Built around its cruelty-free Buddhist tenets, Thai cuisine is actually quite plant-based in its natural form, with hardly any traces of dairy. As it evolved, ingredients like fish sauce were introduced to many dishes as a substitute for salt, and the greater availability of quality meats and fish encouraged an ubiquitous image of Thai food as a carnivore’s delight. Veganism is on the rebound in the kingdom however. So whether you’re a lifelong herbivore or just after a healthy retreat to the Land of Smiles, here are the best places in Thailand for vegans.
Last year, Thailand received a record-breaking number of tourists, and the increase nationwide in availability of vegan-specific options reflects a concurrently upward worldwide trend toward the diet. This rise came with a new understanding of veganism in Thailand.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
For years, vegetarianism was loosely translated to mean “visible pieces of meat or seafood,” but stock, eggs, and fish sauce were fair play. Restaurants today – whether specialty vegan or offering a wider range – understand the demand for “kin jay” or “che” food, the removal or substitution of any animal products from a dish, traditionally associated with the diet of active Buddhist monks. These restaurants are typically marked with a yellow banner and red Thai writing – เจ – that when blown up looks like the number “17.” Specialty restaurants of this variety exist in every city, but plant-based cuisine going mainstream is a relatively new development.
This recognition can mean a whole new travel experience for the vegan tourist who is often limited to piecing together their own meals from grocery stores.
The birthplace of ultra-spicy Isaan cuisine, Chiang Mai has long been a citywide food court for vegans. With so many restaurants that feature exclusively plant-based menus, it’s hard to find one that doesn’t have at least a few solid offerings.
Regularly acclaimed as an unofficial food capital of Thailand, it was a natural development for Chiang Mai to lead the charge in plant-based dining. Issan, or Northern Thai, food also traditionally lacks the fish sauce hidden in typical favourites like Pad Thai because of how the cuisine developed in relative isolation near the Burmese border. Instead, the food focuses on readily available ingredients in the area, like roots, herbs, and plants.
Arguably one of the restaurants responsible for popularizing plant-based eating in Chiang Mai, Blue Diamond has been a stop for herbivore travelers and locals alike for years. Also known locally as “The Breakfast Club” thanks to its incredible early-morning eats and organic coffee sourced from Hill Tribes living just outside city limits, Blue Diamond serves its menu all day and does keep meat in its kitchen – which they’re happen to incorporate into any dish for your carnivore friends. Portions of Thai, Vietnamese, and Western food are huge, and the restaurant also keeps a well-stocked shop of organic goodies, cosmetics, breads, and even vegan ice cream.
Free Bird Cafe
This popular café satisfies two goals in one stop: healthy, clean eating, and supporting social welfare. Free Bird supports the Thai Freedom House, a community education centre that supports “displaced persons” like Burmese refugees, indigenous people, and minorities. The program educates, trains, and supports these communities aiming to increase literacy, arts, and economic opportunities within. The mission is clear in the restaurant’s operation – its menu pays tribute to delicious Burmese fare, including its Sham somtam and tealeaf salad. There are Western delights aplenty as well. Check out their range of smoothie bowls or the ultra-popular pancakes and French toast.
Chiang Mai Night Bazaar
Faced with the typical fare like meat satay and wok-fried noodles soaking up the meat flavours of the previous order, vegans have long been wary of arriving to Thai night market. The Night Bazaar is smack in the centre of Chiang Mai’s Old Town. Ground zero for cheap food and souvenir shopping within the city, visitors can find almost anything – quality Thai silk, electronics of varying authenticity and quality, and of course, lots of food. There are tons of stalls with plenty of vegan and vegetarian options, including a lot of veganized Chinese and Isaan staples like larb, noodles, and stir-fries.
