one who travels indefinitely, with no long-term abode, while avoiding all forms of animal exploitation and abuse as far as is possible and practicable
early 21st century; from vegan - ‘a person who does not eat or use animal products’, and nomad - ‘a person who does not stay long in the same place’
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The Best of the Best: All Vegan Guide to Chiang Mai, Thailand
56 min read
This post was written about 5 years ago, so most likely contains out-dated information.
If you want to see all our recommendations on a fully functioning Google Maps page that you can use to find directions, click here.
Maybe you're going to Chiang Mai for a short holiday or relaxing weekend, or maybe you're a digital nomad or slow traveller and will be joining in on the hub of expat activity for an extended period of time... Whatever your reason for heading to one of Thailand's most liveable cities is, if you're vegan or almost vegan, one thing's for certain: you're not going to have any trouble finding somewhere to eat.
Chiang Mai is overflowing with delicious vegan restaurants.
It is Thai tradition to use little meat when cooking, so a lot of Thai food is naturally vegan, or can easily be veganised simply by not including a single ingredient. This means that even carnistic restaurants naturally have a couple of vegan options.
The length of your stay will instead determine the severity of another issue: deciding which restaurants to visit, as there are so many truly great places to eat here.
This post is based on living in Chiang Mai for more than 3 months and eating out daily. Even though I usually had fruit for lunch/breakfast and we made a point to go back to our favourite restaurants as much as we could, to sample their full range, we still visited at least 30 different vegan restaurants during our stay. We ate at everything inside the "Old Town" and most within walking distance outside it.
This article includes the best of the best, in a roughly descending order. I've included detailed reviews of both our favourites and the most popular restaurants in the city. Some very popular places we weren't that impressed by, and some lesser known one's blew us away.
I designed this guide to be your one-stop resource for having very memorable, healthy, affordable meals for whatever the duration of your stay in Chiang Mai is.
What is the gold standard for assessing the best restaurant in any given city? The one you find yourself going back to the most. And looking back on our stay, it was definitely Vegan Heaven 2 where we ate more than anywhere else, and with good reason.
We were living here just when this place opened up, and it wasn't even listed on Google Maps when we started going. If you haven't already guessed, it is part of growing chain of restaurants all owned by a budding local business woman whose name and face, despite being on every menu at all her restaurants, I can't remember right now. But I would give her a warm embrace if I saw her in the street for what she's created here.
Her chain started in 2008 with "A Taste From Heaven", a mostly vegan-friendly vegetarian restaurant also in the Old Town. From there she spread out to start the original "Vegan Heaven", a 100% vegan version of her first restaurant with almost the exact same menu, located just to the east of the Old Town on the infamous Loi Kroh Rd. If you can fight your way past the touchy-feely lady-boys and other sex workers, I'd say it's worth checking out if you're already over that way, but otherwise, head over to the more peaceful and authentic feeling Old Town and dine at the superior second location, appropriately called Vegan Heaven 2.
What's the difference between these restaurants you might be asking? Not much. But still enough that once we went to Vegan Heaven 2, we never went back to the other location once.
The menu at first glance appears to be identical, but despite being a smaller venue and seating maybe half as many people, the menu here actually has a few more options on it.
One of these additions is tempeh, and it's available to be added to pretty much anything. If you're not familiar with tempeh, it's an Indonesian creation of fermented soybeans that is known for polarising its audience between love and hate. And I happen to love the stuff. Think of it as a healthier, whole-food alternative to tofu, but with a better texture, different flavour (usually hidden behind some marinade) and - because it's not processed at all, just fermented - way more nutritious.
The decor at all three of these restaurants is very similar. They all look very western, and actually describe themselves on their website as "Chiang Mai's First 100% Vegan Western Restaurant".
But don't be misled, I much prefer Thai food to western, and still ate here regularly due to all their other options. All locations also have quotes from famous vegans on the walls in bright colours, as well as more vegan celebrity quotes at the back of the menu.
In terms of what's actually on the menu, Vegan Heaven 2 also has the most range out of anywhere we ate. They have a hearty "western" section, who's standouts include the chicken and red meat substitute burgers, hot dogs, "chicken" wraps, a few different spaghetti options, cauliflower "chicken wings", a couple different multi-tiered sandwiches, a massive English breakfast (pictured below), a few raw salads, sushi, cold and deep fried spring rolls and lots more.
The "Thai" section was my favourite and unsurprisingly had the most options. Everything from green and red curries to at least a whole dedicated page on the menu each of stir-fried vegetables, soups, rice and noodle-based dishes, drinks and deserts. They have hot and cold drinks that include alcoholic cocktails, hot coffee's, ten different teas, iced coffees, iced tea's and chocolate, a huge selection of juices, smoothies (the Strawberry Shake with coconut milk was the best), with an option to add chia seeds to the latter.
They got you covered for western deserts too. If you like cake, definitely order the "Chocolate Vegan Brownie". It's much less of a brownie than a cake, but hot damn, it is incredibly tasty, and, at only 60 THB (1.8 USD), it was the best value for money desert we found in Chaing Mai. Often times we stopped past here after eating somewhere else just to pick up a "slice." (I put that in inverted commas because it's more of a large slab than a slice.) They also have vegan ice cream, waffles, the Thai staple of mango with sticky rice, deep fried banana and more.
I could go on and on describing the menu here because it really was huge. You can have a look at photos of the menu over at their website.
The service at both the Vegan Heaven's was nearly always flawless, and when it wasn't, it was just great. The staff are trained excellently and were always equal parts friendly and helpful. And at Vegan Heaven 2, whoever was serving us always spoke more than sufficient English, at times they didn't at the first location, but another staff member nearby always did.
My orders routinely exceeded 400BHT, but that's just cause I ordered so much food... You can expect to pay 70 - 120 THB (1.2 - 3.7 USD) per meal. This price is the norm for restaurants of this quality in Chiang Mai and I consider it neither cheap nor expensive. On their website they have the full menu with prices.
Considering the phenomenal range of the 100% vegan menu, the consistent quality of the service and food, I can't help but say Vegan Heaven 2 is the best restaurant for vegans to eat in Chiang Mai. An added convenient bonus is the marginally-inferior other location on Loi Kroh Rd. Taking into account that both Vegan Heaven's are within walking distance from the original Taste From Heaven, there is no need to ever eat there.
