Being a vegetarian can be tricky. Those who do not eat meat will find that a vegetarian diet is especially hard to follow when they are traveling through the Land of Smiles. Do not take to your past carnivorous ways just yet, as we roll out a complete guide to being a vegetarian in Thailand.

I want to quickly give a shout out to all our meat free readers. It has become increasingly more clear that a plant-based diet is better for everyone: you, animals, land, water, etc. That being said, not everyone has thrown meat products to the wind to take up this particular diet, especially in Thailand.

Though a majority of dishes do consist of vegetables, you will be hard-pressed to find many without added meat products, sauces, or pastes which contain animal products, especially seafood. Fret not, as this guide was made to make your meat free dining endeavors in Thailand go much smoother.

How to order

One way to ensure visitors are sticking to their meat free diet is to know a few helpful phrases in Thai. If diners are able to communicate with locals and food vendors words like ‘vegetarian’ and helpful phrases in regards to this diet, their dining experience will certainly be less chaotic.  

Vegetarian – mawng sa vee rat  มังสวิรัติ

Be aware that the word for vegetarian in Thai does not include animal products. You can tell a server that you are a vegetarian, but your meal may still be made with animal products, such as fish sauce. To avoid this, you can use the word for vegan, instead.

Vegan – gin jay  กินเจ

The phrase ‘gin jay‘ also includes dairy products, eggs, honey, and food products with strong scents, like garlic. We have also included a list of words for several animal products below. If all else fails, you can list out food items you do not eat. Just use the phrase ‘mai gin,‘ which literally translates to ‘not eat,’ then substitute the words below.

Do not be afraid to tell your server a few times and in several different ways that you are a vegetarian or eat strictly vegan cuisine. Thai is a difficult language. Chances are you could be saying a phrase incorrectly and whoever is taking your order simply does not understand what it is you are saying. You can also show a server the Thai translations below to clarify what you are saying.

Helpful phrases

I do not eat meat – mai gin neau sat – ไม่กินเนื้อสัตว์

No – mai – ไม่

Eat – gin– กิน

Meat – neua sat– เนื้อสัตว์

Chicken – gai – ไก่

Beef – neua – เนื้อ

Pork – moo– หมู

Fish – pla – ปลา

Squid – pla mook– ปลาหมึก

Crab – poo– ปู

Our favorite vegetarian dishes

Not only are servers, chefs, and food stall vendors normally accommodating to a meat-free diet, but Thai vegetarian dishes are also delicious. Here is a look at some of our favorite dishes that are perfect for vegetarians in Thailand. Be aware that some of these dishes are made with sauces containing seafood products or are topped with things like dried shrimp, so be sure to tell your server the vegetarian and vegan phrases as outlined above, just to be safe.

Pomelo salad – yam som-o – ยำส้มโอ

Pomelo salads are healthy, grapefruit salads that are especially popular in Thailand. Grapefruit is the main ingredient, though it is also made with an enticing combination of cashews or peanuts, red chilies, fresh basil, lime juice, soy sauce, and brown sugar.

*Made with fish sauce, dried shrimp

Mixed tofu – tao hoo song kreung – เต้าหู้ทรงเครื่อง

Tofu is every vegetarians’ best friend, and Thailand has entire dishes dedicated to this soybean product. The mixed tofu in itself is pretty basic, but Thai chefs certainly know how to make this dish anything but mundane. Whether they add a spicy, curry paste to the tofu or ingredients such as fresh basil, this will soon be a favorite dish for all meat free diners.

Deep-fried spring rolls – popia tort – เปาะเปี๊ยะทอด

Though normally devoured as an appetizer, deep-fried spring rolls are great on the go eats for vegetarians. They are normally prepared with shiitake mushrooms, dried glass noodles, chopped green onions, and served with a red chili dipping sauce for added flavor.

Green papaya salad – som tom – ส้มตำมะละกอ

This unique salad originates from Isaan, the Northeast Region of Thailand. The dish is made of freshly peeled papaya and carrots, peanuts, tomatoes for added juiciness, and Thai chilis, which give the salad a spicy kick. It is best enjoyed with sticky rice.

