Before we start recommending what we believe are the best vegetarian Thai dishes, you must know that the majority of the Thai dishes are flavoured with non-vegetarian sauces, including oyster sauce and fish sauce. These two sauce are among the most important Thai ingredients and are added to common vegetarian Thai dishes. You can order these dishes without these important flavour makers, but we must say that the dishes will taste a little less tasty. Alternatively, you can add soy sauce or salt to replace these sauces. Restaurants who solely serve vegetarian and vegan food most likely don’t serve vegetarian dishes with these two sauces.
The best vegetarian Thai food are:
1. Vegetarian Khao Soi
One of the all-time Thai food favourites among foreigners is Khao Soi, a Northern Thai curry that originates from Birma. This incredibly herby curry with its recognizable bright yellow colour is usually served with a chicken drumstick or with beef, however, vegetarian versions of this popular curry can easily be found in cities like Chiang Mai and Bangkok. Instead of chicken or beef, usually, the protein that’s being used is tofu, although mushroom-versions are common too. The curry itself is slightly spicy but packed with incredible flavours thanks to the garlic, lemongrass, lime, ginger, cilantro and coriander seeds. Keep in mind that Khao Soi is made with fish sauce. When you’re in Bangkok, you can visit Daradalay, a local restaurant that serves the best Khao Soi in Bangkok and offers a vegetarian version as well. In Chiang Mai, there are many vegetarian Khao Soi to be found, including at Taste From Heaven.
2. Vegetarian Laab
Laab is a popular herby meat-salad that you can basically find in every restaurant in Thailand. Vegetarian versions of it are more difficult to find, but if you do stumble upon a restaurant that serves vegetarian laab, you’re in for a real treat. The use of herbs like kaffir lime leaves is what makes this vegetarian Thai dish such a feast. Your best chance to find this dish is at vegetarian Thai restaurants such as May Veggie Home and Tongklar Facai in Bangkok, Five Star J in Pattaya, On's Vegetarian Thai Isaan in Kanchanaburi and Taste from Heaven and Pun Pun Vegetarian Slow Food in Chiang Mai.
3. Fried Malindjo Sweet Leaves with Egg
A popular vegetarian Southern Thai dish is Bai Lieng Pad Kai, also known as Stir-Fried Malindjo Leaves with Egg. You can find this speciality in the majority of Southern Thai restaurants. Like many recommended dishes in this article, fried sweet Malindjo leaves with egg is made with fish sauce and oyster sauce. The dish is non-spicy, contrary to the majority of the Southern Thai dishes. You usually order this dish as a side (vegetable) dish with one of the other mains that you share with others. But this is most definitely a vegetarian Thai dish you should try, even when you’re not a vegetarian.
4. Yum Kai Dao - Sour And Spicy Egg Salad
Yum is a collective name for the popular sour and spicy salad of which many versions can be found in the majority of Thai restaurants. For non-vegetarians, Yum Talay (yum salad with seafood) is among the best choices you can find. Yum is a lukewarm salad with tomato, herbs and your preferred protein and is covered in a really sour and spicy dressing. The sourness and spiciness can be overwhelming at first, but if you do love a bit of spice, Yum can be your new food addiction. Luckily, a common variation of Yum salad is Yum Kai Dao, which is Yum with a fried egg. Maybe at first, this doesn’t sound appetizing, but trust me, the combination of the sourness and spiciness with the egg yolk and fried bits of egg is impressively good.
5. Vegetarian (Fresh) Spring Rolls
Vegetarian Thai food doesn’t have to be complicated and spring rolls are a perfect example for that. Spring rolls are a great snack with a cold beer or combining it with nice spicy and sour salad as described above. In Thailand, you find two types of spring rolls which we both highly recommend. The deep-fried spring roll is so popular, that you can find it almost every Thai restaurant and in most cases are 100% vegetarian. Fresh spring rolls, on the other hand, are popular too, but slightly less popular than deep-fried spring rolls and are often served with shrimps or imitation crab sticks and spicy seafood dipping sauce. But if you stumble upon a Thai vegetarian restaurant, there is a big chance that fresh spring rolls are on the menu!
6. Massaman Tempeh
Similar to the earlier recommended vegetarian Thai curry Khao Soi, Massaman Curry is also a curry with Muslim roots outside Thailand and because of this, the flavours of these delicious curries different than other Thai curries. We must admit that these curries are much more fragrant and more balanced for the Western taste palate compared to other Thai curries that are much spicier. We stumbled upon different versions of vegetarian massaman curry and found that the one with tempeh tasted almost as regular massaman curry. One of our favourites can be found at Five Star J in Pattaya, but you can find this dish at many other Thai vegetarian restaurants.