To be real, if the Cat House removed the meat options from their menu - even if they didn't add anything to replace them - I would have had no choice but to tie them first place with Vegan Heaven 2. But just because they give some of their profits towards the murdering of animals, it doesn't take away from the exceptional quality of their vegan meals.
Even though it says "serves meat, vegan options" just above, it almost seems more appropriate to label The Cat House "vegan food with meat options". The menu seems to be laid out as follows: "Burrito, add your choice of tofu, chicken, beef, pork... Lentil curry, add your choice of tofu, chicken, beef, pork, Green Curry, add your choice of tofu, chicken, beef, pork..." and so forth. This was the first menu I'd seen anywhere that was designed almost entirely vegan with the option to add the animal flesh in afterwards. It was very refreshing. (The exception to this was meals with dairy.)
The Cat House is only open for dinner, but has a little cousin that's open for breakfast and lunch called The Cat Shack. According to their website, The Cat Shack has been set-up in a 100 year old teak house and serves locally grown coffee. Other than that, the menu is exactly the same, just the hours and setting that differ. The Cat Shack is in a nice garden setting, and the Cat House is in a slightly more "modern" restaurant setting, but the following menu applies to both locations.
There really was not a bad item on the menu - except for the meat of course. Everything I tried (most of the vegan options) far exceeded my expectations. Including brand new meals I'd never experienced anywhere before, like Gado Gado and a life-changing Burmese Tea Leaf Salad.
If you're only half as much of a food snob as I'm becoming, you may have noticed that, even at expensive places in the west, black rice is hard to come by. (Black rice is the most nutrient-dense rice available) But here in little ole' Chiang Mai, at the Cat House, black rice is the only rice they offer, and comes standard along with a side salad for every meal. They cover the black rice in warm coconut milk, which is a magnificent combination, but you can ask not to have the coconut milk if you don't like it.
The menu is divided into the following sections: all day breakfast (including breakfast burrito, oatmeal and brown rice porridge), drinks (smoothies, kombucha, hot or cold teas or locally grown coffee, cocktails, beer and wine) lunch and dinner sides, sandwiches, wraps, curries, a Mexican section, a Middle Eastern section, some spaghetti, and last but definitely not least, their top-notch salads. Free self-serve water with ice is a nice touch in the humid weather, too.
Burmese Tea Leaf Salad - I'd never eaten anything like this before, and every place I went to after that had it on the menu, I ordered it, but none were as good as The Cat Shacks. (Note: I've not been to Burma yet, though all the staff at The Cat House were Burmese, and another traveller we met at The Cat House had just come from Burma and said it was very authentic.)
Burrito - Unlike most burritos, this one is eaten with a knife and fork. It's filled with veggies and beans (and tofu, if you choose) and covered with their awesome lentil curry. Of course, green salad is on the side.
Falafel and Hummus in Pita - Deep fried as hell, but very delicious. Pictured below.
Great. Very friendly and didn't keep us waiting, except what is to be expected when they're busy. The only time the service here wasn't great was when the man adding up my portion of the bill couldn't believe that I ate as much as I did, and I had to keep telling him several times "yes, that one's mine as well... yes and that one too." This shouldn't be a problem for you though, unless you also eat four main courses.
Even though its a meat-eating restaurant, all the staff seemed to know exactly what "vegan" means and ordering was very smooth, though I still nearly always made a point to tell the staff to "make my meals vegan, please".
Surprisingly cheap. Even for Thailand. Almost all the meals were 70 THB (2.2 USD). If you chose to add tofu or a dead animal, it would add on another 20 or 30 THB (1 USD). But I never did, and instead, they just include more veggies for no added baht. Very affordable!
I'll start with this a surprisingly polarising question.
Do you like tempeh?
If you said yes, you need to go here. If you said no, I'm sorry, but I can't accept your answer until you've tried the tempeh at Amrita Garden as it's probably the best example of it I've ever had.
But don't worry, they have a lot of other stuff too... Their A5 menu reads like a Robert Greene book: dense. It's almost confusing as there are so many options stuffed into the little pages all in a seemingly random order. A lot of their dishes have accompanying graphics, photos and further descriptions that serve both to sell their meals a little better, and to make your decision a little harder.
The setting at Amrita is truly beautiful. If you can, try to sit outside in the garden. You can tell they put a lot of work into maintaining the garden area and it really pays off, as it creates a serene and relaxing atmosphere to enjoy your healthy meal in. Free self-service cold water and mosquito spray is available, and you'll probably want lots of both.
Amrita Garden also boasts a second story, traditional Thai "homestay", complete with two spacious guestrooms - one with a king-size bed, one with two twin beds - both with high-ceilings, lots of windows and plenty of storage room. There also have a common area and a balcony area, both with seating. The indoor common area has a kettle, coffee machine, toaster oven, microwave oven, rice-cooker and mini-fridge.
The only major downside to this place is that they close early, at 8PM. The last orders are usually at 730PM. I assume they did this to encourage lunchtime visitors. If they stayed open just another hour, we would have definitely eaten here way more often. Even so, it was probably still the 3rd most visited restaurant in the city, and they didn't seem to mind us staying and chatting at our table for up to an hour past closing time.
Once you get around the distracting apparent lack of order of the menu, you'll start to realise it's not just packed with options, but packed with healthy options.
Their website states it better than I ever could:
The vegetables are always local, seasonal, fresh, pesticide-free and organic. In order to enjoy the exact flavour of the vegetables, we cook very simply. Of course, all vegetables, seasonings, water and dish detergents used in the cafe are safe and toxin free. We never use MSG and chemical preservatives. We don’t use the freezer or a microwave. Expect a fresh, delicious and hearty vegan meal that will give your body energy to heal and be strong.
And when eating here, you can tell.
On top of their organic local veggies, they seem to be quite proud of their miso, kombucha and other macro-biotic items that promote healthy digestion as well. They also had a first that I'd never seen on a vegan menu before: a cheese platter. It was clear from reading the menu that they were very proud of their nut-based cheeses, and even though I never ordered the platter, some other meals we got came with vegan cheese and it's easy to see why.
Inside the restaurant they have a cabinet with vegan and vegetarian deserts in it, and next to it a fridge with even more deserts. They also have cold bottled drinks and a small range of clothes.
