We lived in Chiang Mai for more than 1 year in total and spent most of our time eating vegetarian meals from the night markets to fancy vegetarian restaurants. This was because the food is incredible and in most cases, incredibly cheap!
For 8 months of that time, we lived in a guest house that didn’t have a kitchen and therefore, we found it difficult to make any food for ourselves. Well, that was our excuse anyway for getting fat…hehe.
A common misconception about being vegetarian is that vegetarians eat dual, boring, plain and unappetizing food. Let’s be real here. There are some mouth dropping vegetarian dishes being served everywhere in the world including Chiang Mai Thailand.
Even though I’m vegetarian, we are real foodies at heart and take pride in what we eat everyday of our lives. We never eat dual and tasteless food. This is particularly important when traveling as we would often plan our trip around great food :p
Needless to say, we spent our time in Chiang Mai scouting for the best vegetarian meals we could possible fit into our stomachs and would eat out on a regular. There are so many great snacks, meals and deserts to be had in Chiang Mai. Before ever coming here, we had heard that it was a vegetarian haven. After months of trying and eating everything we could, we have to say that it is in fact a bloody good vegetarian haven even if you are not vegetarian!
Breakfast is served
There are a number of great and affordable breakfast joints to eat in case you feel like having a big breakfast or if you are not in the mood to prepare your own. One of our top spots to have breakfast was Nice Kitchen. This was a little cute restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner up until 5pm everyday.
We enjoyed our breakfast here and normally ordered Option D off the menu. This included your choice of a croissant or baguette (we would always select croissant!), juice, tea, fried potatoes that tasted like hash browns, your choice of scrabbled or sunny side-up eggs, a small salad and toast with jam and butter. Back then we would eat this breakfast every Saturday before Albie went to his French lessons at Alliance Francaise. It became a Saturday morning ritual.
We also enjoyed having lunch here too which included fresh coconut juice and either Pad Thai or Pad See Ew. Oh yummy!
There was also another small restaurant on the same road (at the end of the road, sorry we don’t know if it had a name!), that had what they call ‘The Big Breakfast’. This included, fries, sauteed vegetables, baked beans, 2 slices of toast and juice. It was incredibly cheap and they were always generous with their servings.
Healthy vegetarian meals in Chiang Mai
Defining the word healthy can be somewhat difficult with all the deep frying and meals coated with delicious sauces. But, if we had to choose one place that had great vegetarian meals and meat options if you are eating with a friend, family member or partner, then we would have to pick Salad Concept.
Salad concept, is a salad bar where there are set menu options as well as a make your own salad combo option. We use to eat here on a regular basis as a healthy meal in between all of the not so healthy meals we were eating. Sometimes it’s just good to eat something fresh and healthy.
Our regular salad was the ‘Make our own’ combo where you can choose 5 ingredients to go with your salad, 1 protein selection (for vegetarians it was either cheese or tofu) and your choice of 5-10 different types of sauces all for 80 Baht (around $2.30AUD)! You simply fill out the slip and hand it over. They make your salads right in front of you, similar to Subway. The serving size was always big and filled the plate. We also got one of their fruit smoothies to share made with real fruit!
Best vegetarian meals on a budget
The Saturday night markets was the bomb when it came to eating great food at low prices. Our favorite choices included Pad Thai, vegetable spring rolls, steamed spring rolls, steamed custard buns, fresh blueberry smoothies and Indian vegetarian wraps with vegetarian samosas. There were also a number of sweets and deserts available.
There are also a lot of little pockets of vegetarian restaurants and street food available every where you looked. Pay close attention to the red and yellow vegetarian flags and banners that are often the dead giveaway that it’s vegetarian food. We found a few good places like the one in the lower floor food court of MAYA (a newly developed shopping mall). We in fact ordered from them to serve our light lunch on our wedding day!
Best western vegetarian meals in Chiang Mai
If you are like us and enjoy Thai cuisine while staying in Asia for months on end, sometimes eating a good old Western dish is just what you need. You can get very sick of the Asian food pretty quickly if you are eating out all 3 meals everyday.