7. Papaya Salad
Thailand’s most popular dish, Papaya Salad, is not completely vegetarian but can be ordered 100% vegetarian and we highly recommend you trying this addictively delicious, sour and spicy salad made with unripe papaya. Similar to Pad Thai, Papaya Salad (or Som Tum) is a Thai dish that actually does not need any further explanation as it’s so commonly known. But one must understand that papaya salad comes in different variations and all do contain a few non-vegetarian ingredients. The most common version of Som Tum is Som Tum Thai and we highly recommend you to stick to this version as other versions contain exotic ingredients such as fermented fish. Regular Papaya Salad, or Som Tum Thai, is made with fish sauce and served with dried shrimps, which you both want to order without. Papaya Salad can be found at every Thai restaurant.
8. Stir-Fried Water Morning Glory
One of the most popular vegetarian Thai dishes is Stir-Fried Water Morning Glory, a non-spicy, healthy side dish. For many non-vegetarians, it’s the perfect side dish to get your daily dose of vitamins and fibre. But Stir-Fried Water Morning Glory is seasoned with oyster sauce, which makes it so delicious. Fortunately, you can order it with soy sauce instead which still is tasty. Stir-Fried Morning Glory is such a common dish that you can find it in almost every Thai restaurant.
9. Thai Omelette
At first, Thai omelette might sound like a boring meal, but the greasiness and crispiness of the omelette make it really tasty, especially with the sweet chilli dipping sauce which it always is served with. But Thai omelette is also perfect to combine with a spicy and sour salad or the previous recommended Stir-Fried Water Morning Glory with steamed rice. That’s the best thing about (vegetarian) Thai food, the portions are maybe smaller than you are used to, but you can easily combine those things that you like to make it even tastier. Thai omelette, or fried egg, can be eaten for breakfast but it’s common to eat it with dinner as well.
10. Vegetarian Pad See Ew
For me personally, Pad See Ew is much tastier than Pad Thai, as Pad See Ew is much heartier and less sweet. As this dish is made with light and dark soy sauces only, not fish or oyster sauce, it’s a 100% vegetarian dish if you choose not to order it with the common proteins such as pork or chicken. Pad See Ew is made with wide noodles and Chinese broccoli and can be found at the majority of Thai restaurants.
11. Tofu with Penang Curry
One of the more basic curries that are accessible for the western taste palette is Penang Curry. This creamy curry is not as spicy as other Thai curries such as Red Curry and Green Curry. Tofu is a common ingredient in the Thai cuisine and finding a vegetarian Penang Curry should not be that difficult. Even when a tofu version of this curry not on the menu, chances are that they can still make it for you. This rule applies to most vegetarian Thai dishes listed in this article.
12. Vegetarian Fried Rice
There aren’t many comforting Thai dishes like Fried Rice. This popular dish can be found at every food court, at every market, at every restaurant and at every street food area. From Crab Fried Rice to American Fried Rice, there are dozens of variations to be found. This simple, stir-fried meal is made from scratch on the spot and served within minutes. Because of this, you can easily adjust what ingredients you want to add to the wok. For that reason, finding a Vegetarian Fried Rice in Thailand is not very challenging buts satisfyingly delicious!
13. Pad Ped Yod Maprao - Stir-Fried Spicy Curry with Bamboo Shoots
This is probably the most difficult to find vegetarian Thai food we recommend in this article, but it shows how diverse the Thai cuisine is for vegetarians. Pad Ped Yod Maprao is a Thai curry with bamboo shoots and Thai eggplant served with fake duck meat. When visiting strictly vegan or vegetarian Thai restaurants in Thailand, modern ingredients such as fake duck meat, which is made with tofu, is getting popular by the year. And with the typical Thai flavours, it’s almost as if you’re eating a duck curry. Cities such as Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Pai and Pattaya have many of these restaurants.
14. Banana Flower Blossom Salad
Banana Flower Blossom Salad is a fresh and sour salad that is a little bit hard to find at most restaurants, but a popular salad at vegetarian Thai restaurants. Out of all the salads listed in this article, Banana Flower Blossom Salad has the most similarities of Western salads because of the freshness and sourness, however, there are some unusual flavours in it that makes this salad much more excited. Obviously, the salad is made with banana blossom, but other common ingredients are kaffir lime leaves, shallots, lemongrass and lime juice, giving it those typical Thai aromatics.
15. Vegetarian Pad Kra Pao
My personal favourite Thai dish is Pad Kra Pao and millions of Thai will agree that it’s the most delicious Thai food available. Usually, Pad Kra Pao is made with minced pork or diced chicken, but other variations such as seafood and crispy pork are common too. But vegetarian versions with mushroom and grilled tofu can be found throughout the country. Pad Kra Pao is made with fish sauce and oyster sauce as well as light soy sauce and dark soy sauce, which means that if you want to have Pad Kra Pao, it’s almost inevitable to eat it with fish sauce and oyster sauce, unfortunately.
