Living in Thailand as a vegan or vegetarian

Living in Thailand: A Guide for Vegan and Vegetarian Diets

For those who are conscious of their health and the environment, vegan or vegetarian diets offer a great way to make positive lifestyle changes. For those unfamiliar with the terms, veganism and vegetarianism refer to diets that avoid consuming animal products.

These lifestyles are not only beneficial for personal health but also for the environment and the welfare of animals. Making the switch has now become easier than ever with an abundance of plant-based options readily available in many countries – Thailand included!

With its heavily Buddhist-influenced cuisine, there’s no shortage of delicious vegetable dishes that can be easily tailored for vegans/vegetarians. So whether you’re transitioning over from animal products or have been living off them for years, discover Thailand’s flavorful culinary journey filled with compassionate food choices.

Finding vegan food in Thailand is easy because many traditional Thai dishes contain vegetables. Additionally, fresh fruit is readily available at corner stands and markets throughout the country.

Key Takeaways

  • If you don’t like to eat meat, Thai cuisine offers many plant-based options, making it possible to live as a vegan or vegetarian in Thailand.
  • It’s important to learn some Thai phrases and choose restaurants carefully to ensure that you can communicate your dietary needs and find suitable food options.
  • Exploring local markets and connecting with the local vegan options/vegetarian community can also be helpful in finding fresh produce and connecting with like-minded individuals.

Vegan and Vegetarian Food Options in Thailand

Traditional Thai cuisine options

Traditional Thai cuisine is known for its unique blend of flavors and spices, and there are plenty of options for vegetarians to enjoy while in Thailand. Here are some traditional Thai dishes that are perfect for vegetarians:

1. Pad Thai Jay

Have you tried Pad Thai Jay, the vegetarian version of the classic Thai food: Pad Thai dish? This delectable dish is made with rice noodles, bean sprouts, tofu, peanuts, and a sweet and sour sauce that is sure to satisfy your taste buds. Even if you’re not a vegetarian, this Pad Thai Jay recipe is a great way to mix up your traditional Pad Thai order.

2. Tom Kha Jay

If you’re a fan of Thai cuisine, you might have tried the classic soup called Tom Kha. But if you’re a vegetarian, you might have skipped it, assuming it’s off-limits because of the chicken or shrimp. Fear not, because Tom Kha Jay provides all the creamy, comforting goodness of the original with none of the meat. The soup’s base is still rich in coconut milk, but instead of animal proteins, you’ll find chunky tofu or earthy mushrooms floating in the broth. Fragrant lemongrass, galangal, and kaffir lime leaves add complexity, while chili peppers provide just enough heat.

3. Pad Pak Ruam Mit

Pad Pak Ruam Mit is a mouth-watering vegetarian dish that is both delicious and nutritious. The blend of fresh vegetables including broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, and baby corn makes this stir-fry a wholesome meal that will leave you feeling satisfied without feeling guilty. This dish is perfect for those who are health conscious but still want to indulge in a flavorful dish.

4. Khanom Jeen Nam Ya

For those who love spicy and flavorful cuisines, Khanom Jeen Nam Ya is a must-try dish. This traditional Thai delicacy is a perfect combination of soft and silky rice noodles, mixed with a tangy and creamy coconut-based fish curry that packs a punch of flavors in every bite. Not a fan of fish? The dish can also be customized with veggies, tofu, or mushrooms, making it a versatile option for every palate. 

Street food options

Thailand is known for its delicious and varied street food scene, and vegetarians can also enjoy a wide range of meat-free options. Here are some popular street food options in Thailand that are perfect for vegetarians:

1. Vegetarian Spring Rolls

Vegetarian spring rolls are a delicious and nutritious appetizer with a delicate crunch that will leave you asking for more. Packed with a colorful assortment of shredded vegetables like carrots, cabbage, and peppers, these tasty rolls are often combined with silky tofu to elevate their taste and texture. When served with a sweet chili sauce for dipping, every bite of these rolls creates an explosion of flavor in your mouth.

2. Vegetable Satay

For those who love Thai street food but prefer to stick to vegetarian options, vegetable satay is a great choice. These grilled skewers are packed with a variety of flavorful veggies, including hearty mushrooms, sweet bell peppers, and protein-rich tofu. Whether you’re looking for a quick and satisfying lunch or a tasty appetizer to share with a group, vegetable satay is sure to hit the spot. Don’t forget to dip the skewers in the traditional peanut sauce for the ultimate flavor experience! 

