small round wooden plates covered with a banana leaf with a hunk of mango and purple coconut rice

Vegan Chiang Mai Guide: Restaurants, Hotels, + Ethical Elephant Sanctuary

No vegan Thailand itinerary is complete without making a trip to the country’s cultural hub, Chiang Mai. During our vegan tour through Thailand, our small group spent a few days here stuffing our faces with delicious veganized Thai cuisine, trekking for rescued elephants, and seeing the sights. For most of the group, it was the highlight of the trip!

While a few days are generally enough to investigate many vegan scenes, we definitely could’ve used more time in Chiang Mai! In recent years, the city has witnessed a remarkable surge in vegan and vegetarian restaurants, cafes, and markets, making it a haven for veggie-loving visitors.  

You’ll find everything from traditional Thai dishes creatively reimagined with plant-based ingredients to delicious vegan junk food and internationally-inspired cuisine. 

But the vegan scene doesn’t end there.

Chiang Mai is also home to one of Thailand’s best vegan hotels, Away Chiang Mai! Pretty impressive, right? Well, let’s not waste any more time and start planning your epic adventure that explores the best vegan restaurants, hotels, and more in Chiang Mai!

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6 Vegan Restaurants Not to Miss in Chiang Mai

I was impressed with the vegan and vegetarian restaurant selection in Chiang Mai. I knew it would be good, but not this good! I wish I could’ve devoted a whole day to eating — not only is it super flavorful and creative, but it’s also super affordable. Also, don’t miss eating your way through the vegan scene in Bangkok — it’s amazing!

#1 Moreganic Restaurant

Tha Phae Road, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50100, Thailand
This fantastic vegan restaurant is tucked away inside the beautiful vegan hotel, Away Chiang Mai (more on that later). Because of its semi-secluded location, it doesn’t get as many outside visitors, and man, are they missing out. The vegan scene in Chiang Mai is pretty laid back; this is one of the town’s more upscale (and air-conditioned) spots. But don’t let that make you think it’s super snooty — quite the opposite.

Their restaurant serves a morning vegan breakfast buffet with just about everything under the sun, lunch, a unique Thai dessert bar, and dinner. They also occasionally have special menus in celebration of local festivals and holidays. Everything I had here was absolutely fabulous, from the savory tofu scramble and oat milk latte in the morning to Pad Thai at lunch. Their menu offers a great mix of veganized Thai specialties with a little Western influence. One important thing to note is that they do follow Buddhist values, so no alcohol is served, but they have plenty of fresh juices, smoothies, and herbal mocktails that you’ll love!

Moreganic serves breakfast, lunch, & dinner

#2 Free Bird Café 

14 Sirimankalajarn Soi 9 Chiang Mai, Thailand 50200
Although this was one of the first vegan restaurants in Chiang Mai, that’s not what drew me to it. This eclectic hippie haven is deeply committed to the community, thanks to its founder, Lisa Nesser. The former Missourian has been working to improve the lives of those in need through teaching English and various life skills for years. Her tenacity to support others (and her need to find funding) led to the opening of this vegan and plastic-free café, Free Bird. But it’s far more than a café. 

The health-conscious eatery serves colorful smoothie bowls, cheesy sandwiches, creamy ramen, peanut butter noodles, and much more. The cuisine is globally inspired, with a special focus on Thai and Shan (northern Burma (Myanmar) and adjacent parts of southern China) specialties. As if that weren’t enough, they also have a creative cocktail lineup that pairs perfectly with whatever you choose — two thumbs up for the passion mojito! 

After you’ve filled your belly, wander into their zero-waste shop (the only one in Chiang Mai) and peruse the shelves of cruelty-free, plastic-free, chemical-free products or shop through the racks of pre-loved clothing in their charity shop. If you need a little push to shop or eat a little extra here, keep in mind that everything you spend supports the Thai Freedom House. Your purchase will help provide basic human rights to those in need in the community. 

Free Bird Cafe serves breakfast, lunch, & dinner

#3 The Vegano Bistro 

69, 69/1 Nong Kwai, Hang Dong District, Chiang Mai 50230, Thailand
This modern vegan restaurant is just a bit outside the city center (about 15 minutes), but if you’re headed to the airport, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, or have a little extra time to explore, head here! Surprisingly, the family-run spot opened up in 2020, not because they were long-term vegans or lovers of animals but because of health. The founder’s sister was diagnosed with cancer, and the doctor encouraged her to take up a plant-based diet. After beating the disease, the family decided their veggie journey needed to continue, opening Vegano Bistro.

I was dead set on loving this place after hearing their story, but I really fell head over heels once I saw the menu! You’ll find bowls of spicy tofu, giant veggie-packed burgers, and super innovative vegan egg yolk-topped pasta (seriously, it’s incredible). But don’t forget to look in the dessert case — it’s filled with a beautiful lineup of mini cakes in a mouthwatering assortment of flavors (including gluten-free options). I was stuffed, but I couldn’t leave without their peanut butter chocolate cake, and maybe if it hadn’t been so delicious, I would’ve remembered to snap a picture!

The Vegano Bistro serves breakfast, lunch, & dinner

#4 Downtown Vegan Garden 

284 Chang Moi Rd, Si Phum Sub-district, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50300, Thailand
From the food to the dining spaces, there are so many things to love about this quirky vegan restaurant. Take a load off right when you walk in, in one of their bright red vinyl chairs, reminiscent of a 50’s diner, or wander a little further to their boho secret garden. The back garden dining space feels like a chic secret hideaway with lush greenery and wicker lighting — the perfect backdrop for all your photos.