As the access point for many visitors to the rest of the kingdom, it was only natural for Bangkok to eventually follow the lead of its little sister to the North. The city has long been friendly to vegetarian diets, as Thai food is almost always made to order, and substitutions like tofu or mushrooms for meat were an easy fix. Pesky flavour additions like fish sauce or fermented fish paste limited fare for vegans however. Budding restaurateurs recognized the growing demand, and today all corners of the city have amazing plant-based options.
A relatively new addition to Bangkok’s food game, Broccoli Revolution has created a completely plant-based menu revitalizing popular dishes from around the world. The ingredients are certified organic and locally grown, promising no pesticides or other additives incorporated into popular dishes like the broccoli quinoa charcoal burger, a Lebanese mezze platter, Indian curries, pizza, mac and cheese, and a huge menu of cold-pressed juices and smoothies.
Italian cuisine has been popularized the world over, with individual cultures regularly adopting their own takes on the classic staples. Think: squid and snail-loaded pizzas on a sweet potato crust popular in South Korean, or kissaten in Japan – spaghetti coated in a matcha sauce with accompanying whipped cream and red bean paste. Govinda in Bangkok has salvaged the popular fare for the vegan community and serves a full range of Italian staples in both vegetarian and vegan varieties. Running since 1997, its menu items are packed with flavour and taste remarkably like the real thing, using vegan cheese and soy-based proteins to mimic the iconic tastes of Italian pizzas, pastas, soups, and more.
May Veggie Home
It is a rare sight to see a vegan chowing down on hot and spicy sour prawn soup or any of Thailand’s most notable Southern dishes; however, there is a restaurant in Bangkok serving up some pretty convincing faux shrimp, chicken, beef and more. May Veggie Home is a vegan restaurant located in the heart of downtown Bangkok that is serving up some Southern Thai favorites. Luckily for those on a meat-free diet, all of the dishes here are meatless and tasty. Some of the most delectable Southern items on their menu include their vegetarian fish topped with sweet and sour sauce, vegetarian shrimp and vegetables in a mouthwatering Panang curry, and the vegetarian shrimp tom yam with coconut meat.
The monthly party capital of the Gulf islands, Koh Phangan, takes on an entirely different ethos when its fluorescent-covered Full Moon Party attendees ferry off the island each month. Loaded with yoga centres, meditation and detox retreats, and conservation activities, the island community has fostered a vegan spirit for years that is molded into its very persona. The Happy Cow, an online review system a-la-TripAdvisor exclusively for vegan and vegetarian restaurants, praised Koh Phangan as “the world’s first vegan tropical island,” back in 2015.
Venture outside of infamous Haad Rin toward Sri Thanu, the region in the Northwest of the island. There you’ll encounter a wealth of plant-based options ranging from vegan-friendly Thai kitchens to regularly busy yet somehow laid-back cafes.
This venue is the brainchild behind the creators of the website with the same name. Celebrating a food-bath ethos through connection, community, and conscious living, its multinational team of developers launched a global menu featuring favorites like the beetroot burger, iskender kebab, thai, Vietnamese pho, and teriyaki strips.
It’s a common myth that all vegan food is healthy – and any desert-lover can promise you this isn’t always true. In the case of Karma Kafe, however, the team has taken plant-based eating to a whole new health-conscious level, restricting animal products, gluten, and refined sugars from its entire menu. Vegan burritos, quesadillas, and tacos satisfy your comfort food needs, while wraps, smoothie bowls, and vegan sushi are available for lighter options. Those with a sweet tooth need not fear – vegan raw chocolate pie, coconut ice cream, and other treats are all available guilt-free, with no added sugars or preservatives.
While most vegan restaurants in the country aim to modify Thai dishes and recreate Western staples, this cosy hangout stands out from the pack by specializing in one of the world’s most traditionally vegan-friendly cuisines. Featuring a wide range of Israeli and other Middle Eastern dishes featuring ingredients like couscous, hummus, and falafel, Green Gallery’s menu is 100 percent vegan with several raw options as well. Favorites include a veganized version of the breakfast staple shakshuka, hearty Moroccan soup, and sweet potato latkes.