3. Khao Pad

This fried rice dish hails from Thailand and is known for its mouth-watering flavor and satisfying combination of ingredients. What’s great about this dish is that it can be easily adapted to vegetarians by simply leaving out meat and seafood. Instead, eggs, onions, peas, carrots, and tofu can be used to create a delicious and nutritious meal. 

4. Guay Teow

Guay Teow is a staple dish in many Southeast Asian countries, and for good reason. This flavorful soup is a perfect blend of savory broth and tender noodles. For those who prefer a plant-based diet, this dish can easily be made vegetarian by substituting chicken or beef broth with vegetable broth. The addition of fresh vegetables and tofu creates a well-rounded dish that is both delicious and nutritious. Whether you’re a seasoned fan of Guay Teow or just trying it for the first time, this dish is sure to satisfy your taste buds

5. Roti

If you’re in the mood for a flavorful and filling meal, look no further than roti. This delicious dish is reminiscent of a pancake, but much heartier thanks to its savory fillings of vegetables like onions, carrots, and potatoes. If you have a sweet tooth, try it with sweet bananas inside. The perfect accompaniment to roti is either a sweet condensed milk sauce or a spicy curry dipping sauce.

Restaurant options

Thailand has a rich culinary tradition, and you can find a wide variety of delicious vegetarian options at many restaurants.

1. May Veggie Home

May Veggie Home is a hidden gem in the bustling city of Bangkok. This restaurant caters to a vegetarian or vegans in Thailand, offering a variety of mouth-watering dishes that are sure to satisfy your appetite. Whether you’re in the mood for a buffet-style lunch or craving a veggie burger or tofu curry, May Veggie Home has got you covered. The restaurant’s welcoming ambiance, coupled with its commitment to sustainable and locally-sourced ingredients, makes for an unforgettable dining experience.

2. Blue Diamond (The Breakfast Club)

If you’re looking for a healthy and organic breakfast option in Chiang Mai, be sure to check out Blue Diamond. This restaurant is a go-to spot for vegetarians and vegans, offering a whole menu of plant-based options that are as delicious as they are good for you. Some highlights include the raw zucchini noodles with pesto and cashew cheese, which are both satisfying and packed with nutrients. And for dessert, don’t miss out on trying the vegan cheesecake

3. Anchan Vegetarian Restaurant

Nestled in the vibrant city of Chiang Mai is Anchan Vegetarian Restaurant, a charming eatery that offers a delightful array of meat-free dishes. Apart from the traditional Thai Pad Thai and Green Curry, Anchan puts a unique twist on vegan cuisine through its vegan sushi rolls and luscious vegan chocolate cake. Whether you’re a vegan or a meat lover, you’re bound to fall in love with the flavors of Anchan. The friendly staff and cozy ambiance only add to the charm of this restaurant, making it a must-visit for locals and tourists alike.

4. Pun Pun

Pun Pun is a restaurant that takes pride in serving delicious, wholesome meals made from organic, locally sourced ingredients. If you are a vegetarian or vegan looking for a satisfying and flavorful menu, Pun Pun is the perfect place for you. From vegetable stir-fry to avocado salad, the dishes are sure to leave you feeling nourished and energized. But Pun Pun is more than just a restaurant — it is a movement towards sustainability and supporting local farmers. 

5. Govinda

If you’re a vegetarian and looking for something delicious, Govinda is a must-visit restaurant. Located in Bangkok, their extensive menu is full of mouth-watering vegetarian Indian cuisine. From the classic samosas to vegetable biryani and chana masala, there’s something for every taste bud. Thailand is known for its food, and vegetarians will not be disappointed with the variety of options available to them. 

Grocery store options

On the other hand, if you’re looking to stock up on groceries for your vegetarian meals, here are some of the best options for you:

1. Tesco Lotus

If you’re looking for a one-stop shop for all your vegetarian needs in Thailand, then Tesco Lotus should definitely be on your radar. As one of the largest retail chains in the country, they offer an extensive range of vegetarian products to choose from. Whether it’s fresh produce, tofu, vegetarian meats, or canned goods, you can be sure to find it at their stores located throughout the country. What’s more, their prices are hard to beat, making healthy living affordable and accessible for everyone.

2. Villa Market

This high-end grocery store chain offers a variety of vegetarian and organic products that are sure to satisfy those who prefer a plant-based diet. From fresh fruits and vegetables to organic dairy products and vegetarian meat alternatives, Villa Market has it all. And for those who prefer to shop from home, their online store is a convenient option

3. Big C

With their wide selection of fresh produce and vegetarian-friendly packaged foods, you’ll never have a shortage of options. What’s even better is that some of their stores have a dedicated vegetarian section, making it so much easier to find what you’re looking for. Whether you’re in the mood for a healthy snack like fresh fruit or veggies or something more indulgent like vegetarian chips or mock meats, Big C has got you covered. 

