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    Vegan-Friendly Destinations in Thailand

    Traditional Thai food is world-renowned for its irresistible aromas and flavours but the vegetarian/vegan experience can be marred by the inclusion of fish sauce or fermented fish paste, meat stock and eggs. But with rising tourism comes the demand for cuisine catering to special diets, making Thailand one of the more popular vegan travel vacation destinations.

    Northern Thai cuisine traditionally lacks the fish sauce hidden in typical favourites like Pad Thai due to its close proximity to the Burmese border and influences from the region making it different to southern traditional Thai food. Instead, the food focuses on ingredients in the area like herbs and plants. Thus, regional towns such as Chiang Mai and Pai have become vegan/ vegetarian food courts offering an abundance of local dishes green papaya salad, green curry, rice noodles like pad thai, spring rolls and coconut milk soups without fish sauce or any other animal products added.

    Bangkok

    Bangkok has always been a foodies’ mecca with an amazing array of street food but has increasingly become a popular destination on a vegan travel itinerary. Although the city is vegetarian-friendly, vegan food has been more challenging to find. Restauranteurs have recognized the growing demand for plant-based cuisine and consequently more and more chic vegan eateries are popping up over the city.

    Vegan tropical fruit smoothie bowl

    Koh Tao

    Koh Tao attracts divers from across the globe to its shores and with that comes the demand for all types of food including vegan. There are vegan-friendly options all over this compact island offering variations of Thai food classics, cold-pressed green juices, chia seed puddings, smoothies, western variations like vegan burgers, quinoa salads and the like.

    vegetarian food in phuket

    Phuket

    The Phuket Vegetarian Festival or otherwise known as the Kin Jay Festival is a week-long event happens that once per year during the ninth lunar month, which is usually in October. It is one of the most auspicious events on the island with most restaurants closing for one week. During this cultural festival based on Hindu beliefs, devotees don’t eat meat so you will find endless food stalls full of tasty vegetarian fare. This is vegetarianism taken to the extreme not only with food but with many devotees also practising self-mutilation acts such as piercing metal all over their bodies as acts of faith. Expect colour parades, hoards of people, firewalking, and tofu cooked in every type of way imaginable!

    Phuket is home to a number of upmarket wellness resorts that also offer dedicated vegetarian and vegan menus. There are also eateries scattered throughout the island serving Thai and Chinese adapted vegetarian and vegan dishes.

    Pai

    Pai has gained a reputation amongst travellers as the laid back holistic health capital of the northern region, packed with organic fooderies, vegan and vegetarian cafes, yoga retreats and healing arts centres. Once a hippy and backpacker hotspot, the small town has transformed into more of an upmarket bohemian melting pot full of western and Chinese tourists. Foodies can find cooking classes and workshops on how to make fermented products such as kombucha and kefir, as well as raw cuisine and macrobiotic cooking. 

    tofu curry- thai vegan food

    Chiang Mai

    Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand is a tourist epicentre best known for its mountains, hill tribes, ancient temples, elephants and artisan markets. However, the area has a buzzing food scene and popular cooking schools. Plant-based dining is abundant so you will find a good selection of vegan restaurants, night markets selling tons of vegetarian and vegan-friendly street food and a cooking school or five to teach you how to make these delicious local vegetarian dishes and how to shop at the food markets for the right ingredients.

    Koh Phangan

    More than just full moon party revellers, Koh Phangan holds a bohemian spirit one in which mediation and yoga centres, environmental conservation and veganism reign supreme. So it’s no surprise that the island offers a vast array of vegan food from street-style Thai adapted favourites to macrobiotic and designer raw plant-based creations. Think gluten-free, granola smoothie bowls, guilt-free raw cacao cakes, protein nut milkshakes, scrambled tofu, Buddha salad bowls, raw bliss balls…and the list goes on!


    Frequently Asked Questions

    Is Thailand vegan friendly?

    It is certainly more vegetarian friendly than vegan friendly. Thai vegetarian food is available throughout Thailand, but be aware that some vegetable dishes will contain some fish sauce or paste or eggs so can be trickier for a vegan. You can usually request that these ingredients be omitted to make certain dishes like pad thai vegan.

    What Thai dishes are vegan?

    Thai vegetarian food is available throughout Thailand, but be aware that some vegetable dishes will contain some fish sauce or paste. If dishes are being prepared from scratch you can usually request that these ingredients be omitted to make them vegan. Pad Thai can be vegan if you don’t add eggs or fish sauce (use soy sauce instead). Green papaya salad is vegan without the fish sauce, so are red and green vegetable curries (usually with tofu added), vegetable stir fry, vegetable spring rolls and desserts like the delicious mango sticky rice.