As Koh Phangan’s little sister to the North, Koh Tao’s large expat community has kept a high-quality foodie scene thriving for years. The diving mecca’s international draw encouraged the growth of a restaurant market catering to nearly every taste imaginable – there’s even a specialty poutine joint for homesick Canadians. For every new cuisine-based shop, there seems to be another to counterbalance with vegan options.
This colourful veggie shack in the heart of the island is the stuff of vegan dreams. Its trademark salad, soba noodle, and rice bowls pack flavourful punches, and are surprisingly nourishing as well. Or cater to your comfort food side through their pan-fried quesadilla and daily freshly baked vegan cookies the size of your hand.
Breakfast food reaches a whole new echelon at this beachside café. Entirely built of wood and bamboo, Coconut Monkey oozes with cosiness and character, with cushions and benches strewn about alongside its open-air beachfront. Then there’s the menu. While also catering to meat eaters, Coconut Monkey aims to provide the best quality in all its food by sourcing exclusively organic ingredients and making as much in-house as possible, like their many flavours of home-brewed kombucha. Try the full vegan breakfast or pesto tofu scramble, one of their overnight oats choices, or the sesame mushroom jerky Buddha bowl if you’re feeling a bit lighter. Can’t pull yourself from the ocean view? Grab some of the amazeballs and other vegan goodies stashed in their cooler to complement the panorama.
Big Bite Cafe
Appropriately tucked away in the southern tip of the island, Big Bite’s name refers not to its portion sizes but also its huge menu. Offering an assortment of Thai favourites-gone-vegan, there’s also tons of plant-based wraps, burgers, paninis, burritos, and more. Creative coffees, juices, smoothies, and kombucha flavours complete the quaint café’s solid distinction.
Railay Beach, Krabi
This sleepy region of Thailand is famous among niche travel groups like rock climbers and hikers for its expansive limestone ridges carved out of the skyline, towering out of placid blue waters. Its attraction of an active, outdoorsy community has launched a successful selection of healthy eateries suitable for any diet.
Govinda’s at the Beach
A branch of Govinda’s flagship shop in Ao Nang, the quaint seaside operation specializes in lighter, beach day fare like wraps, empanadas, vegan hotdogs, and of course its legendary vegan pizzas.
A small town near the Burmese border, Pai is a unique and vibrant getaway perched 510 meters above sea level, sloping up just a few hour’s North of Chiang Mai. Its relative remoteness and historical waves of migration have created a dynamic community that has developed in its own way, and at its own pace – many visitors report that they don’t even feel like they’re in Thailand anymore.
Known for its incredible nature and a general tranquil vibe, it’s no wonder that Pai is also a foodie heaven, with an emphasis on healthy living and channeling ancient philosophies of food. Workshops offering instruction on making kombucha, kefir, raw recipes, and macrobiotic cooking are all commonplace across the community flyer bulletin boards. Its wide range of restaurants catering to all diets enclose one of the country’s most eclectic night markets, ensuring no one will go unsatisfied in this happy mountain town.
Earth Tone Vegetarian Café and Health Shop
This cute little café has been a staple on the vegan circuit for years. Just a short meander out of town, Earth Tone serves up a nearly full vegan menu – with a few vegetarian options – in its open-air space nestled within the Pai mountain-scape. Try out their variety of salads, bowls, and sandwiches before capping off with its top-rated cashew ice cream. They also brew their own kombucha and jamu – a traditional Balinese herb infusion intended to preventatively mitigate health issues.
Chew Xin Jai
Satisfy your craving for veganized Thai dishes without breaking your budget at this local joint. Offering a selection of soy-based meats, this longtime local establishment seamlessly replicates authentic Thai and Shan dishes through its nourishing menu reflective of its diverse community. There’s a vegan buffet available or patrons can order a-la-carte.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.