Vegan holidays in Thailand

Thailand boasts one of the world’s most distinctive, spicy and downright mouthwatering cuisines, not to mention a famously appetising street food scene, most especially in the night markets of cities such as Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Travelling as a vegan in Thailand is easy, with an abundance of stalls selling fresh fruit and vegetables everywhere you look, and many popular vegetarian dishes. However, be aware that even vegetable meals are often cooked with chicken broth or fish sauce.
For that reason, often the best way to first dip a toe, or a chopstick, into Thai vegan cuisine is with a small group tour that brings together the food and the history and culture of popular places in the country, including Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Ayutthaya, and ensures that you are eating superb plant-based food at every mealtime, and learning where and what best to eat in each city.
A small group vegan tour is ideal for getting to know likeminded people, with carefully crafted itineraries that enable you to taste your way around Thailand while also connecting with local communities and supporting independent businesses in their efforts to expand veganism. You can learn for yourself the differences between the typically quite fiery and sweet dishes of Bangkok to the milder food of Chiang Mai, influenced as it is by Myanmar just over the border. You’ll be accompanied by a professional tour leader for a tantalising foodie tour that also takes in many of the must-see cultural landmarks.
Travel Team
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In Bangkok, roam the railway and floating markets where tourists mingle with families hunting for the freshest vegetables, fruit and spices. In Kanchanaburi, take a walk on the infamous bridge over the River Kwai; in Ayutthaya, the second capital of Siam, see the famous Buddha head wrapped in tree roots at Wat Phra Mahathat and stock up on snacks for the overnight train to Chiang Mai. Then, in Thailand’s second city admire the fabulous Doi Suthep temple, tour the famous night bazaars and perhaps also opt for a traditional massage, this being one of the best places in the country for it.
Along the way you’ll also take part in hands-on cookery classes during which chefs create masterpieces with tofu, mushrooms, sticky rice and bamboo, and visit a mushroom farm in Chiang Mai to source ingredients for a traditional Khantohk menu.

Eating vegan in Thailand

You’ll have to bear with us if we start to drool a little when talking about Thailand’s vegan wonders: tofu soup with coconut milk; grilled mushroom balls stuffed with cashews; coconut rice pancakes; Chinese chive dumplings and sticky rice with red beans wrapped in bamboo are just some of the delicacies you’ll find around the floating and railway markets of Bangkok.
Practice whipping up red, green, Penang and yellow curries, each of which has its own distinct level of spice. Try steamed curry mousse in banana leaves, and mushroom tempura, and indulge your sweet tooth with thin pancakes wrapped around strands of cotton candy, or grilled sticky rice with banana or taro. Then there’s vegetarian spring rolls of course, the classic pad thai made to a vegan recipe, and all manner of other gourmet treats to be had on authentic food crawls.
In Chiang Mai you’ll even have a homestay with a local family, dining and then breakfasting with them on typical cereals such as butterfly pea and sweet corn. Thailand is a unique sensory experience, where the exoticism of the flavours is in complete harmony with the vivid colours of the land and cityscapes. It’s sheer joy to be a vegan traveller here.
Neil Coletta from our supplier Intrepid Travel on what it’s like to travel as a vegan in Thailand:

North v South

“You get entirely different cuisines in the south and in the north of Thailand. It’s an incredible experience to be able to enjoy such a diversity of ingredients and dishes in a relatively short amount of time. The street food in Bangkok is legendary and we visit areas like Chinatown and the floating markets where travellers will see and taste a huge variety of traditional foods. Chiang Mai has its own street food scene, of course, but probably the highlight there on our trip is the meal we share at the homestay just outside of Chiang Mai in a small village. This is a traditional ‘Khantohk’ dinner which is a multi-course affair accompanied by live music and performance.”

Market cuisine

“In addition to experiencing some of Thailand’s most famous markets and the local market culture, there are a host of vegan delicacies to sample. At the railway market this includes sweets like khanom krok (coconut rice pancakes), a traditional Thai dessert made from rice, flour, sugar and coconut milk and grilled sticky rice stuffed with banana or taro. Savory snacks might be vegetable spring rolls or fried tofu. At the floating markets we get to see a palm sugar demonstration, which is a traditional extraction of sugar used extensively in the cuisine. Dumplings, sticky rice and vegetable bamboo pouches are all common (and vegan) things to try.”

100 percent vegan

“We put a lot of effort into the research and development of these trips, working closely with a group of vegan media influencers, as well as vegan (or at least vegetarian) local leaders who both understand the nuances of these diets and also know how to communicate them in English and their local language. Each food location on our itineraries is carefully vetted, and we check in with vendors or restaurant kitchens prior to each meal or tasting to ensure that preparations are all 100% vegan. This means no fish sauce and no animal derived stocks or sauces, for example.”
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Victoria Shes] [Streetfood market: Alice Young] [Railway market: amelia soo] [Floating markets: Russ Bowling] [Chilli soup: Miguel Discart]