It’s not always easy to travel as a vegan, but you can rest assured that in Bangkok, you won’t have much trouble. While it may not seem like it at first glance, the bustling city is home to a wide variety of restaurants and street stalls serving up tasty vegan dishes – you just might need a little help finding them. That’s where we come in! Our in-the-know local guides have put together the ultimate guide to being vegan in Bangkok.
The word for vegetarian in Thai is “mangsawirat” (มังสวิรัติ), which includes eggs, but usually doesn’t include dairy since dairy products aren’t traditionally in the Thai diet. If a restaurant serves vegetarian food, it’s likely that a lot of the dishes will be vegan by default. On non-vegetarian menus, there are a lot of Thai dishes that on the surface look suitable for vegans or vegetarians, but do note that fish sauce, oyster sauce or fish pastes are commonly used so it’s best to check that a dish of stir-fried vegetables is actually vegan.
There’s another term for vegetarian which is best for vegans, “Jay” (เจ) – and happily it’s also much easier to say (pronounced “chay”). A “jay” diet is very similar to the restrictions followed in Jainism, so foods cannot contain honey, garlic, onion, or leeks (or any pungent vegetable). Luckily, unlike Jainism, “jay” can have other root vegetables and any type of fruit. “Gin jay” means “I eat vegan” and will be understood wherever you travel in Thailand. Restaurants and dishes labelled vegetarian in English may be “jay” or “mangsawirat” so it’s best to ask.
Jay food stalls are easily recognized by yellow flags hanging around them with Thai script on them in red (เจ), or it may be a Chinese character in red. Essentially, if you see yellow flags with red Thai or Chinese characters hanging on a food stall, it’s vegan. If you happen to be in Thailand during “Tesagan Gin Jay” known as the vegetarian festival in English, you will see these flags in many places. The festival happens for nine days in September or October and in Bangkok it usually centres around Chinatown due to its ties to the Chinese community, a Taoist festival celebrating the Nine Emperor Gods (28 Sept – 7 Oct 2019)
Eating out – Restaurant Recommendations
Veganerie began as a small bakery-café run by a vegan family who wanted to share their vegan experience with others. In just a few years they’ve grown to have five branches and offer a full menu of Thai and non-Thai dishes including gluten-free and nut-free options. It’s a peaceful haven, located next to a Buddhist Meditation Centre. The raw pad Thai is an interesting, healthy twist on the national dish, and the vegan cauliflower wings are mixed with a sticky, spicy Thai style sauce that keeps you going back for more. Don’t miss the desserts, many served with vegan ice-cream or made with vegan chocolate. Dishes are priced from 175-300 THB.
May Veggie Home
May Veggie Home serves 100 percent vegan cuisine and is a firm favourite amongst visitors to the city looking for Thai dishes adapted for vegans. Located close to Asok BTS station and Sukhumvit MRT, it’s easily accessible and deservedly busy. They take online reservations through their website, so it’s easy to make sure you get a table. All your Thai favourites are on the menu, including northern staples like khao soi and laab; the som tam (papaya salad) proves that fish sauce isn’t necessary to create this tasty Thai dish. They have great burgers and pasta if you’re after some home comforts, as well as some Japanese dishes. Expect to pay between 120 – 220 THB.
Pala Pizza Romana
Just around the corner from May Veggie Home underneath Asok BTS station, is Pala Pizza Romana – not a vegan pizzeria but they have a growing range of vegan pizzas on their menu and a handy takeaway counter where you can buy by the slice. Freshly made with good quality ingredients, this little pizzeria is always busy in peak hours so come early or be prepared to wait for a table. Try the Rustica; it’s hard to believe a potato topping could taste this good. They also have some vegan pasta and salad dishes, and a deli counter that stocks vegan cashew cheese to take away. Pizza slices range from 80-140 THB and mains from 360-500 THB.
Na Aroon is the restaurant of a boutique hotel in a 1940’s Bangkok-style villa. Their philosophy is healthy, tasty, organic and mainly vegetarian, which means the menu does feature some fish and seafood (they don’t serve meat) but it is very vegan friendly. A predominantly Thai menu but with some western dishes as well, they don’t use MSG, food colouring or preservatives. The por pia sod (fresh Thai spring rolls) are a great way to start the meal, dishes here are great for sharing, and the vegetarian set menu features a good range of classic Thai dishes suitable for vegans. This is a small restaurant, so reservations are advised. Get the set menu from 800++THB, or vegan dishes between 150++ and 350++ THB.
Note: ++ on a menu in Thailand indicates the price excludes VAT and service so your final bill will have 10 percent VAT and usually 5-7% service charge added to the total.
Located on Sukhumvit road between Phrom Phong and Thong Lo BTS stations is Broccoli Revolution – a socially conscious, modern (think brushed concrete, wood and hanging plants) vegetarian and vegan-friendly restaurant and cold-pressed juice bar. The menu includes dishes from all around Asia as well as the west, and the broccoli charcoal quinoa burger proves that not all burgers are unhealthy choices. Pad Thai and Thai curries are also on the menu. Prices range from 150-290 THB per dish and cold-pressed juices start at 100 THB.