Tempeh & Brown Rice. I would routinely order two or three of these baby's and enjoy every bite.
Whole-Wheat Spaghetti - with added vegetables and cashew parmesan... Surprisingly filling!
Vegan Burger - They just brought out a new Summer Vegan Burger while we were there, with a bean-based patty, and we thought it was much better than their already internet-famous other vegan burger. What makes these burgers next level was the cheese they added to them. So definitely ask for that.
The owner was one of the nicest Thai locals we met while here, a real gentleman. It was obvious that his heart was behind his business 100% when he said things to us in broken English like, "We don't have any real 'fountain of youth' or 'elixir of life', all we have is good food", as he continued cleaning up the restaurant.
But I wish his friendliness and truly flawless service was matched by the rest of his staff, one of whom gave us repeatedly some of the worst service we had in Chiang Mai. On more than once occasion it took this staff member staff up to 20 minutes to even acknowledge our presence. But after reluctantly taking our order, the food that she finally brought to our table was still some of the best in the city.
Due solely to the quality of the food, this intermittent lack-of-service strangely didn't turn us away one bit... it just created some more dialogue at the table and an unusual way to convince other friends of seeing the place.
Amrita Garden seemed slightly more expensive than the two restaurants listed above, but nothing extravagant or noteworthy, and when you remember that they use solely organic vegetables and don't freeze or microwave anything, the price is more than reasonable. You definitely get what you pay for here.
The only thing that did seem excessive was the 200 THB (6.3 USD) price tag for the delicious but rather small "vegan lasagne". Still though, expect to pay between 70 - 150 THB per meal (2.2 - 5.7 USD). Some items have the option for added vegetables or vegan cheese, which can bump the price up, and it's definitely worth it taste-wise.
Possibly the second best setting in Chiang Mai, Reform Kafé seats you in a lush, tranquil, tropical garden. Actually very similar vibe to Amrita Garden I wrote about just above. This was probably our 4th most visited restaurant during our 3-month stay, and not only because of the nice garden. The food was pretty good too...
Looking back, everything they served was good. Everything. We didn't have one bad meal here. All the food we ordered was of a very high quality and presentation. In fact, the whole establishment is the same, everything from the decor to the food to the service seemed to be kept to the highest standard they could manage. Which luckily, is higher than just about anywhere else in Chiang Mai.
Unfortunately, unlike Amrita above, they don't focus as much on the "healthy" side of things. Which is understandable, as Amrita really focus on it. It's still basically all whole-foods, and they make a point on the front page of their menu to state they don't use MSG, but they use a bit too much oil and salt in some dishes, which is really just an easy way of adding flavour, at the expense of proper arterial function.
We turned up here one evening and discovered that the menu looked a little different than it had every other time... and upon closer inspection, we were very pleasantly surprised to discover that Reform Kafé had graduated from entirely vegetarian and was now entirely vegan. Level up. (Note: At the time of writing this, the veganisation apparently made a lot of the photos on their website out of date.)
My go-to first meal for the initial four or five times we ate here was their Avocado Salad. My goodness, it was great - a huge plate of leafy greens, one chopped up and always ripe avocado, all covered in oil and dashed with salt, making this a surprisingly high-fat meal, but damn, it was tasty.
Their Papaya Salad was great too, and much lower in fat, as was the Burmese Tea Leaf Salad, but the latter didn't hold a candle to the same meal at the Cat House (maybe due to the Burmese staff there - review above). It sounds weird, but their fried potato chips was a memorable meal too, as were any of the curries we tried.
You can expect to find about half a page of menu items (3 - 6 meals each) for the following categories: starters, salads, soups, stir-fried meals, rice-based meals, curries, fried noodles and noodle soups, as well as drinks and desserts.
The service here was so good that one time, they closed up the cafe and forgot to even charge us for our food... Seriously. And as tempting as it was to do a runner, we hung around the counter for a while before calling out to the staff who embarrassingly came back around the corner to graciously accept our baht.
Aside from this unusual one-time mishap, I can't fault the service at Reform. The time we met the owner, a tall Swiss gentleman, he was equally as likeable as the very friendly and helpful Thai staff he employed, who always spoke sufficient English to answer our annoying questions, and never left us waiting for long before taking our order.
On one hand, it was without question the tastiest meal I had in all of Thailand, not just Chiang Mai. All the ingredients were perfectly fresh and the meal was bigger than I was used to. You can taste the difference in quality from their 100% organic, mostly raw ingredients to what nearly every other restaurant uses.
But at the same time, it was also by far the most expensive place we ate at. It was almost like eating out back home in Australia. Usually in Thailand, once I start flipping through a menu I don't even take note of the prices because they're so cheap it's not an issue, but here I kept checking in amazement at the triple figure price labels for dishes that I've been eating elsewhere for 70 or 80 BHT.
Once your meal arrives, however, you will quickly discover that the food is actually very accurately priced. I don't know what's going on in that kitchen, all I can guess is that the 100% organic ingredients really do pay off, as you can instantly taste where your money's going.
So when you go here, just expect to be paying more than you're used to in Thailand, unlike I was, and do your body some good and make the most of their luxury cuisine.
As you enter the place you would never guess the quality of the food. It is located on Loi Kroh Road, just a little further down than Vegan Heaven 1, right in there with all the "Girly Bars". In fact, the owner told us that his restaurant used to be a "girly bar" (which mean's a bar from where you can meet and bring home prostitutes, by the way) and that's where the name comes from.
Alice's is famous for its raw meals and raw desserts. It does, of course, have cooked meals, but I don't know why you would order them in the light of the mouthwatering raw options. Especially considering the warm, tropical climate of Thailand which is perfect for raw foods. If you've never had a raw meal, just the name "raw food" might sound gross to you, but it shouldn't, and I urge you to try one here, especially if you never have before.
Vomad Alice's Organic Highlights:
Raw Avocado Salad - Huge, with a lot of ingredients. Highly recommended by myself and the owner.
Raw Durian Cheesecake - I haven't had this, but they are famous for their raw desserts. This particular one has got insane reviews online, and a gentleman next to me ordered it when I was there and he couldn't stop raving about it either. I guess it was too good for him to offer me some...
Hands down the most unusual customer service experience in Chiang Mai.