16. Deep-Fried Mushrooms
Deep-Fried Mushrooms served with sweet chilli sauce are a real treat. The crunchiness and saltiness of the deep-fried batter together with the earthiness of the mushrooms make this dish a perfect snack when enjoying an ice-cold drink. Although not that common in the majority of the Thai restaurants, if you do see it on the menu, give it a try and you won’t regret it!
17. Corn Salad
Corn Salad is a great alternative to the popular Papaya Salad and much sweeter in taste. Both salads originate from the Isaac-region in Thailand, which are among the most popular dishes in Thailand, known for its spiciness and sourness. But where Papaya Salad can be spicy, Corn Salad is a much friendlier alternative for your tongue.
18. Vegetarian Pad Thai
Ah, Pad Thai. A dish that is tremendously popular among foreigners, but not really popular among Thai. This all-time favourite tourist dish can be found in every Thai restaurant in Thailand and can easily be ordered as a vegetarian version of it as it’s usually already served with tofu. Although we believe that there are much interesting vegetarian Thai dishes to be found as we try to prove with this list, we can’t ignore the fact that Pad Thai is so popular among tourists. The vegetarian Pad Thai on the picture is a bit special though, as instead of noodles, this restaurant called Blue Rice Kanchanaburi used papaya instead, which makes it super healthy!
The following vegetarian Thai dishes are desserts. If you’re a sweet tooth, make sure to try at least one of them! Keep in mind that many Thai desserts are not strictly vegetarian as they often contain gelatine. To be clear, the following recommendations do not contain gelatine.
19. Pa Tong Go
Pa Tong Go, or Thai-style Chinese doughnuts, is a popular snack that can be eaten as breakfast or even as a dessert. This golden-brown deep-fried strip of dough is a typical street food snack but many upscale hotels serve this treat at their breakfast buffet as well. It’s a combination of saltiness and crispiness while the inside of the doughnut is nicely fluffy. One of the most exciting Pa Tong Go I have ever tried was at Chinatown Bangkok. We even listed this amazing dish in our article about the best Chinatown Bangkok Food, but unfortunately, we did not recommend many vegetarian Thai food options in that article.
20. Nom Sod
At first, I was sceptical to try this popular sweet snack or dessert. I mean, how can a toasted bun with a sweet spread such as chocolate or custard be that delicious. But I can’t deny that Nom Sod is delicious. Thai simply love sweetness and Nom Sod definitely sweet. If you are planning to visit Bangkok or Chiang Mai, have a look at Mont Nom Sod, a popular family-run restaurant that is specialized in these cheap, toasted buns with a large variety of spreads and dips. But Nom Sod can be found throughout the country at markets and street food areas. We believe that Nom Sod is among the not-so-common Thai food recommendations you won’t find elsewhere but are interesting enough to give it a try. We hope to achieve that with all of our vegetarian Thai food recommendations.
21. Coconut Ice Cream
This dessert does not need any explanation as it’s simply coconut ice cream topped with peanuts. You can find coconut ice cream at markets such as Chatuchak Weekend Market or Ratchada Train Night Market in Bangkok, but also at many local Thai restaurants. If you want some extraordinary coconut ice cream when you’re in Bangkok, head over to Natthaphon Coconut Ice Cream, which is located relatively close to Khao San Road. This older lady makes heavenly ice cream from 100% pure ingredients, meaning that no additional flavour enhancers are added.
22. Mango Sticky Rice
The most popular Thai dessert is Mango Sticky Rice, and if you’re visiting Thailand during the mango season, it’s almost criminal not to devour this delicious treat. The key part of this dessert is the ripeness of the mango. If the mango is not ripe, this dessert will be disappointing. But when the mango is perfectly ripe, you will fall in love with this dessert. Mango Sticky Rice can be found at night markets and street food stalls. Bangkok has a few legendary shops that serve Mango Sticky Rice with the highest quality of mangos. Have a look at our article about the best Mango Sticky Rice in Bangkok if you’re planning to visit Thailand.
There you have it, the best Thai vegetarian food. All these foods can be found in our food app TopTravelFoods. The app will help you find the best food in Thailand, instead of only recommending good restaurants at popular destinations. This way, you won’t miss out legendary restaurants and you can enjoy the local Thai cuisine to the fullest. You can filter on vegetarian Thai foods only. The app is available for both iOS and Android and is completely free. If you're on a desktop, you can start searching for vegetarian food in Bangkok or many other cities such as Pattaya, Chiang Mai, Koh Larn, Ayutthaya, Kanchanaburi and Sukhothai.
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