Chiang Mai Vegan Food Guide

Chiang Mai Vegan Food Guide

Wondering where to find the best vegan food in Thailand? Look no further!

When I first landed in Thailand, I was shepherded up to the most Northern tip of it, where ‘Jai’ or ‘vegan’ was met with weird stares and abundance of mushroom and rice. I like both, so it’s not like I’m complaining. However, when I got to Chiang Mai I was astounded by the pure variety of delicious and well priced vegan food and the abundance of entirely vegan restaurants. Here are a few of my favorites:

 

1. May Kaidee (Chang Moi Kao Rd)

M-Sat 11 am-9 pm / Sunday CLOSED

May Kaidee feels like home, so I was pretty sad to leave it behind. Thank goodness they actually have a restaurant branch in NYC that I can visit on the reg. May always made me feel like I was eating in a Thai version of my own house, even though she’d tease me for my frequent order of ‘steamed veggies and rice with extra peanut sauce.’ She’d occasionally slip me some vegan sausage and was pleased when I ordered (and raved over) some of the more complex dishes. My favorites include:

  • carrot salad (thinly shredded carrots doused in a thin, tart-but-sweet cashew based sauce with the tiniest bit of tofu added in for bulk...so refreshing and delicious)
  • pad thai (in my humble opinion, May serves up the best vegan pad thai in Chiang Mai. Several others have corroborated)
  • steamed veggies with rice (yes, sounds incredibly basic, but May steams them with some lemon grass and serves the dish up with her signature peanut and hot sauces and it makes healthy eating so. damn. good)  
  • pancake with mango (my all time favorite dessert: a plump, puffy pancake that is (sometimes) stained pink if dragon fruit is in season, complete with mango on top and a bowl of thick coconut cream to pour over. yep.)
  • massaman curry (this cheerful yellow curry is served with potatoes and it is the absolute best comfort food)
  • thai tea (they serve the iced thai tea here in tall glasses with sweetened coconut milk. It’s heaven in a cup)

2. Food 4thought (15/5 Moo 1, Soi Sudjai)

M-Weds 8 am-5 pm / Thur-Sat 8 am-9 pm / Sunday 8 am-5 pm

F4Twas a bit outside the confines of the old city, but it wasn’t too far from my apartment up at the North gate. It was my favorite spot for definitively ‘western’ fare that was delicious and healthy. Food4thought is also a wifi loaded workspace and they encourage patrons to stay all day long if they like, so I basically moved in here. I like:

  • falafel wrap (a well executed falafel + hummus + veggies all in a wrap with a side of pickled onions. This hit the spot whenever I was craving Mediterranean food)
  • kale and mushroom sando (I’m not usually a sando gal, until I tried this panini style sandwich packed with warm sauteed kale and mushroom that is- honest to god- seasoned to perfection)
  • breakfast wrap (what I love most about Food4thought is how accommodating they are to vegans and vegetarians. Pretty much anything on their menu can be veganized, so I would get this wrap with scrambled tofu, vegan cream cheese, salsa and beans, all tucked inside a whole wheat wrap. yee haw!)
  • masala chai (they brew it themselves. They add the perfect amount of almond milk. It’s a caffeine jolt and a party in your mouth all at the same time).
  • chocolate oats (I rarely made it to Food4Thought for breakfast, but when I did I got the chocolate oats and it was like having your cake and eating it too. The oats were so damn fluffy and perfectly chocolatey and they served it alongside a decent amount of fruit, thus negating the effect of the chocolate)

3. Free Bird Cafe (Manee Nopparat Road)

T-Sat 9 am-5 pm / Sunday + Monday CLOSED

I liked to frequent Free Bird when I was running late in the mornings as it was right down the street from my apartment. The cafe is also a non profit and 100% of the profits from the restaurant go to the Thai Freedom House, which benefits refugees from Burma. As a result, their menu is a mix of Western breakfast food, Thai and Burmese cuisine. My favorites:

  • cacao smoothie bowl (this is basically a bowl of ambrosia. The nectar of the gods. It’s a smoothie bowl, but with the most amazing, velvety chocolate texture. It’s sweetened with dates and topped with chia, hemp, bananas, mangos, bananas, etc. It is amazing and slightly pricey)  
  • pennyworth salad (if you find yourself at Free Bird, do yourself a favor and order the salad sampler, which is a great way to try all of the Burmese fermented tea leaf salads. I know, I know nothing sounds less appealing than fermented tea leaves, but these salads are deliciously tangy and a little bit salty and hearty all at once.)