When we sat down inside, the American owner, Chris, who goes by the pseudonym "The Vegan Gangster", (despite, like his restaurant, not being entirely vegan) was sitting on the table next to us on an international phone call to some Government organisation back home. When he finished his call he gave us some menu's and talked to us about his favourite meals. It was clear from the get-go that he was very involved with the business.
After we ordered he proceeded to sit down and have a chat with us like we were old mates, telling us about how the food is made and what he goes through to ensure 100% organic ingredients. We were the only people in the restaurant at this point, but not long after a German traveller came and sat at another table and joined in the conversation. I'm not going to give anything away, but Chris then proceeded to entertain us all with the crazy story about the history of his restaurant and hilarious, seemingly unbelievable personal tales about his time in the USA and what led him, of all people, to now be owning the only 100% organic vegetarian restaurant in Chiang Mai. It was reminiscent of chatting to an intoxicated traveller in a bar, although I'm pretty sure he was dead sober.
Chris seemed to truly live the age-old customer service method of treating your customers like old friends, and for us, it only made the meal that much more enjoyable.
If you haven't gotten the point yet, the price is the only real drawback of this place. Which will absolutely not be a problem for some people who are richer than us, but for those who are in Thailand and travelling on a budget, be prepared to spend at least twice as much as usual.
To be honest, if money was not an issue for me, I would probably have gone back and eaten here more than anywhere else, because the food really is on another level.
But remember that one of the reasons we and so many others choose to go to Thailand is specifically for the cheaper prices, so it just seemed a little weird paying this much.
Though as usual in life, you get what you pay for, and if you want what is the best food for your body: mostly raw, 100% organic vegan whole-foods, then this is definitely the best place to get it in Chiang Mai, if not the only place.
4.5 / 5 stars.
Many healthy, raw vegan options.
100% organic and the best, freshest ingredients we had Chiang Mai.
Opening hours are 12 PM to 12 AM. Nowhere else we found was open this late.
Free pool table.
Supports animal cruelty.
The most expensive restaurant we experienced - but actually reasonably priced considering the quality of the food.
I was quite excited when I saw the Salad Concept on Nimman Rd for the first time. "A huge restaurant based around salad! What a dream for any health-conscious vegan!" I thought. But then I looked at the menu...
Two vegan options.
We waited over a month for the disappointment to die down before even looking at the menu again, and when we did, we were happy to find another two vegan items we initially missed, in the entreé section, plus a "design your own salad" feature. After this, we decided to give it a fair go and actually eat there. And we were very glad we did.
The story of the Salad Concept is pretty unique. It was started by two sisters, Poy and Pye, after they saw their father recover from final-stage colorectal cancer through a combination of a healthy vegan diet and Gerson therapy. Truly an inspiring story and the perfect motivation to open a health-conscious restaurant, I think.
But why they would then go on to serve bacon and beef - class 1 and 2 carcinogens respectively - in that same restaurant is left unexplained. Especially when these two types of meat have been shown to increase the risk of the exact type of cancer their father had. But anyway, I digress.
As I said in the introduction, this place has a surprising lack of vegan ready-made options.
The menu is pretty cool though. It's huge, about A3 size, and has nice colour pictures of all the meals and drinks as well as a calorie count next to the pictures. They clearly label which items are vegan and which are not. Though at first we thought they didn't label anything, because there are so few vegan options, and some surprising things weren't labelled vegan, like the Tofu Steak with Rice and Quinoa. "Really? How'd they manage to put animals in that one?" we thought.
On our first visit, I remember we looked at the menu thoroughly and both ordered two different things. I got the Quinoa Energy Salad (pictures below) and Hish got the Organic Tofu Salad. Mine was epic and I happily ate it every time we went back, which was roughly once a week after this. Hish's was disgusting and he didn't finish it, let alone ever order it again. Apparently, the tofu was like you imagine tofu is before you've ever had good tofu: white, tasteless and rubbery. Exactly as it is pictured on the menu. The accompanying fresh salad didn't make up for the lack of taste.
The other vegan options were guacamole with dipping vegetables (cucumber and carrot), which was great because they give you so much guacamole. So much that I couldn't finish it with the dipping veggies they gave me so I ordered the other vegan entreé, wedges, to help complete the task. Which they did wonderfully.
I'm pretty certain the only other thing close to a vegan option on the menu, aside from drinks, was the Tofu Steak with Rice and Quinoa that I mentioned earlier - you just have to ask for it to be veganised. It usually comes with a fish-sauce based marinade, but we were able to successfully order it without the dead fish juice many times. For this meal to be feasible though, you just have to compensate for the lack of marinade and cover it with another sauce of your choice, as the "steak" is supremely dry otherwise. Many common sauces - ketchup, mustard etc - are freely available if you ask one of the super helpful staff members.
The only other thing we could eat on the menu was the design your own salad, which I got only once, and chose to get it all wrapped up in a tortilla. It was really nice, but nothing compared to the Quinoa Energy Salad, they just really nailed that meal.
The Salad Concept operates like a well-oiled machine; the place is overflowing with helpful staff members. As soon as you enter, one of them is eager to direct you to a table.
We were pretty picky about our food, because we wanted to make sure what we were ordering was entirely vegan, and we had them running back to the kitchen to ask questions almost every time we went there. Which was quite often, as we lived only a 5-minute walk from their Nimman location. But even with our finickiness, they were all smiles.
Unlike the vegan options at Salad Concept, their service was some of the best we had in Chiang Mai. All the staff are trained very well and are perfectly polite and speak sufficient English. They all communicate via headsets with each other and there's so many of them around that you can always easily get assistance if you need it.
Vegans-on-a-budget will be happy to find two delicious options directly across from each other in the below-ground food-court at the fancy Maya Mall, located at the big intersection of Nimman Rd and Huay Kaew Rd.
To access either of the following places, either walk down the stairs that directly enter the underground food court from outside the front of Maya, or go down the only escalator that descends below the ground floor from inside the shopping centre itself. When you're down there, both eateries are across from each other, about the middle on the left side of the food court if you took the escalator, or the right side if you took the stairs.
The first place we ate at here is the very modestly titled "Veg Food Stall". But thankfully, the food they offer isn't nearly as bland as their name.
