fruit and vegetables.
The numerous restaurants in Bangkok’s Chinatown area are a good option for vegetarians. The Pratunam area is another area with a variety of Indian restaurants serving vegetarian and vegan options.
- Broccoli Revolution
- Kind Cafe
- May Veggie Home
- Na Aroon
- Seven Spoons
- Suananda Kitchen
- The Earthling Cafe
Along with Bangkok and Phuket, the city of Chiang Mai probably offers the most options for vegetarians and vegans. A little way out of Chiang Mai, the scenic mountain town of Pai is another vegetarian-friendly destination. Located in Mae Hong Son province, Pai attracts an eclectic mix of Thai and overseas travellers. Despite the negative impact of Covid, both Pai and Chiang Mai have managed to maintain a wide array of vegetarian eateries.
Chiang Mai restaurants
- Aeeen Japanese Vegan
- Meena Rice Based Cuisine
- Ming Kwan
- Ran Joke Pa Lek
- Reform Kafé
- Salad Concept
- The Ironwood
Chiang Mai accommodation
Ko Pha Ngan
While it may be better known for the Full Moon Party, the island of Ko Pha Ngan has a long association with health-conscious travellers. Despite the small size of the island, vegetarians and vegans are especially well-catered for.
Ko Pha Ngan restaurants
Ko Pha Ngan accommodation
As with neighbouring Ko Pha Ngan, the island of Ko Samui is another destination with a number of excellent vegan and vegetarian options. Compared to the mainland, prices on Samui tend to be higher for most things and that includes food.
Ko Samui restaurants
- Halapua by Kapuhala
- Jay Tamachad Vegetarian (Bangrak near Big Buddha)
- Lamai Veggie (Lamai)
- Vegan Khunnay (Bophut)
- Wild Tribe Superfood Cafe (Lamai)
Ko Samui accommodation
In Krabi Town, there are a number of vegetarian options in and around the morning market and also along Maharat Road on the stretch between the white temple of Wat Kaew Korawararam and the distinctive caveman traffic lights. A number of restaurants and cafes in Ao Nang and Railay offer vegetarian options so it’s always worth checking the menu if you see a place you like the look of.
- Plant-erian Vegan Cafe & Restaurant (Ao Nang)
- Hongming (Krabi Town)
- May & Mark (Krabi Town)
- Somkid (Krabi Town)
- Kohinoor Indian Restaurant (Railay)
- Pakasai Resort (Ao Nang)
- Koh Jum Beach Villas (read more about Ko Jum here)
- Sofitel Krabi Phokeethra Resort (Klong Muang Beach)
- Layana Resort & Spa (Ko Lanta)
- Pimalai Resort & Spa (Ko Lanta)
- The Tubkaak Boutique Resort (Tubkaek Beach)
- Pure Vegan Heaven (Chalong)
- Macrobiotic World (Nai Harn)
- Yo Vegan (Patong)
- Dok Bua Vegetarian (Phuket Town)
- Nong Jay (Phuket Town)
- The Vegan Table (Phuket Town)
- A number of the vegetarian restaurants in and around Ranong Road in Phuket Town are also vegan, but not all have menus in English. These two on Ranong Road are popular with locals: Jiya Chai and Ruam Jai Vegetarian Restaurant.
- Atsumi Raw Cafe (Rawai)
- Go Vegan Restaurant (Rawai)
- Divine Restaurant at Thanyapura (Thalang)
- Kata Rocks
- Kata Thani
- Paresa Resorts
- The Lifeco Phuket Holistic Wellness Centre
- Santosa Detox & Wellness
More information and feedback
Sadly, the impact of Covid and the dramatic loss of tourism forced a number of restaurants to close. But Thailand is bouncing back and there are still plenty of wonderful eateries waiting to welcome vegetarians and vegan travellers. To the best of our knowledge, all of the restaurants and resorts listed here are open at the time of writing (October 2022). If you have any feedback or if there is a favourite place of yours that deserves to be included, let us know.
For more information and reviews, the Happy Cow website is an excellent source of information on vegan and vegetarian restaurants and cafes across Thailand.
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