No matter when you visit this unique spot, you won’t be disappointed. Start the day with a bright blue smoothie bowl decked out with house-made granola and dried fruit, or go for an all-American favorite, chocolate chip pancakes. Now, you can get breakfast all day, but if you’d prefer something else for lunch or dinner, get ready for a challenging decision. You’ll find a little bit of everything packed into this menu — bowls of house-made pasta, spicy curry, mushroom burgers, and then there’s dessert. If you’re a cake aficionado, you can’t leave without a giant slice of red velvet (or mango passionfruit cake if you’re gluten-free). 

Another good thing to know, this spot is the sister restaurant to the popular Goodsouls Kitchen. I didn’t have a chance to check it out, but I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about it!

Downtown Vegan Garden serves breakfast, lunch, & dinner

#5 Asa Vegan Kitchen and Studio

217 Tha Phae, Tambon Chang Moi, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50100, Thailand
Two friends embarked on a fantastic journey to create this conscientious vegan café. Asa means “volunteer, to step forward” in Thai, and that’s just what the friends set out to do. In addition to being a lovely spot to stuff yourself silly, it’s also a place for people to come together to learn new skills through their diverse classes and workshops. 

The café offers two spaces for your dining pleasure — the open-air downstairs, which is great for people watching, or head upstairs to their cozy covered patio for a more chill atmosphere. On the food front, like all of the restaurants before it, there is so much to love. Breakfast is served all day, from their special Asa Big breakfast platter to sweet peanut butter and jelly French toast; you might need to stop in a few times. For lunch or dinner, I want one of everything — spicy jackfruit bowls (Tum Kanoon), pulled mushroom BBQ waffle, and, of course, a fudgy sweet potato brownie!  

Asa serves breakfast, lunch, & dinner

a small round smoothie bowl topped with halves of passion fruit, pitaya, and seeds
Credit: Asa Vegan Kitchen and Studio

#6 Vegan Heaven

Two locations – Old Town & just outside of town
No list of vegan restaurants in Chiang Mai is complete without mentioning the city’s self-proclaimed first spot! In 2004, they shook up the dining scene and helped pave the way for the vegan spots that Chiang Mai has today. I wonder if they realized they were plant pioneers way back then.

No matter which location you visit, you’ll find a delicious mix of Thai and Western cuisine, and of course, let’s not forget their house-made desserts. I can’t resist a waffle with ice cream or mango sticky rice (make sure you eat it as much as possible because it won’t be the same when you go home). Breakfast is served all day and includes a mix of American and English-inspired dishes — did you think you could get a full English breakfast in Chiang Mai? While I am a big breakfast lover, I can’t choose it over their Thai specialties! The chili basil with crispy veggie pork is incredible — the flavor and texture are unmatched. Or, if that’s not up your alley, a giant pineapple half-filled with fried rice might be!

Vegan Heaven serves breakfast, lunch, & dinner

three vegan thai dishes on a light wood table
Credit: Vegan Heaven

Gorgeous Vegan Hotel in Chiang Mai

In addition to Away Chiang Mai, there is one other vegan hotel, Green Tiger House. The cozy hotel is located in the Old City near Chiang Mai University.

Away Chiang Mai Thapae Resort – A Vegan Retreat

Staying here was one of my favorite parts of staying in Chiang Mai. This beautiful boutique vegan hotel is tucked away on a quiet side street in Chiang Mai’s Old City — if you weren’t looking for it, you might not even realize it’s there. The hotel also has fewer than 40 rooms, adding to the feeling of peace and seclusion.

While the atmosphere was delightful, it wasn’t my favorite part; it was the food (which I am sure you already guessed)! I can’t tell you how awesome it is to wander down to breakfast and eat EVERYTHING!

The breakfast buffet is packed with Thai and Western favorites like stir-fried veggies, pancakes, and croissants, and you can make your own fresh juice concoctions! Honestly, there is nowhere better to stay in Chiang Mai! The onsite restaurant also serves lunch, dinner, and a special Thai dessert buffet!

One note: They follow Buddhist values, so no alcohol is served on site (there are plenty of bars nearby).

Book Your Stay

Ethical Elephant Sanctuary to Visit

One of the big reasons that many people go to Chiang Mai is to visit an elephant sanctuary, but sadly, they aren’t all created equal. Many who deem themselves ethical simply aren’t. When booking an elephant sanctuary activity, avoid sanctuaries that allow any of the following: riding, bathing, feeding, or staging photos. I also recommend reading reviews from other travelers to see what kind of experience they really had vs. what’s in the sanctuary’s marketing.  If you don’t want to worry about that, I highly recommend Chiang Chill. 

Chiang Chill

Here, the well-being of the majestic creatures takes precedence, as the sanctuary adheres to strict ethical guidelines that World Animal Protection has supported. Upon arriving, visitors are broken up into groups with a guide who shares the history of Chiang Chill, how it came to operate ethically, and about each of the elephants who call the place home.

Afterward, the guide will lead the group into the jungle to see if they can spot elephants grazing or bathing. All the elephants (currently 4) have eight acres of land to wander and explore freely during the daytime. After a couple of hours of trekking, the group will return to the camp and chop up chunks of veggies and fruits for an elephant snack. At 1 PM every day, the elephants come nearby for the special snack time, which is essential to help balance their diet.

While the elephants are snacking, visitors can watch quietly. Lunch is included (for visitors) and consists of Thai vegetarian specialties, but when our group visited, everything but one dish was vegan. The sanctuary is about an hour and a half from Chiang Mai.

elephants snacking on hunks of squash at chang chill in chiang mai

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