4. Blue Diamond (Si Phum)

M-Sat 7 am-9 pm / Sunday: CLOSED

Blue Diamond is your one-stop-shop for a fan-freaking-tastic breakfast and for vegan pastries. Yes, you heard that right. It’s tucked away on a quiet soi and has a garden and a koi pond and is just overall a lovely place for a long breakfast. My favorites include:

  • vegan chocolate chip pancakes with banana (these pancakes are killer. They’re fluffy, chocolatey, yet the tiniest bit crispy at the edges, aka perfection)
  • breakfast potatoes (sometimes you just need hella. good. hashbrowns)
  • cinnamon buns (make it your mission to find out when the latest batch is coming out of the oven and buy then. They are so damn good, I’ve eaten two in a row before, which basically gives you the adrenaline rush of an epi pen.)
  • vietnamese salad (ok. This is probably the best salad I’ve ever eaten in my life. Plus, it is enormous. I’m serious! It comes out on a family sized platter and it’s spicy and nutty and crisp and fresh and you absolutely must try it. Even if you’re not a salad fan. Especially if you’re not a salad fan. It’s incredible.)

5. Taste From Heaven (34/1 Ratmakka Road)

M-Sun 9 am-10pm

Taste is the first vegan establishment I ate at in Chiang Mai and I was not disappointed. I love love love their pad thai (4ever yours tho, May Kaidee), as well as their pumpkin curry and mock BLT. My heart, though, belongs to….

  • vegan chocolate brownie with ice cream (just get it. Seriously. It’s the size of an actual brick and your life will be drastically improved. Unless you’re allergic to nuts. Then check first, because they tend to get nutty with their brownies.)

6. Juicy 4U (Ratchamanka 5)

M-Sun 8 am-7pm

Right down the street from Taste is Juicy4U, which has a nice assortment of sandwiches and pad thai and curries served up with a continual playlist of Bob Marley. My favorite is the…

  • layer sandwich (because they make bread, stacked veggies, tofu and sauce so. damn. good.)

7. Dada Kafe (Ratmakka Road)

M-Sat 9am-8:45 pm/ Sunday 9am-2:45 pm

Directly across from Juicy4U is Dada Kafe, which is the more expensive of the two. I had a pretty good pad thai there once, but I mostly frequent this location for the smoothies. A lot of the smoothies in Thailand are called fruit shakes with tons of ice and I just can’t get behind that. Give me a Dada smoothie any day and I’m a happy gal. My fave in particular was….

  • choco-avo coconut mango smoothie (nothing here sounds like it should go together. And yet it does. Beautifully. It’s also a more socially acceptable way of drinking pudding)

8. Coconut Shell (42/4 Rachamankha)

M-F 10 am-10 pm / Saturday CLOSED Sunday 10 am-10 pm

Coconut Shell made the list because it is such an affordable, cute little place to grab a bite. They do serve meat, but take pains to accommodate vegetarians and vegans alike. Their curries are out of this world and their mango sticky rice is sublime. My favorites:

  • coconut fruit shake (basically a blend of coconut meat and water + some kind of sugar. jittery heaven)
  • red/green curry (you can’t go wrong...it’s all delicious. They get the spice right, too, for weak bellied farang!)

9. Morning Glory (Prapokkloa Road)

M-Sat 9 am-9 pm / Sunday 5 pm-9pm

Like May Kaidee, Morning Glory is an exclusively vegan, casual place by Chiang Mai gate. The cook is lovely and I would always order one of two dishes, depending on how hungry I was:

  • steamed noodles with curry and veg (this sounds simple, and it is, but it’s delicious. It’s a curry base with veggies over steamed rice noodles. You can eat it all day every day, and I almost did)
  • fried tofu (I will be the first to admit that this did not sound immediately appealing to me, but a couple of friends coerced me into trying theirs….love at first bite. The tofu isn’t sickeningly greasy- it’s got a light, bubbly crust on the outside, sort of like it was battered with tempura. Bet you can’t eat just one!)

10. Maya Mall Veg Stall (55 Huay Kaew Road)

M-F 11 am-10 pm / Sunday 11 am-10 pm

I. love. the Maya Veg Stall. Seeing May, the owner and head chef was basically part of my daily routine and she was always so positive, sometimes I’d just stop by to say hi. This is the most affordable option of all that I’ve listed, with a single dish + rice amounting to 30 baht, 2 dishes + rice at 40 and 3 dishes + rice at 50. My favorites include:

  • potato curry (these are two of my very favorite things)
  • pumpkin (who knew I’d grow to love it so much)
  • brussels sprouts (I swear May is a wizard...she got me to eat the sprouts willingly every day for about three months)
  • broccoli (the sauteed broccoli is divine)

2 days in singapore

2 days in singapore