Challenges of Living in Thailand as a Vegan or Vegetarian

Language barrier

Vegans and vegetarians living in Thailand may face significant challenges due to language barriers. The Thai language has a distinct script and pronunciation, which can be challenging for foreigners to learn quickly. This barrier can create difficulties in conveying dietary restrictions to restaurant staff and food vendors effectively.

In Thailand, many traditional dishes contain meat or animal products such as fish sauce, shrimp paste, and oyster sauce. Without the ability to communicate dietary restrictions effectively, vegans and vegetarians may struggle to find suitable food options. Moreover, even if one manages to convey their dietary restrictions, they may still face issues with cross-contamination or lack of understanding of the concept of veganism or vegetarianism.

Cultural differences

Cultural differences can pose a challenge for vegans and vegetarians living in Thailand, as the Thai diet is heavily based on meat and seafood. While it is possible to find vegan and vegetarian options in Thailand, it may require some extra effort and adjustment to adapt to the local cuisine.

Additionally, vegetarianism is often associated with religious practices in Thailand, particularly Buddhism. Many Thai people will understand the concept of not eating meat for religious reasons, but may not understand veganism or vegetarianism as a lifestyle choice.

Nevertheless, it is important to be respectful of local customs and traditions while also advocating for your dietary needs.

Availability of vegan and vegetarian options

Thailand is mostly a Buddhist country and follows the traditions of vegetarianism and veganism. But if you’re living in Thailand as a vegan or vegetarian, you may face some difficulties finding food options to accommodate your diet.

Although Thai cuisine does feature vegetables and tofu in many dishes, it’s worth noting that meat and animal products are still commonly used. Additionally, some Thai natives may not be aware of vegan or vegetarian lifestyles and thus might not be familiar with the corresponding dietary guidelines.

In some parts of Thailand, especially rural areas, it may be challenging to locate vegetarian or vegan Thai food options due to limited dining out or grocery shopping choices. In bigger cities such as Bangkok and Chiang Mai, there exist numerous restaurants and markets which are focused on serving vegetarian and vegan food.

Tips for Navigating the Food Options in Thailand

Research before traveling to Thailand

Before traveling to Thailand and exploring the food options, it is important to conduct research beforehand. Before you leave, it is recommended to familiarize yourself with the various types of Thai cuisine, the ingredients used, and their distinct flavors. This will help you recognize different dishes and enable you to make better-informed food choices.

Before your trip to Thailand, make sure to research and learn about the local customs, especially those related to food. Additionally, you can consider searching for well-known Thai dishes. Take a look at some of the most popular options and try to become familiar with them. This way, you’ll have a better sense of what to anticipate when placing an order at a restaurant or food stand.

However, even though Thai cuisine is delightful, it is crucial to be cautious about food safety while traveling. You should study and be aware of the prevalent foodborne illnesses in Thailand and how to prevent them.

Researching Thailand’s cuisine before your trip will help you better understand the food choices there and make your culinary experience more enjoyable.

Learn basic Thai language

A helpful suggestion for navigating food options in Thailand is to learn the basic Thai language. Thai cuisine is renowned for its strong and intricate tastes, and communicating your food preferences and restrictions to locals can significantly improve your dining experience.

Some basic Thai phrases that you can learn include:

  • สวัสดี (sà-wàt-dii) – Hello
  • ขอบคุณ (kòp-khun) – Thank you
  • ไม่เผ็ด (mâi pèt) – Not spicy
  • พิเศษ (pí-sèt) – Extra
  • กี่เงิน (gìi ngern) – How much?

Some useful Thai phrases for vegetarians include:

  • ฉันกินมังสวิรัติ (chan gin mangsawirat) – I eat vegetarian.
  • ไม่ใส่เนื้อ (mai sai neua) – No meat.
  • ไม่ใส่หมู (mai sai muu) – No pork.
  • ไม่ใส่ไข่ (mai sai khai) – No eggs.
  • ไม่ใส่น้ำปลา (mai sai nam pla) – No fish sauce.

Learning these phrases and words will help you communicate with locals and order food that suits your preferences. Plus, attempting to speak the local language will be appreciated by the locals and can make your dining experience more authentic and enjoyable.

Pro-tip: Discover if it’s possible to live in Thailand without mastering the language by reading this article!