It would actually be quite easy to walk past this place, have a look at all their food on display in the heated cabinet, and not even be aware it's entirely vegan cuisine. Which it is, except for a couple eggs sitting to one side. This is because a lot of the options include "soy protein", which is a mincey looking addition to the otherwise vegetable based stir-frys, soups and currys. They also have some snacks and sides that I didn't try because they looked too deep fried.
How it works here is you pick what meals you want from the display, they scoop them out and put them on a plate, either with or without rice, then ask you if you want it heated up in the microwave. Which of course I always did. The owner is really nice and is interested in improving his meals, one time doing asking me for advice on what new ingredients to include (I said, "beans!"). All the staff gave top notch service actually, very friendly.
Probably the main selling point here is not the whole food based delights but the unusually low price these healthy meals sell for: only 60 THB (1.9 USD) for a plate with 3 options and rice. Nowhere else in Chaing Mai did we experience this kind of value for money and great flavours. One other place springs to mind in regard to the price, but the food wasn't as good.
The only real downside to the Maya Mall Veg Food Stall is that it's, of course, located in the food court of a massive shopping centre, so the atmosphere is not up to par with everywhere else on this list that has its own premises. I assume that allows for the insanely cheap prices here though.
Located just 3 metres across from the Veg Food Stall is the burrito makers extraordinaire!
The set up at Wrap Master is exactly like Subway. Except better. You take a little slip of paper and tick the boxes of what you want to order, burrito, tacos, or nachos, then tick all the toppings you want, then you give it to the cashier and pay. Then you go and watch them make up your meal right in front of you.
The base price is 80 THB (2.5 USD) and includes the wrap and rice, beans and some veggies, all mixed in with some nice Mexican salsa. Then any additional fillings you desire are 10 THB extra each (0.3 USD). Except for avocado which is 30 THB (0.95 USD). If you really want the avo, I would recommend getting there before about 7PM because they often sell out.
The standout feature of this place, aside from how incredibly good value for money it is, is the long list of fillings they have for their burritos, totally about twenty. My standard fare included: sweet potato, pumpkin, chickpeas, lentils, broccoli and Thai kale. On top of the mandatory beans, rice and salsa. All this wrapped up in a massive tortilla that's home-made on site, for only 4.4 USD or 140 THB? Amazing.
At nearly every other place we ate at in Chiang Mai, most of those ingredients I just mentioned are not even on the menu at all. Brocolli is a very rare treat here, as is sweet potato. Chickpeas? Unless they're in falafel form, forget it. Lentils? Only the Cat House had these. Just having these ingredients in stock every day alone made Wrap Master stand out, and is enough to recommend it here in this list.
These burritos were truly great. Part of me wants to say they are possibly the best burritos I've had anywhere, but that's a big call considering my love for Zambreros. Wrap Master was at least as good though I think, considering they have more options of what to get inside. The finished product was noticeably different, however, the main difference being how soft Zambrero's wraps are. But they are not made in store, so they are no way near as fresh. You'd also have to go to Australia to eat at Zambreros, and pay twice the price... for a smaller burrito.
Blue Diamond is both full on restaurant and full on bakery.
If only it was full on vegan.
But don't let the animal ingredients turn you away too fast, what vegan things they do have are really worth your baht.
What they lack in cruelty-free support, I think they tried to make up for in dessert options. Blue Diamond truly has an unmatched desert range. Their selections include, but are definitely not limited to, pastry rolls with vegan chocolate in side, croissants, muffins, cakes, chocolates, truffles, and best vegan cinnamon buns you've ever had. There is potentially too many delicious dessert choices, which may result in unexpected weight gain. This is the only restaurant I've ever been to where I've spent more on dessert than on the rest of my meals. Purchase at your own risk.
Of course, they also have a huge menu of proper meals too. The stand out of which is one of the best Pad Thais in Chiang Mai. Pad Thai is standard Thai cuisine. It's rice-noodle based meal that is available at most Thai restaurants in the country. So when a meal this common stands out, you know it's going to be good.
A memorable meal is their tofu nuggets, quite an uncommon meal, especially in Thailand, but they nailed it alright. Definitely try these if you can. They look like normal chicken nuggets and come with a peanut sauce.
To put it simply: Blue Diamond has very high quality food. Everything on their menu is the freshest it could ever be. Nothing is microwaved, everything cooked to order with the freshest ingredients. The extent of this is made clearer by the range of fresh fruit and veg for sale in the "store section" accompanying the restaurant (pictures above). This section is large enough to be a stand alone store.
As the name might suggest, Blue Diamond Breakfast Club is great for breakfast. Most notably they have vegan friendly coffee, meaning with your choice of plant-based milks (including soy). We found this to be surprisingly rare in Chiang Mai.
The setting here at the Breakfast Club is, once you walk through the store, really quite pleasant considering it's located in the alleys of the Old Town. You sit and eat in a nice garden area has lots of seats but, in our experience always get's busy, so doesnt really seem that big.
Peppermaint Guesthouse has a unique homely feel to it. As you sit down to eat it almost feels like your Thai step-mother has just invited you over to sample her latest home-cooked delight; the service is super friendly and the seating and layout all appear as if it's in the living room of someone's house - which, it is, actually, as this cafe doubles as a guesthouse, with quite a sizeable library.
Peppermaint Cafe has got arguably the best location of any restaurant in Chiang Mai. You can find them right in the heart of the "vegan district" (the north-east corner of the Old Town where there is the highest concentration of vegan restaurants) on the corner of Moon Muang Soi 6 and Ratvithi Soi 1. Those names are probably meaningless to you, but trust me, it's a good spot. It's also maybe a 4-minute walk from Zoe in Yellow and the main bar area in Chiang Mai. After getting a feel for the city, this area was our favourite to stay in and eat in.
This kitchen creates a big range of food for very good prices, which includes curries, noodles, salads, fruit based meals, smoothies, and sticky rice desserts. Aside from their specials, which change regularly, our favourites included their pancakes with fruit and chocolate syrup on top, their range of tasty vegetable stir fry's, and their vegan burgers. They also have fresh baked vegan bread in store, which is hard to find in Chiang Mai.
Meals go for the very competitive price of about 60 - 70 THB per dish (~2 USD). Definitely check this place out for good Thai vegan food. The handy location of this restaurant makes their food super accessible.
