One reason I was so keen to return to Chiang Mai is the vegan food.
What’s so great about Chiang Mai vegan food is the selection on offer. There are vegan and vegetarian restaurants elsewhere in Thailand, but they generally are your standard “Jay” (a Buddhist form of veganism) lunch buffet and are not always amazing. Sometimes they are. But I didn’t visit any of those whilst in Chiang Mai, because they can be found everywhere else. Instead I went for the organic farm to table, Japanese macrobiotic, healthy salad bar concepts and all the different and original options in-between, because they truly are what make Vegan Chiang Mai so special.
And what is more amazing is that there are new vegan and vegetarian restaurants opening almost every month, a trend that started last year in 2017. When you decide to explore the vegan food Chiang Mai has to offer, keep your eyes open when walking around as you will always find a new option around the corner.
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Wondering which are the best vegan restaurants Chiang Mai has got for you? Here are the places I visited. Heartfelt thanks to João and Sara of No Footprint Nomads for their precious collaboration.
THE COMPLETE VEGAN CHIANG MAI GUIDE
1. PUN PUN
I visited the Wat Suan Dok location only, and I quickly made it my favorite restaurant based solely on a dish called nam hed song kreung, a fermented mushroom sausage served with lime, red onion, ginger, chili, spring onion, cilantro and cashew nuts. Take a bite of sausage and a little bit of everything else at once. Sit back and open your eyes wide as the flavors mingle and clash and collide and party with each other. It was my first encounter with a vegan version of the ubiquitous Thai fermented sausage and all I have to say is: ZING! Also worth a mention were the fruit and veggie salad with seeds and legumes, the spicy and sour glass noodle and mushroom salad and the Yen ta four, a “fat noodle” soup with beetroot lime sauce. Everything here seems to be great, in fact. Closes at 5pm and all day Wednesday. Pun pun is also an advocate for sustainable travel in Thailand and it is possible to volunteer at their farm.
2. HAPPY GREEN
Happy Green is a bit of an unknown gem. Located in a remote and lovely little rustic oasis on the bank of the Ping River, they serve the most humongous organic salads I have ever seen. I ordered that said salad every time, the priciest item on the menu at 60 baht ($2!) and saw the waitress proceed to the backyard to literally pick my lunch straight out of their organic garden. There is a selection of low fat raw vegan dressings, but if you are 100% raw, beware that there may be some cooked sweet potatoes in your salad (which I love). There is also a lunch buffet out front, but the fresh salad menu is really what makes this place shine. Closes at 7pm. Discount if you come by bicycle.
Tucked away in a quiet little garden, Amrita serves a mix of Japanese inspired and Western macrobiotic fare, all prepared with organic ingredients. The daily macrobiotic lunch comprises of a few veggie dishes, a detox soup, a mug of papaya leaf tea and a rice bowl that I urge you to pay the extra 10b and swap for the rice balls wrapped in seaweed and pickled mustard leaves. The portions are small but satisfying and the food is refreshingly not over-seasoned. On a separate visit I also tried the veggie burger and the pasta bolognese and found them to be the best I’ve had in some time, the burger especially. Amrita is an all-round winner. Closes at 7pm.
Probably one of the best Chiang Mai vegan burgers you’ll ever eat. One of the new places in town, with a very sophisticated environment, not the typical vegan place at all. The staff is very friendly and speaks English, so you will have no problem asking about the menu. They also sell amazing vegan cakes, like the chocolate one you see in the image, which is a rare find as far as vegan restaurant Chiang Mai goes. I recommend you explore it at night as it is when its coziness and romantic atmosphere excels.
This is my go-to place on days I’m on the move for their pre-packaged vegan granola bars, freshly baked rolls and soy yoghurt. Come early (before 8am) and watch the life go past before farang flood the street as people set up their market stalls and shoot the shit around a grill full of weird things on skewers and sticky rice. The coffee is delicious and so is the avocado/tomato bruschetta. Closes at 5pm.
6. V SECRET
Located inside the friendly Ploen Ruedee Night Market, one of the new night markets in town, V Secret is truly a hidden gem. You need to cross all the market and reach the kids playground to find it but is well worth it. All dishes are freshly cooked in front of you and served on banana leaves. There aren’t many options on the menu but they are quite tasty. My favourite was the tempeh spinach curry. You’ll probably eat for 100 Baht, which is still cheap for the touristic location it is in.
7. BEE VEGAN
Tucked in a small dead end close to Suthep Road, this small local place offers many vegan Thai dishes. I love the fermented mushroom starter they serve with its blended flavor of umami and vinegar which is quite unique. Very cheap, a dish costs around 60 Baht, and sometimes they have some vegan desserts too. Yay!
The food here is mostly Burmese, with Thai and Western options thrown in for good measure. One of the reasons for the Burmese cuisine is that the restaurant is a social enterprise and all profit goes to the Thai Freedom House which was created to support refugees from Burma and Thai Hill tribes. What I was interested in were the Shan salads: for 110 baht, you can choose an assortment of any three of them and add a bowl of steam rice for a further 20 baht. I loved the fermented tea leaf salad and the green tomato salad. There is a wide selection of rice, noodle and curry dishes (the pumpkin ginger curry is excellent) and a great breakfast menu (I spied some vegan pancakes and “milk” shakes in there!). Support something great and eat amazing food!