    How many vegans are there in Thailand?

    There are many Buddhist monks in Thailand who follow a vegetarian/vegan diet. Thais tend to understand vegetarian as not meat but that fish is acceptable. Veganism is still novel to the overall population but is gaining a following in the capital city with plant-based cafes and restaurants popping up over town with Instragrammable interiors and menus.

    Are Thai curries vegan?

    Thai curry is generally made with coconut milk, vegetables, and tofu but sometimes the curry paste has shrimp paste and fish sauce in it. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to check that there is no shrimp paste or fish sauce in your dish first.

    Is vegetarian food available in Thailand?

    Yes, vegetarian food is available throughout Thailand, but be aware that some vegetable dishes will contain some fish sauce or paste. If dishes are being prepared from scratch you can usually request that these ingredients be omitted.

    What do vegetarians eat in Bangkok?

    Typical Thai vegetarian dishes include Vegan Laab, Mixed Tofu, Stir-Fried Vegetables and Pad Thai: Stir-Fried Noodles, Papaya Salad, Vegetarian Curries, Stir-Fried Pumpkin and Morning Glory to name a few.

    What is vegan?

    A vegan diet consists of no animal products or animal by-products. It is purely plant-based.

    Is Bangkok vegan friendly?

    Although the city is vegetarian-friendly, vegan food has been more challenging to find. In recent years, restaurateurs have recognized the growing demand for plant-based cuisine and consequently more and more chic vegan eateries are popping up over the city.

    How do vegans eat at Thai restaurants?

    Thai restaurants will always offer tofu options and some dishes can leave out the fish paste or sauce making them vegan.

    Which Thai curries are vegetarian?

    All Thai curries can be adapted to be vegetarian, using tofu as a protein replacement. These include red, green, yellow and Massaman curries. But sometimes the curry paste has shrimp paste and fish sauce in it. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to check that there is no shrimp paste or fish sauce in your dish first.

    Is vegetarian food available in Thailand?

    Yes, vegetarian food is available throughout Thailand, but be aware that some vegetable dishes will contain some fish sauce or paste. If dishes are being prepared from scratch you can usually request that these ingredients be omitted. Thai vegetarian food usually consists of rice with some vegetables, tofu, egg, and coconut products with aromatic sauces and spicy flavours.

    Is vegan food available in Thailand?

    Vegetarian food is readily available as Thai Buddhist monks are vegetarians. However, vegan food can be a bit more challenging to find as some vegetable dishes will contain some fish sauce or paste. If dishes are being prepared from scratch you can usually request that these ingredients be omitted along with eggs.

    Which are the best places in Thailand for vegan food?

    Certain destinations like Chiang Mai, Koh Phangan and increasingly Bangkok, are becoming known as vegan hotspots in Thailand. You can find always book a vegan tour with a specialised tour operator in Bangkok and beyond.

    Is Chiang Mai vegan friendly?

    Chiang Mai has a buzzing food scene and is home to popular cooking schools. Plant-based dining is abundant so you will find a good selection of vegan restaurants, night markets selling tons of vegetarian and vegan-friendly street food and vegan-dedicated cooking schools which will teach you how to adapt traditional Thai dishes.

    Is it easy to eat vegan in Thailand?

    Although vegetarian food is readily available as Thai Buddhist monks are vegetarians, vegan food can be a bit more challenging to find as some vegetable dishes will contain some fish sauce or paste. If dishes are being prepared from scratch you can usually request that these ingredients be omitted along with eggs. Certain destinations like Chiang Mai, Koh Phangan and increasingly Bangkok, are becoming known as vegan hotspots in Thailand.

    Is Thai Food Healthy?

    Thai cuisine can be healthy because uses a lot of vegetables, lean proteins like seafood and fish, along with fresh herbs and spices. But Thai dishes can be high in fat especially if deep-fried, high in refined carbs and can contain added sugar and high amounts of salt. Opt for stir-fries, soups and curries instead of fried chicken, fish cakes or spring rolls to be on the healthier side.

    Is it easy to be vegetarian in Thailand?

    Vegetarian food is readily available as Thai Buddhist monks are vegetarians. Thai restaurants will always offer tofu options and some dishes can leave out the fish paste or sauce making them vegan.

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