*Sometimes made with fish sauce, dried shrimp

The Vegetarian Festival – Tesakan Gin Jay – เทศกาลกินเจ

The best time of year for vegetarians to visit Thailand is in October. There is an entire festival which celebrates meat free diners: the Vegetarian Festival. The festivities begin on October 1 and normally conclude in about a week. The festival, otherwise known as Tesakan Gin Jay, originated in China and is rooted in Taoist beliefs. The festival is celebrated nationwide, though the best cities to frequent are Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Phuket.

Phuket has the wildest festivities of any destination in Thailand during the nine-day festival. Many of self-mutilating rituals are held in Phuket – some so gruesome that people partaking in the festival have died in the past. That being said, the parades, fire-walking ceremonies, bladed-ladder climbing events, and more are worth making the trip down south for the festival.

To recognize which vendors and restaurants are selling strictly vegan cuisine, be on the lookout for yellow flags and stickers with red, Thai writing on them. This indicates that the eatery has vegan cuisine available. 

By | 2017-08-24T16:06:00+00:00 August 24th, 2017|Categories: Food & Drink|Tags: , , , , |16 Comments

About the Author:

Kelly is a writer and photographer living in Bangkok, Thailand. She is originally from Lenexa, Kansas and studied journalism at Kansas State University. She enjoys reading and coffee way too much.


  1. Kelley August 30, 2017 at 3:19 pm - Reply

    This is such an informative article! I love eating vegetarian food when I’m out in a foreign place because I’m worried about meat from other places.

  2. Alizee August 30, 2017 at 3:47 pm - Reply

    This is very useful ! Thai food is so delicious I absolutely loved my stay there =)

  3. Kirti August 30, 2017 at 5:37 pm - Reply

    Great recommendations for vegetarian folks. I really like the Green papaya salad. Looks delicious 🙂

  4. Jenna August 30, 2017 at 6:19 pm - Reply

    I have always said that I would convert to a vegetarian, but boy has it been hard! I love meat. Thanks for the post. I love Thai food and and I definitely wouldn’t mind eating some of your choices (even though it doesn’t have meat :P)

  5. Niki August 30, 2017 at 7:08 pm - Reply

    You have some great pictures here! I’m going to Thailand this November so I will need your suggestions! Thanks

  6. Sarah August 30, 2017 at 7:32 pm - Reply

    I love this post! The vegetarian dishes look delicious and the translations you provided are very helpful for vegetarian travelers.


  7. Kasia August 30, 2017 at 7:36 pm - Reply

    This is super helpful for anyone traveling to Thailand. It’s always weird to communicate in foreign countries so this will help everybody out. Thanks.

  8. Lisa August 30, 2017 at 7:37 pm - Reply

    I have been two Thailand two separate times and luckily stayed on a yoga resort that catered to vegan and vegetarian people. When we did venture out, the masses of deep fried insects and seafood was a crazy sight! These are some great tips for veggies going to Thailand. Great food pics too!

  9. Tahnee August 31, 2017 at 6:42 am - Reply

    Such a great post! I find that this is such a challenge to find great veggie choice thanks for sharing xxx

  10. Abhinav August 31, 2017 at 7:06 am - Reply

    Like the pictures, love that you have it in a couple of languages with translation is how most people would understand it. Helpful tip of yellow flags and red stickers. I know how difficult it can get to find veg food in such coastal areas

  11. Muhammad Ameen Sheikh August 31, 2017 at 11:26 am - Reply

    I am not a vegetarian but the food looks delicious and yes I agree with you Thai lang. is difficult

  12. kristal August 31, 2017 at 2:17 pm - Reply

    Thank you, I am going to Thailand next year. When you are vegan it is hard to travel and know what to eat.

  13. Echoesofhervoice August 31, 2017 at 4:05 pm - Reply

    Your recommendations look and sound appealing. I love Thai so I’ll have to give these a try! Thanks for sharing!

  14. Globejamun August 31, 2017 at 7:09 pm - Reply

    I loved the post… v v useful. Having veggie folks, I’m definitely using this guide when I go to Thailand with them. The palmelo salad looks out of this world

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