9. BUBBLES LIVE
Nice bright restaurant, rather exuberant but nonetheless very friendly French owner, tasty if a little nondescript vegan and vegetarian selection. The organic menu felt a little overpriced for the size of the portions, but I understand that the dishes are made with quality ingredients. I had a brown rice salad and it was a VERY light bite, albeit a delicious one. Superb spring rolls. They are also famous for their nutritious wheatgrass shots. The set menus are excellent value, with a large vegetarian curry, rice and fruit shake coming in at a little over $2.
10. SALAD CONCEPT
I read an especially gruesome review for Salad Concept on TripAdvisor involving a cockroach in a salad, but I still decided to give it a go one day because it was on my way and I was in a rush. I’m glad I did, because I found a clean restaurant (the Nimmanhamein branch) and a generous salad at a really good price. Salad Concept could possibly be one of the most westernized restaurants in all of Chiang Mai, but it’s convenient when you’re on the go and want to choose exactly what you are eating. The dressings are quite oily, but otherwise it’s a great option, much better than the sadly overhyped Juicy4U. Open late.
11. DADA KAFE
Dada Kafe has a lovely garden out front and makes their own peanut butter and kombucha – which is enough for me to like them straight away. The waiter made a bit of a fuss when I asked for khao soi without egg noodle (vegan). He instead recommended I have pad thai (which has egg!) because the khao soi “came” with egg noodles. C’mon now, how hard can it be to swap noodles in a recipe? He obliged in the end, but it left me a little irritated. The food was otherwise very tasty although the khao soi was lacking its traditional fresh raw veggies and pickled cabbage toppings which would have otherwise possibly made it the best vegan khao soi of Chiang Mai. Open late.
I went to Aum for the khao soi. And it’s quite good, if perhaps not super authentic – if I’m not mistaken, there are some Indian flavors in there. It also had all the pickled cabbage and raw onion fixings you’d hope for, which is mandatory for a khao soi if you ask me. Aum is one of the rare restaurants in the Vegan Chiang Mai ecosystem to have tempeh (Amrita and Blue Diamond also do), the spring rolls are especially great and the juices are delicious. I’ve read mixed reviews about Aum, but I like it. The upstairs sitting area is a quiet little oasis off the main road. Open late.
Imm Aim is earning its spot here mostly because of its cool vibe: it’s a nice chilled garden away from noise and traffic. The food is good, but the portions are a little small and on the pricey end by Thai standards. I had a cashew nut dip with a salad and sweet potato naan (the word naan should be used very loosely) that had such a long name in the menu it left me thinking I was getting a lot more than I actually did. But it tasted great and left me feeling satisfied, so I can’t really complain. Great place to chill or work. Open late.
Cute little restaurant that is mostly worth going to just to see the cool neighborhood around Nimmanhamein Road – I ended up there after I had my hair cut at New York New York Hair Studio a few blocks away. Lovely salads and drinks, a little pricey compared with elsewhere, but the food is of excellent quality and the setting is lovely. I had the Thai mushroom salad which was spicy and fresh.
15. CAT HOUSE
We joked that this place uses child labor because our waiter was around 10 years old, but it’s a really lovely little family business and the kids seem to be happy and extremely keen to wait on and chat with customers. The food is different (some kind of Mexican-Lao-Thai-Indian fusion), affordable and the place is overall well worth the detour. The curry burrito is a brilliant idea, whether or not it delivers as much as you’d expect, I don’t know, but it was nice enough. They recently managed to open a smaller place called Cat Shack where they teamed up with Mountain Coffee to add this amazing coffee to their good food. Yummy homemade kombucha. Open late.
16. ANGEL’S SECRETS
Charming little café in a quiet street. I came here because I had heard that the khao soi was great. Alas – and despite having vegan noodles on hand – the waiter refused to make me a vegan version under the pretext that it would not be traditional. I ordered a curry instead which was very tasty. Unbelievably, they were out of steam rice – this may be the first time this has ever happened in a Thai restaurant, so I was served a side of plain Chinese noodles (the ones they would have used for khao soi, lol!). Traditional, you say?
It’s impossible to be indifferent to what Vegetarian Society is doing, offering food for free for the poor and almost for free to everyone else. Imagine a buffet where you can fill your boots with dozens of different vegan options and pay less than 10 Baht. Impressive, right? That’s what happens at this place and it is always crowded, obviously. They only open for lunch but they are located very close to old town, another place you must visit.
The service was great and the food tasted ok, and I really wanted to forgive them for forgetting to put chili in the food that I ordered “very spicy”. But alas, this is Thailand, and you just don’t forget to put chili in food. Honorable mention for the vegan brownie that is absolutely out of this world – make the detour and grab one to go.
The Thai food at this cute hippy dig is bland and watered down, but my hopes were high for the “build your own salad or wrap” concept. Unfortunately, this also fell flat: the salad portions were tiny and expensive. There is so much better vegan food Chiang Mai has on offer!
20. VEGETARIAN FOOD STALL AT THE NIGHT MARKET
This place gets lots of good press online and I don’t understand why. My guess is that people don’t dare to stray from the tourist trail and see this as one of the only vegetarian places around, but boy, are they wrong. The food here is not any cheaper than any vegan or vegetarian restaurant in town and is laden in enough MSG and oil to fuel a tuk-tuk engine. Just no.
Whew! You still here? As you can see, being vegan in Chiang Mai is amazing!
There were many more vegan restaurants in Chiang Mai I didn’t visit and wished I had! Here are a few that are high on my list for next time:
– J Station
– Yupin Happy Mushroom
– Bird Nest Café
– Radiance Restaurant
Full of delicious vegan food and ready to explore Chiang Mai?
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