Our top choice for a great Western vegetarian meal is from the Irish Pub. It’s an all Western pub with large TV screens with sports airing every day of the week. This pub is not exclusively vegetarian but they do make good vegetarian food! Top choices off their menu included their sour cream potato wedges, their veggie burger made with lentils and the spinach and mushroom pie. We also use to order fresh watermelon juice 🙂
Irish Pub also bakes their own bread and you can always see their selection of freshly baked, warm breads in the window display. Recently they have upgraded their restaurant with a bakery right next door. When we were there last (January 2015), they were just finishing up renovating the place.
Our pick for the fanciest vegetarian meal
Hands down it had to be David’s Kitchen. We normally wouldn’t recommend this place as it is pretty far from the main area of Chiang Mai, but it is rated number one on many travel review websites for good reasons. Our favorite dish off the seasonal menu was the mushroom risotto, which had to be the best freaking risotto we’ve ever eaten in our lives.
The menu changes every season and depending on the variety of fruits, vegetables and spices that are available, the head chef creates new dishes. This is not a vegetarian restaurant but does serve a large number of vegetarian options. Being the fanciest place to eat at, it does come at a higher price than other restaurants in Chiang Mai. But this ain’t too bad for the service and food you get. It would be similar to a fancy restaurant in Australia for a fraction of the price. The service was amazing and the atmosphere both day and night is truly something that everyone should enjoy at least once in their lifetime.
We were also told that the princess lives near the restaurant. Keep in mind it’s a bit of a drive to get there and when we went there the first time, we did get a little lost. It’s also a good idea to hire a tuk tuk for the whole night while you eat as finding a taxi or car service at night would be impossible. We do believe that the restaurant can call for a taxi if you need one but it would take about 15-3 minutes to arrive.
All time favorite vegetarian restaurant
Our all time favorite vegetarian restaurant in Chiang Mai has to be Tein Sieng. This is an authentic Taiwanese vegetarian restaurant. During our 6 month long stint in Chiang Mai as well as our short term regular visits, we would always go here to have lunch.
Our favorite meals were the noddle soup, which had a variety of mock meats and tofu with white thin noodles and the Koa Soi, which is another soup but this time with fried noddles and a spicy kick. Not only do they serve these noddle soup dishes on a regular, they also had a variety of dishes that you could have with rice (brown or white). We also enjoyed these and this changed everyday.
Eating at Tein Sieng was very cheap and affordable, making it our number one spot as the food was sooo good too! During the 6 months stay in Chiang Mai, we had lunch here every single day besides Sunday because they were closed. Our regular routine included working out in the morning and biking to this lovely restaurant for lunch.
A few others we couldn’t help but mention
Towards the end of our last trip there while we were planning our wedding we fell in love with a restaurant called Burritos. This had homemade tortilla chips served with salsa as a free appetizer whenever you order anything! They were so good and crunchy. We always ordered the burrito with egg and beans on Food Panda, which is an online delivery service. Needless to say, we were not the type to be dieting before or after the wedding and are slightly confused how they hell we looked as good as we did for the wedding day.
Another place worth mentioning is Ping Nakara Boutique Hotel & Spa restaurant. This is located behind the spa and hotel. It had very good vegetarian pasta options as well as cute bakery sweets. The best thing about this place was the atmosphere and view. It is alongside the river, making it a very romantic and peaceful setting to have lunch.
We also liked eating at Fiji, which is a franchise Japanese restaurant in Asia. Fiji is often found at any of the shopping malls in Chiang Mai. It is not exclusively in Chiang Mai nor Thailand but it serves great food. Vegetarian options included shiitake mushrooms marinated, fried tofu and vegetarian udon noodle soup.
Lastly we had to mention our favorite desert joint we’ve been to. It had to be iBerry. We also took our wedding guests here before the wedding day for iccecream and shakes. Apart from the quirky and very cool atmosphere, the deserts are really good. Our favorite was the Oreo Malt shake.
We hope that this post helps you find great vegetarian meals to eat while in Chiang Mai. There are so many awesome vegetarian restaurants to eat at that we couldn’t fit them all in one post! We absolutely loved our time in Chiang Mai for not only the food, but the culture, people and friends we met along the way. Eat good, live long and prosper our vegetarian buddies!