May Kaidee is an international chain of restaurants found in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phnom Penh in Cambodia and New York City. They offer a variety of Thai vegetarian, vegan and raw food dishes, with the Chiang Mai location including Northern Thai meals not found elsewhere.
If you judge restaurants on how they look, you'd probably never eat at May Kaidee. But thankfully, that is an insane way to lay judgement on somewhere you go to eat. And even more importantly, the food here more than makes up for their apparent lack of interest in decorating the walls.
There are no decorations, we assumed, because all the effort goes into the food, and their website. On which you'll notice theres not many pictures of the store... just the food and their famous cooking classes.
The menu is here simple, which is good because the staff don't speak much English. Once you sit down they come round and give you the menu's and a little piece of paper and a pen. Each menu item has a number next to it, and once you've decided what you want you write down the number of your order on the piece of paper. As robotic as this system is, the language barrier seemed to add to the authentic Thai experience.
Once the meals arrive however, all you'll be thinking is what are they doing in that kitchen?? As it becomes quite clear that what they lack in decorations, they more than make up for in taste.
In true Thai style, the main stand out is their range of great curries. One of the best curry's in Chiang Mai, according to Hish, who was always ordering curries everywhere we went.
They have a delicious peanut sauce that they seem to put on everything. Which is okay, because its awesome. My favourite was it drizzled over the fresh spring rolls (raw veggies wrapped in rice paper).
A unique addition is their pumpkin hummus dish. Which I ordered after seeing how good it looked when someone else ordered it. Highly recommended by myself and the American couple sat next to us.
This place has really limited seating, I think you could count the inside tables on one hand. The last time we came here they were full and we had to sit outside and around the corner. The food was still epic though.
May Kaidee is highly recommended for people interested in Thai cooking classes, or those who want affordable, truly delicious and authentic Thai food and are not as concerned with all the other aesthetics of a restaurant.
I know I've been banging on about great settings in the above reviews. I did that because there really are a lot of great gardens at some of these restaurants. But The Lost Lounge has my personal favourite decor in any restaurant I've been into in Chiang Mai.
Because it's... psychedelic. There is "trippy" artwork found on the walls and a very relaxing vibe found in-between them. They have shisha's ("hookahs") available to smoke (inside or out) while you're there too. The outside seating loses a little of the psychedelic vibe, but, even if it is right next to a main road, the little garden you eat in - pictured below - is pretty nice.
The menu prices seemed higher than usual, but once our meals arrived we realised why: the serving sizes are also above average. We usually had two or three meals to fill us up, but one meal and a smoothie was enough here.
It's possibly a little too dark inside for some people's tastes, but we liked the unique atmosphere. All the inside tables, except one, seemed to be strangely low, which made eating a little awkward. As weird as this was, the couches we were sitting on were so comfortable that leaning back and relaxing was even more inviting, and actually made us eat slower than usual. (Which is a good thing.)
Our meals took the longest to arrive out of anywhere I can remember, it seemed as though they only had one staff member on duty when we were there. There was a very friendly kitten that kept us company though, jumping all over us, meowing and cuddling-up on our laps. Maybe not that hygienic, but it was good pre-meal entertainment (we passed on the shisha).
I'm not really sure why we never went back here for seconds, because nothing was being bad, quite the opposite: The Lost Lounge left a very positive impression on both of us, everything from the location to the design to the taste. See you again next time!
Anchan Vegetarian is quite a popular, award-winning vegetarian restaurant. It has a history of very solid online reviews, with heaps of people raving about it online, so we were excited to go there. But after eating we were left wondering why it had ever been hyped up so much.
The menu changes regularly, which is a unique idea, but the menu we saw was nothing exciting. The options are printed on one A4 piece of paper. Nothing fancy, just a basic black and white list of their foods down the left side. This isn't bad in and of itself, and actually makes sense if they change the menu so often...
It was the food itself that was the main drawback. Nothing to write home about, and nothing that was screaming for us to come back and try it again. The smoothie was one of the worst I had, actually (I had minimum one of these daily). So we left our first visit thinking we must have just come on a bad night, or a week when the menu wasn't at it's best.
So we went back a couple more times purely because of the hype, but each time just got more and more confused as to why it seems so popular. So we still really don't know what the fuss is about. But maybe you will if you try it... These ladies certainly seemed to enjoy it.
This little stall at the night-food-markets near the South Gate is probably the cheapest vegan food in Chiang Mai - each meal is for a set price of 50 THB (1.5 USD). And it's all healthy whole-foods too (plus soy sauce), with a little bit of added tofu if you want it. Just avoid the egg.
Their menu is pretty basic. It essentially consists of lots of different vegetable stir fry options. You can choose to have the vegetables with or without rice. The owner/manager is a lovely lady who speaks good English, which makes ordering very easy.
Because all the meals here will only set you back 50 baht per plate, you can get two to four options for the price of one meal at nearly every other place that's on this guide. However, you can literally taste the difference.
Once when Amrita Garden's (featured above) early closing time caught us by surprise and caused us to leave after only two meals, I was still hungry so we walked down to Lada Vegetarian Food stall, and the difference was incredible. Aside from my previous, pre-vegan experiences with McDonalds and KFC, this was the first time that I can remember literally tasting how "cheap" a meal was.
To be fair though, it's an incredibly unfair comparison, as Amrita has some of the best food in the city and costs three times as much.
All in all, the Lada Food Stall is a great option for vegans who find themselves in the South Gate market (which has very little other vegan food) OR just want to spend the absolute minimum for a vege stir fry based meal.
The only other notable vegan food at this market was a veggie wrap I got from the other end of the market, which was this anonymous other stalls only vegan option. (Sorry. don't remember the stall name.)
Kad Suan Kaew is a massive shopping center on Huay Kaew Rd, just to the west of the north side of the old city. You will nearly always go past it when heading to Nimman Rd from the old town.
Hish ate here more than anywhere else. We lived about a three-minute walk from this 10 story shopping centre, it's appropriately sized food courts and it's accompanying big supermarket. For the three months we stayed there, Hish must have been their most loyal customer. Which really says something when you realise the food court he frequented (there's 3) only sell one vegan main-meal and one vegan side.
