Creamy green curry, fragrant đôm kàh coconut soup, sizzling pàt tai and spicy papaya salad – whatever you tend to go for, Thai cuisine offers a feast for the stomach and senses. Most Thai dishes incorporate a mélange of vegetables, herbs, aromatics and spice, as well as meat, egg, fish sauce and oyster sauce. While these common Thai ingredients mean those following a plant-based diet often require special requests or careful ordering, plenty of places across Thailand also cater to vegetarians and vegans. Nowhere is this truer than in Chiang Mai, where you can find everything from superfood-packed smoothies to meat-free fast food.
Most of the restaurants listed here have higher prices than your typical street stand or local eatery with dishes ranging from 80-200B and drinks between 60-120B. Since the meals are usually made entirely from scratch, waiting times can also be a little longer than usual, particularly during peak times.
1. Anchan Vegetarian Restaurant
Not to be confused with the Insta-famous Anchan Noodle, Anchan Vegetarian Restaurant serves hearty portions of fresh, delicious vegetarian and vegan Thai dishes that are so good you won’t miss the meat. The unassuming restaurant changes dishes weekly depending on the seasonal ingredients they source from local farmers. Some of their most popular dishes – such as pumpkin red curry, eggplant stir-fried with miso and Thai basil, and crispy banana leaf salad – are always available.
2. Goodsouls Kitchen
With smoothie bowls, raw desserts and possibly the best mushroom burger ever made, Goodsouls Kitchen is 100% vegan from the coconut milk cappuccinos to the vegan-aise. The restaurant is an offshoot of the Green Tiger House vegan hotel and a hit with travellers who want to eat clean. While its menu is pricey (100B for juice is on the steep side for Chiang Mai) it’s worth it, and the range of Thai, western and fusion dishes makes it somewhere you’ll want to return.
At first, tourist-oriented Ploen Rudee Market seems like an unlikely place to find vegan cuisine, but it’s home to one of Chiang Mai’s best vegan stalls, V-Secret. Cooked in front of you, this tiny restaurant serves up some surprising combinations. Choose two dishes for 100B or three dishes for 140B for a well-rounded meal featuring an explosion of flavours and textures. What’s available changes daily but always draws on traditional Myanmar, Thai, Laotian or Balinese dishes, with added vegan flair. The meals come on a wooden tray lined with a fresh banana leaf and hollowed-out cucumbers acting as sauce cups. Everything is made to order by the owner and one assistant, so be patient...you won’t regret it and can’t beat the price!
Meaning ‘to volunteer’ in Thai, Asa on Th Tha Phae is more than just a cafe. Started by a couple of friends, the downstairs eatery serves a mix of vegan Thai, western and fusion dishes, while upstairs you can catch a yoga class, various workshops and volunteer opportunities on select days. The homey yet cool cafe also stocks several supplements and hard-to-find superfoods to add a further boost to your meal.
5. Amrita Garden
Situated in a wooden house on a small soi (side-street) in the old city, Amrita Garden goes beyond basic vegan fare, preparing its dishes following macrobiotic principles to maximise their nutritional value. Lots of homemade fermented foods, including pickles, kimchi and miso, along with tempeh, soy yoghurt and vegan cheese, feature in their dishes, or are available as add-ons. If your stomach needs a break from fried rice and noodles then this is the place to go.
6. Free Bird Cafe
A longtime vegan hotspot in Chiang Mai, Free Bird Cafe is known not just for its unique mix of Thai, western and Burmese cuisine but also its role as a cafe with a cause – supporting community art and language classes for Burmese refugees. Fill up on the trio of Shan-style salads and fruit-packed smoothies then pop into the attached shop, My Best Life CNX, which is Chiang Mai’s first zero-waste store, to stock up on eco-friendly essentials. Like doing good when you dine? See other restaurants around the world helping to improve the lives of refugees.
Who said not eating meat means eating super healthy all the time? Munchies looks like your standard fast food joint, complete with bright colours, fluorescent lighting and throwaway wrappers, but everything on the menu is completely vegan. From ‘cheeseburgers’ and crispy ‘chicken’ nuggets, to ‘fish’ ‘n chips and burritos, you can dig into your favourite fast food indulgences all meat-free.
Thai vegan restaurants
Throughout Thailand you can find local jae, meaning vegan in Thai, restaurants that serve pre-cooked dishes prepared without any meat, egg, fish sauce or oyster sauce. Take a look at what’s on display and choose one, two or three options served with rice. See something that looks like sausage? Don’t worry, while these restaurants don’t use meat, they do tend to favour imitation meat products made from soy, mushrooms or textured vegetable protein. Two of the most conveniently located vegan Thai restaurants in Chiang Mai are in the old city: one on Th Rachadamnoen near Wat Phra Singh and one on Th Phra Pokkloa toward the moat. Look for the red and yellow signage marked with ‘เจ’, a signifier for these types of restaurants across the country.