Chiang Mai is the vegan capital of Asia. I wholeheartedly believe that it’s the very best place in the world to be vegan – the selection of food on offer matched with Thailand’s cheap prices means that you can eat out every day and not break the bank. I did just that for an entire year, and now I’m going to give you a guide of the very best of the best spots to find some cruelty-free, (mostly) healthy, but more importantly, delicious food. Thai, Western, Chinese, Mexican, Israeli, Japanese, you name it – Chiang Mai has it, and its vegan.
You can see the red and yellow ‘เจ’ (vegan) sign around literally every corner of the city. This Thai word is pronounced ‘jay’, so if you hear it, you’re one step closer to that plate of delectable vegan goodness. If you’re at a standard Thai restaurant, you may want make an extra effort to make sure your food is vegan, because like anywhere in the world, there can be misunderstandings about the subject. Here’s what to say:
“ไม่ใส่…” “Mai Sai…” = Don’t add…
“ไข่” “Kài” = egg
“นม” “Nom” = milk
“เนื้อสัตว์” “Neúua sàt” = meat
“เจไหม” “Jay mǎi” = is this vegan?
“มังสวิรัติไหม” “mang sà wí rát mǎi” = is this vegetarian?
Enough of the language lesson, on to the food…
First on the list is an all time favourite of mine, Free Bird Cafe. This place is home to the most delicious smoothie bowls and khao soi in all of Chiang Mai, and their entire menu is vegan. They also do an authentic Burmese tea leaf salad. The exterior of the restaurant is covered in art, painted by Alex Face, a renowned street artist from Bangkok. Not only does this place have great quality food, but all the proceeds from the cafe go towards the connecting Thai Freedom House, which is an education centre for refugees from Burma and other minority peoples of Thailand. More about their cause can be found on their website: http://thaifreedomhouse.org/
Sirimankalajarn Soi 9
Open 9am – 9pm (closed Mondays)
Tel. 081 028 5383
52/2, Singharat Road | Si Phum, Chiang Mai 50200
Another totally vegan menu, Goodsouls had my heart after the first visit. The mushroom steak had a scarily realistic appearance, and went remarkably well with their homemade chips and vegan mayonnaise. If you’re going for breakfast, I’d suggest the pancakes. Goodsouls’ eclectic selection of coffees and cakes sets them apart from the other vegan restaurants around town. The restaurant is spacious and is a great place to get some work done. One thing I would say is make sure you stock up on mosquito spray before visiting… the mozzies seem to like this place, and sadly they don’t follow a vegan diet.
52/2 Singharat Road
Open 7am – 10pm
Tel. 088 819 9669
This place is infamous for their ‘mexican bowl’. It’s so good that I would fly across the world just to taste it again. They also do a delicious cocoa and peanut butter acai bowl.
175 Moo 5, Rampoeng Road, T. Suthep
Open 9am – 9pm (closed Wednesdays)
Tel. 063 980 7140
Amrita Garden is a vegan Japanese fusion restaurant. If you’re into your health, they serve a different macrobiotic lunch every day, and have kombucha stocked up in the fridge. They have all kinds of homemade vegan cheese, but if you want to try it, go early as they usually sell out around lunchtime. The vegan lasagne made with courgette is like comfort food, but healthy. The garden is idyllic and the staff are always smiling, especially the owner Makiko. They hold workshops on how to make vegan cheese, vegan brownies and even vegan Japanese macrobiotic food art. It’s a really wholesome place.
2/1 Soi 5 Samlan Road, T. Phra Sing
Open 11.30 am- 9pm (closed Tuesdays)
Tel. 090 321 2857
For some reason, this serene vegetarian Thai restaurant and bakery is somewhat under the radar in Chiang Mai. I’ve never heard anyone talk about it and I don’t know why. They do a beautiful pumpkin green curry, and free cinnamon tea. All the seats are outdoors under canopies, so again, don’t forget that mosquito spray. Also, everything on their menu is gluten free – even the cakes!
Wua Lai Raod Soi 2
Open 12 – 10pm (closed Sundays)
Tel. 093 291 9361
This burrito place in the basement of Maya mall will blow your mind. It’s not vegan, but has a massive selection of vegan burritos, or you can build your own. The portions are huge, but you can also get a ‘burrito bowl’ (a naked burrito), which is my go-to. I will warn you, like most restaurants in Chiang Mai, they only have avocados during avocado season, which runs from July to December. They are about 5 times the size of Western avocados, and definitely worth the 6 month wait.
55, Moo 5, Huay Kaew Road
Open 11am – 9pm
Tel. 065 121 2100
Situated near Chiang Mai University, this humble restaurant is the best place in town to get a cheap, hearty giant salad or some vegan Thai food. Bouquet and Bebo run the restaurant and they are some of the friendliest people in Chiang Mai, plus they make their own tempeh, which is impressive.
19 Suthep Road (near Jampha Savemart)
Open 11am – 8.54pm (closed Sundays)
Rosy Cheeks is a small but mighty Asian fusion restaurant. They have a number of exquisite vegan options, such as a Burmese tea leaf salad, a Phoritto (Vietnamese Pho noodles inside a burrito), and an avocado pizza. Highly recommended.
Soi Ban Ling Ha 3, T. Suthep
Open 11.30am – 3pm and 5 – 9pm
Tel. 094 842 0197
For a while, Sababa Israeli held the number 1 spot on TripAdvisor for restaurants in Chiang Mai. The restaurant is basic and they don’t try to be fancy, but their falafel and hummus is unmatched.
33/10 Charoen Prathet Road
Open 12 – 11.30pm (6 – 11.30pm Saturdays and closed Fridays)
Tel. 064 719 0756
More restaurants I recommend include: Reform Kafé, Pun Pun Organic Café and Anchan Vegetarian Restaurant. Also, if you’re feeling super lazy, you can use www.foodpanda.com or www.mealsonwheels4u.com to order takeout from most of the restaurants on the list above.