He favourited the smaller of the food courts right outside of Tops Supermarket, at the biggest stall, named Mama's Kitchen. The vegan main meal they serve is the Veg Biryani. Essentially a plate of steamed white rice with potatoes, onions, chillis and some chopped vegetables with a side of garden salad, as you see pictured below. The empty sauce container you see there Hish has described as "super spicy biryani sauce with real chillis and possibly vinegar". Despite Hish having this exact meal at least 45 times the specific type of sauce in this authentic Thai-style Indian meal still remains a mystery.
The vegan side was a freshly-made-in-front-of-your-eyes garlic naan-bread. You order it, then you see them make the dough, then you see them put in the garlic, the oil, and then fry it. Then you eat it. I had three of these in a row once because they're so good and fresh. They also sell smoothies and samosas, but we don't recommend either of these, as we found them to be too flavourless (smoothies) and way too oily (samosas).
In the same Tops Supermarket Foodcourt is an epic make-your-own salad bar. There is a selection of over 30 different cut up fruits and vegetables for you to pick out, put in a container, then pay by the weight. Some of the veggies are raw and some some are cooked. The options here changed every day, but our favourite were the oven baked potatoes and pumpkins, warm onions, the range of leafy green veggies, kidney beans, chickpeas, cucumbers, tomatoes, and all the tropical fruits you would expect. It was very easy to get a very satisfying whole foods, part cooked, part raw vegan meal here for about 120 THB (3.7 USD). The fruit in this part I didn't find to be as fresh as the stuff I bought whole in just the next isle, but that's to be expected.
The Huay Keaw food court is huge, by the way. There are several sections that by Australian standards would each qualify as their own food court. Right up near the other end of the food court from the Tops Supermarket, just above the set of stairs, on the right, is a more authentic Indian restaurant, The Curry Pot. This eatery a little more like a "real restaurant" as it has it's own dedicated seating space and a much bigger menu than anything at any of the other food courts.
The Curry Pot was good for getting a healthy dose of beans. I would routinely order a big plate of yellow rice and a red kidney bean or chickpea curry. They had a full menu that you would expect from a legit restaurant, but most of the meals have meat in them. We found about five or six good vegan choices.
The Curry Pot is getting a mention here because the meals I liked there (the bean-based ones) were not freely available elsewhere in Chiang Mai for this price. There's something going on all over Thailand where the Indian restaurants are just ridiculously expensive compared to everywhere else. You can notice this in Bangkok just as much as you can in Chiang Mai. But the Curry Pot was actually decently priced. It's probably because they are located in a food court, and I'm pretty sure they just microwaved most of their meals, but when you're ordering a bean curry for three dollars that's not really a big deal.
Outside this shopping centre, on Friday nights, is a small night market. This night market has only a few vegan options, none of which enticed me, such as deep-fried things, greasy noodles, and mango sticky rice (ew). This stuff is pretty standard at all the night markets in Chiang Mai, and this particular night market is considerably smaller than the two main ones, the Saturday and Sunday night "walking street" markets.
So, I would also assume, most people will fall in love with Chiang Mai's best vegan ice cream place just as deeply as we did.
Ice Love You is located a bit out of the way compared to nearly everywhere else you'll want to eat, but we found the 15-minute walk back to our near-Nimman Rd apartment quite handy considering all the excess calories we just consumed at this magnificent desert house.
They have a range of dessert options, but only a few of them are vegan. I would recommend exactly what the owner recommended to us: the puffy, sweet roti with ice cream on the side. My goodness, I'd never had a dessert like this in my life, and I spent the first 25 years of it seeking out all the best desserts.
After you choose what type of dessert you would like, you then choose what flavour ice cream you want with it. All their more than 300 flavours aren't vegan, but about half of them are. And even though they boast so many options, on any given night, "only" about 40 are actually on offer.
My highest recommendation goes to the flavour called Blueberry Sorbet.
It's not really a sorbet, but it's not really an ice cream either. Words can not do it justice, but the best way I can explain the unique flavour sensation is the following: you know when you normally put some incredible ice cream on your tongue, and after a few seconds the flavour has peaked and it starts fading as you swallow it to get the next bite and taste it again? Well, with the Blueberry Sorbet, right about that time, the flavour starts spreading to places of your tongue you don't usually taste things with, and the flavour changes as it spreads, making your tongue feel thing's it's never felt before in places it's never felt anything before. And just when you think it can't anymore, the flavour keeps getting better.
It's a highly unique flavour combination they have going on here, and I feel like my life has been improved just by experiencing it.
The rest of the flavours we had were all very tasty - nothing even came close to being disappointing - but nothing also came close to the Blueberry Sorbet.
We love you too, Ice Love You. Thank you, thank you for everything you've done for my taste-buds.
Living in Thailand changed my opinion on western food. Even well before I came here, as I just started eating more and more vegan whole-foods at home in Australia, I naturally drifted away from most western food, as it's nearly entirely animal-based, and when it's not, it uses a lot of processed or refined ingredients. When I started travelling around Europe after being in Asia for 4 months and was re-introduced to western food quite suddenly, I was struck by an obvious realisation: western food sucks, compared to Thai, Indian and Mexican cuisine.
What does this have to do with Beast Burger, one of the only burger places in Chiang Mai that has a vegan option? Because I felt it here too. Even though it's actually good quality.
As far as burgers go they make them pretty damn well. Crispy buns, fresh ingredients and some very flavoursome sauce, and they cook everything after you order it, so you know the veggie patty is fresh too.
As it says on the front page of their website, their food is "crafter for burger enthusiasts". Clearly, this is not me. But I am including it here for those of you who are. You're welcome.
3 / 5 stars.
If you really like burgers, you will also enjoy the choices at Amrita Garden, reviewed above in full.
If you head to Maya Mall on some nights, you'll find a heap of temporary stalls set up on both sides of the main entrance. As you stand and look at the shopping center from outside the main entrance, on the right-hand side they sell clothes, belts, wallets and the like, and on the left they sell food.
Most of it is meaty or milky, but if you keep looking you will come across a little gem we indulged in every time we could.
There's a little stall with a "Vegan" sign selling dumplings. The older lady steaming them up speaks little to no English but is an absolute sweetheart. She also sells dumplings with pork, so make sure you clearly say "vegan" or "jay" (vegan in Thai). But don't worry, even though they are cooked in the same steamer, they are separated by a barrier and never come in contact with each other.