Be open-minded and flexible

A crucial tip for vegetarians in Thailand, navigating food options in Thailand is to stay open-minded and flexible. Despite its reputation for diverse and tasty cuisine, finding vegetarian options can be difficult due to traditional preparations that often include meat or fish-based ingredients.

Being a vegetarian and eating in Thailand requires an open mind and a willingness to try new dishes. Even if some restaurants don’t have a vegetarian menu, you can still order by asking them to remove any meat or fish-based ingredients.

It’s important to be flexible with your meal times and locations while in Thailand, especially since some areas may have limited vegetarian options. Consider trying street food or local markets, and be willing to adjust your meal schedule accordingly.

Moreover, it would be advantageous to pick up some fundamental Thai phrases so you can easily convey your dietary limitations to servers and locals. For instance, you can use expressions like “kin jay” to signify that you’re a vegetarian and “Mai sai neua” to ask for no meat.

If you’re willing to try new dishes, adjust your meal schedule and location, and communicate your dietary restrictions, you can still enjoy the delicious and diverse cuisine of Thailand without compromising your vegetarian lifestyle.

Ask locals for recommendations

If you’re a vegetarian visiting Thailand and looking for some guidance on how to navigate the food options, a great tip is to ask the locals for recommendations. Thai cuisine is known for its bold flavors and the use of fresh ingredients, but it can be tricky to know which dishes are vegetarian-friendly.

One way to find vegetarian-friendly options is to seek out restaurants that specialize in vegetarian or vegan cuisine. However, these types of restaurants can be few and far between, especially outside of major cities.

Asking locals for recommendations can help you discover hidden gems that may not be advertised as vegetarian, but have vegetarian options on the menu.

Vegetarian options are available among the street food offerings which are a significant part of Thailand’s culinary scene. Seek suggestions from locals to discover the finest street food choices that suit your dietary preferences.

To ensure you receive vegetarian recommendations, explicitly state your dietary preference when seeking suggestions. Seeking tips from Thailand locals is an excellent way to navigate vegetarian food options.

In addition to trying new dishes and flavors, you’ll have the opportunity to feel the welcoming and friendly nature of the Thai people.

Living in Thailand as a vegan or vegetarian FAQs

Is it easy to find vegan or vegetarian food in Thailand?

Yes, it is relatively easy to find delicious vegan food in Thailand, especially in larger cities and tourist areas. Many Thai dishes are naturally vegan or vegetarian, and there are also many vegan restaurants that specialize in vegan and vegetarian cuisine.

What are some popular vegan or vegetarian Thai dishes?

Some popular vegan and vegetarian Thai dishes include Pad Thai (ask for no egg), Tom Yum soup (without shrimp), green curry (with tofu), Massaman curry (with vegetables), and Som Tam (papaya salad without shrimp or fish sauce).

Can I find vegan or vegetarian options at traditional Thai street food stalls?

Finding vegan or vegetarian options at traditional Thai street food stalls can be difficult due to many dishes containing fish sauce or shrimp paste. However, it is possible to find vegetable-based dishes like stir-fried vegetables or tofu dishes at some stalls.

What should I be aware of when dining out as a vegan or vegetarian in Thailand?

Be aware that some dishes may contain small amounts of meat, such as pork or chicken, even if they are not listed on the menu. It is always best to clarify with the server whether the dish is completely vegetarian or vegan. Additionally, some restaurants may use fish sauce or shrimp paste in their vegetable dishes, so it is always best to double-check with the server.

Are there any vegan or vegetarian festivals or events in Thailand?

Thailand hosts various vegetarian festivals, including the Phuket Vegetarian Festival held annually in October. The festival showcases vegetarian food, parades, and ceremonies. Moreover, several Buddhist temples in Thailand serve vegetarian food during religious events and holidays.


Living in Thailand while vegan or vegetarian doesn’t have to be difficult! With a little bit of research, planning, and knowledge it can be a dynamic experience. There is a wide range of delicious foods, beautiful scenery, and wonderful people to experience while exploring this amazing country.

Whether you travel as a vegan or vegetarian, don’t forget to acquaint yourself with the local etiquette and customs. You will find that engaging with the locals adds another dimension to your journey here in Thailand. When you feel ready, don’t forget to check in with us for more advice about living in Thailand.

We are full of helpful information about regional cuisine, lifestyle, and local attractions that you won’t want to miss out on. Your time here will be unique and enjoyable if you have the right knowledge and support, so be sure to subscribe to our newsletter for the best advice about living in Thailand.

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