Ethos and Mango Vegetarian
If you’re staying in the old city, there are a couple of well-established vegetarian restaurants that cater to vegans as well and they’re just around the corner from each other close to Khao San Rd. Ethos is located on a small lane behind Tanao Road, but our favourite right on Tanao road is Mango – if only for the fact that it’s air-conditioned. Both restaurants have a mix of floor and table seating and have menus that offer both Thai and non-Thai food. They both offer Kombucha teas and have great smoothies and juices. Ethos only use organic Thai rice. Expect to pay 80-150 THB per dish.
Eating out – Street Food Vendors
Jae Lee Vegetarian Restaurant, Chinatown
Easily to recognise by the yellow flags with red Chinese characters that indicate vegan food in Thai, although labelled a restaurant on google maps, it’s more of a street food stall/shop house with seating on the street. The menu features simple but tasty Thai food and has pictures with the names of dishes written in English script but not all are translated from Thai. This is a great option for a cheap, quick lunch if you’re in the area. Dishes are priced around 40-60 THB.
Jay stall in the lane behind India Emporium near Phahurat Market
If you join us on our Tuk Tuk Adventure, we’ll visit Little India, a small market street on the edge of Chinatown. Hidden down a lane behind India Emporium is a “jay” food stall well known by locals, but less easy to find without the help of someone who knows. Ask your guide to show you where it is if you want to come back for lunch after the tour.
Mill Hand-pulled noodles, Thong lo Street Food court
Right next to Thong Lo BTS station on Sukhumvit Soi 38 is a typical Bangkok street food court. Amongst the stalls is a vegan handmade noodle stall called Mill. They have one dish on the menu with a choice of three sauces – sesame, spicy mala or soy sauce & seeds, and an option to add egg white for non-vegans. Even the sesame sauce is spicy enough for Thai tastes, but you can always ask for no or less chilli if you prefer. Dishes are 140 THB and they also serve bubble tea made with soymilk.
Vegan Food at Shopping Malls
Bangkok’s malls are a surprising culinary delight with restaurants at all price brackets featuring cuisines from all over the world. In Bangkok we go to the mall to hang out and eat and drink more than we go to shop. As well as restaurants and bars, malls always have a food court which can be a good option for a quick, reasonably priced meal if you happen to be near one. Shopping mall food courts very often have a vegetarian counter, but they aren’t always “jay”. That said if you ask the staff if the food is “jay” they will point out the dishes that are appropriate – there are usually a few options, and sometimes it’s all of them.
Food courts usually have a central payment system where you load money on a card, and then use the card to pay at the counter you select. When you’ve finished your meal you can hand the card back and get the balance refunded – or hang onto it if you’re in Bangkok for a few days and plan to return.
MBK next to National Stadium BTS and Siam Paragon (Siam BTS) both have counters in their food courts that are “jay” labelled vegetarian in English. (50-100 THB). You can get food to takeaway and re-heat at home from these outlets as well.
Terminal 21 next to Asok BTS/Sukhumvit MRT station has a vegetarian counter in their 5th floor food court, and EmQuartier next to Phrom Phong BTS station has two vegetarian options in their 4th floor food court, one of which is vegan.
Central Embassy near Ploen Chit BTS has probably the best food court of all the malls for visitors to Bangkok on the LG floor called Eat Thai, serving only authentic Thai dishes. It’s beautifully designed with a modern twist on traditional Thai style and has a vegetarian counter by Khun Churn, originally from Chiang Mai so northern dishes feature heavily. Some dishes include eggs, but there are plenty of vegan choices and it’s all freshly cooked. Dishes range between 110-150 THB.
All of Bangkok’s shopping malls have supermarkets – usually at the basement level. The Gourmet Market supermarkets stock a range of ready to eat meals including fresh salad and soup bars as well as delicatessen items and imported food. The soups are rarely vegan, but the salad bars allow you to choose what you add, and you pay by weight. Imported items usually cost more in Bangkok than you might pay at home and are more limited, but you can easily find grains such as quinoa, or milk substitutes such as almond milk.
Siam Paragon’s Gourmet Market (B1 level) stocks a wide range of Asian vegetarian meat substitutes if you’re cooking for yourself, such as mushroom ‘fish’ balls and other animal-free protein products. They’re not all labelled in English, but some are, and the range is shelved together mostly with yellow packaging so it’s easy to recognise.
Barefood Bangkok is the place to head for vegan cheese. This small deli/café is run by a passionate couple whose plant-based cheese rivals anything you might find at home. There’s also a small menu for eating in – order the cheese platter (480 THB) and try a range of them, or tuck into a vegan lasagne or pasta dish. (cashew cheese around 250 THB).