She sells them in a little basket with soy sauce and you get to grab your own green veggies to put on top. Awesome little snack. We often got them as an entrée before heading down the stairs and going to get a burrito at Wrap Master (review above) or just while having a walk around the rest of the markets. These markets were the smallest ones we found, but also one of the only ones we routinely bought stuff from.
The Free Bird Cafe is a brightly coloured NGO cafe located on the north side of the border of the Old Town. They serve coffee, smoothies and fruit shakes, grilled sandwiches, hummus, salads, and Thai food.
Aside from running the cafe, all of the money you spend here goes directly to The Thai Freedom House, a language and arts community centre for hill tribe and refugee families from Burma.
The owner, Lisa, says that they provide "education and vocational trainings to the most vulnerable members of our community" through "educating refugees and minority group members that are denied access to basic education and human rights elsewhere."
Sounds like a good place to spend some money to me!
Unsurprisingly for a business with these kind of ambitions, The Free Bird Cafe was the second most expensive place we visited in Chiang Mai, after Alice's Organic Vegetarian (reviewed in full above). Think of it as a normal Thai-priced cafe plus a mandatory donation to those who need it more than we can imagine having grown up in the West.
Aside from the cuisine mentioned above, they also sell second hand clothes to further help with their mission of being "dedicated to assisting families and individuals who are refugees from Burma and members of minority groups of Thailand."
The Free Bird closes at 6pm, so it's not really a dinner venue. Which may explain why their menu is dominated by a huge range of pancakes, with the healthy, organic, whole-food ingredients listed for each pancake. These and their range of smoothie bowls I would recommend the most. But when the hearts of the owners are beating this strong, hopefully you will buy a lot more.
Sometime during our stay Hish had a craving for pizza, and after some mad research he found that while there is no fully vegan pizza place in Chiang Mai, there are 3 pizza places that catered for vegans.
Why Not? is an Italian restaurant and was the first we went to. It is located just off Nimman Rd. It had great pizzas. Huge pizzas, actually. Appropriately thin bases but about 40cm in diameter. In true Thai fashion, they're very casual about everything and have a design-your-own option where you just choose from their list of ingredients and they chuck them on. This was music to my ears and I just got ALL the veggies. It was so good I walked back after and ordered another one exactly the same.
The only thing downside to Why Not was the price: very expensive compared to what I was used to paying. One pizza cost more than 200 THB (6.3 USD). Granted, mine was a little more than usual because I got so many toppings, but when you consider that Wrap Master (review above) - where you can get a huge burrito for 100 THB - is no more than 10-minute walk away, it's understandable why we only ate here this one night.
To be fair, the setting at Why Not is quite fancy. It doesn't really seem to cater to backpackers. It seems more suited to tourists who are in town for a weekend and want to dine in luxury. If that's you, you'll probably love this place. It closes at 11 PM which we liked too.
By Hand Pizza Cafe has a good location, nestled in the north-east side of the Old Town, the same area of Chiang Mai with the highest concentration of vegan restaurants. By Hand is a cool little restaurants where the chef prepares and cooks the pizzas in front of you on their wood fire oven then serves it hot to your table.
The place had a nice and relaxing, laid-back vibe that was complemented by the jazz music they were playing. This place seemed busy and their online reviews, even specifically for the vegan pizzas, were very positive. It was surprising then that the vegan pizza didn't taste good enough to warrant a return visit from us. Maybe you will like it more?
There was one more vegan-friendly pizza place that we didn't go to. With the best title of the lot, it's called Street Pizza & The Wine Houzz and is located just a little further East than we generally liked to venture for food. We heard they are happy to do vegan pizzas by removing the cheese from the vege ones, we heard about the friendly staff who are happy to customise pizzas for us, but we never went. The online reviews still all seem to be very positive, though.
Considering about half of the food I ate during our stay was fruit, this post would not be complete without telling you about the delicious tropical fruit Chiang Mai has to offer you. There are a few different markets here where you can buy fresh, inexpensive fruit that is either not readily available, or just way tastier than the imports we get in the west.
Expect tropical fruits such as many different types of mangoes and bananas that are never available in the west, pomegranates, rambutans, durians, pineapples, papaya, dragon fruits, guava, jackfruit, longan, lychee, coconuts, snake fruit and watermelons just to name a few. These can be found in many small road-side stalls like the one pictured below, as well as much bigger, fully functioning fruit market places.
My favourite market was the Somphet Market mainly just because of its location. It's open from the early morning through to the afternoon inside the Old City just 5 minute walk north of Tha Phae Gate (East Gate). It contains plenty of fresh tropical fruit and vegetables. You can even walk by here after dark, sometimes as late as 10PM and still find a few stalls open along the side of the main Mun Mueang Rd selling left over fruit much cheaper than usual. I regularly bought fruit at this time to eat the next day.
Next is the 3 story Warorot Market located further East just where Chang Moi Road, meets the Ping River, just a two minute stroll north of Night Bazaar. This market is huge and contains many clothes and other stores in addition to the fresh fruit. The fruit is mainly located outside while the inside stalls have lots of dried fruit and nuts. The Warorot Markets are open all day from the morning til the evening and are a favourite place for the locals to shop too.
No more than a 10 minute walk North from here you will find the Fruit Wholesale Market then the Muang Mai Market. These markets are open during the daytime, from early morning till sunset. Expect wholesale fresh fruit, vegetables, and dead land and sea animals. I have never seen more bananas in my life than walking around these markets.
Aside from these markets - where fruit is always the cheapest - you can find also natures sweet gifts at supermarkets like Tops @ Kad Suan Kaew and Rimping @ Maya Lifestyle Center that might be in more easily accessible locations for you. These supermarkets also sell frozen strawberries, blueberries and raspberries that are perfect for adding to homemade smoothies.
Not that I ever went a day here without eating fruit, but I found Koh Phangan (a southern Thai island) easier to find quality fruits at any time of day. I think because of the lay out of the fruit stalls on that island, there seemed to be stalls placed very conveniently and they always had very ripe produce. Click here to read my Vegan Guide to Koh Phanang.
PS. The above photos whose sources are not credited mostly came from the corresponding restaurants Facebook page, but I took some of them myself.