Thai food is one of the most popular cuisines in the world, and for a good reason. It’s flavorful, aromatic, and incredibly satisfying. But if you’re vegan or vegetarian, Thai food can be a little tricky to navigate because most traditional Thai cuisine contains fish sauce and other animal products.
Fortunately, there are plenty of delicious Thai dishes that don’t contain any meat or dairy products. If you’re looking to explore the best vegan Thai food out there, read on for some tips and delicious vegan recipes!
Thai Food and Veganism
Although traditional Thai food mainly contains fresh vegetables, they aren’t vegan because they feature animal protein and by-products. In Thailand, lots of meals include a small quantity of fish-based seasonings like oyster sauce, fish sauce, or dried shrimps.
So, technically, Thai foods aren’t vegetarian, let alone vegan. If you’re planning on preparing vegan homemade Thai food rather than spending good money visiting Thai restaurants, you can use the following ingredients instead of their non-vegan options:
You can always substitute shrimp paste for miso paste, considering the former isn’t vegan. Shrimp paste is made from fermented shrimp and is a popular condiment for Thai curry pastes to add depth of flavor to curry pastes.
Using miso paste as a replacement ensures your food doesn’t lack that pungent, salty flavor that shrimp paste offers.
Vegan Oyster Sauce
Oyster sauce is a popular addition to most Thai food. However, you can replace it with healthy vegan alternatives like mushroom sauce or vegetarian stir-fry sauce. While these two options are gloppy, rich, and thick enough to do the job, there’s an even better option.
You can make your homemade vegan oyster sauce with vegetarian Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce to add flavor to your meal. However, it won’t be gloppy and thick like oyster sauce.
Vegan Fish Sauce
Fish sauce has this pungent smell and is an essential condiment for traditional Thai meals, including the famous Pad Thai. Many vegan fish sauce alternatives exist in grocery stores, or you can use a dark and light soy sauce mixture to get the umami flavor you want. However, it’s mostly not as perfect as the fish sauce, but it will get the job done.
Key Vegan Thai Food Ingredients
If you’re planning on cooking Vegan Thai food, you’ll need many essential ingredients in your cupboard or fridge. You might only get some of these ingredients like shiitake mushrooms, Thai basil, galangal, and Thai aubergines when you order them online from specific Thai shops or visit Asian food stores.
The ingredients you need are divided into two parts:
Fresh Thai Ingredients
Whether you’re in Thailand or not, the following fresh Thai ingredients are necessary for making authentic vegan Thai food:
Most classic Thai flavors and meals contain tofu. Thankfully, it’s vegan-friendly, but you’ll need the right tofu for the specific recipe you’re making.
Whether it’s extra firm, firm, or silky will depend on the Thai recipe. If you’re using extra firm tofu, cover in cornflour, fry, and add to your stir-fries and Thai curries to create a more crunchy coating.
Silken tofu is great for sauces and desserts. You can also use fried tofu as a substitute for scrambled eggs and as the egg in Thai red curry and vegan egg fried rice recipes.
Lemon grass goes hand in hand with kaffir lime leaves, adding a delicate lemon hint to a dish as a fragrant ingredient. Consider blending lemongrass into curry pastes to add an intense fragrance to your meal. It’s also perfect for Thai vegan sauces, subtly enhancing your meal’s flavor.
You can also lightly bash your lemongrass with a jar bottom or rolling pin before adding it to your soups or curries to help spread its flavor to your food. However, don’t forget to remove the vegetables before serving.
Bird Eye Chillies
To achieve “Thai spicy” in your Thai vegan dishes, swap your bell peppers for the bird-eye chilies. However, you might want to ease into them slowly by adding one into your wok first until you’re sure you love them.
Even one bird’s eye chili is enough to improve your food taste. While it’s best to ease into it slowly, don’t be shy to experiment with them.
Kaffir Lime Leaves
This quintessential Thai ingredient represents that “Thai taste.” It’s hard to make a good Thai green curry paste without kaffir lime leaves because the taste won’t be the same. If you’re planning on making sweetcorn cakes and curry pastes, consider using fresh kaffir lime leaves.
However, if you can’t find the fresh ones, consider substituting them for the dried option.
Vegan Thai Food General Ingredients
If you’re tired of visiting vegan restaurants and would rather try homemade vegan Thai recipes, you’ll need these common cupboard staples to throw together a simple vegan Thai recipe.
If you can make homemade curry pastes, that’s great, but if you’re constrained by time and would rather buy from the store, many great brands are available for you to try.
You can either get a vegan green curry paste or a red curry paste. However, it’d be best if you could have the two as they will come in handy for specific recipes. If you’re considering making your curry paste from scratch, ensure you have a pestle and mortar or blender.
Dried Red Chillies
Although fresh chilies are great in vegan Thai recipes, there’s a depth of flavor dried red chilies gives to meals that are missing when you use fresh ones.
Thankfully, dried red chilies last long when properly stored in a spice rack and are available in most grocery stores.
Cashews and peanuts are traditional components of most vegan Thai recipes. From Thai cashew stir fry and Papaya Salad to Thai cucumber salad to Pineapple fried rice, nuts serve as a garnish or staple.
Besides being excellent protein sources, nuts contain healthy fats. It’s best to buy them in bulk and store them in your cupboard. They’ll come in handy when you want to garnish a quickly made Thai recipe.
It’s best to always have both dark and light soy sauce in your pantry as it’s the key to preparing the perfect Thai dish, especially Pad Thai sauce and curries. You’ll need to learn how to balance the dark and light soy sauce for your curry recipes because combining both enhances the flavor of your food rather than using them separately.
Top Vegan Thai Food Recipes to Try
If you’re tired of visiting vegan Thai restaurants and would want to eat a homemade Thai recipe, consider trying any of the following:
Vegan Pad Thai
As a famous Thai recipe, it’s unsurprising that Pad Thai is the first on our list. This vegan version of the popular Pad Thai combines the flavors of colorful and fresh red bell pepper, red curry paste, veggie broth, and maple syrup to create a tasty meal that will impress your taste buds.
These veggie noodles contain perfectly sautéed tofu, fresh veggies, and sweet and spicy flavors. It’s also gluten-free and you can use wheat noodles instead of veggie ones.
Tofu Satay in Thai Peanut Sauce
If you like Indonesian and Indian-style satays, consider this delicious Thai recipe involving low-fat tofu baked in a homemade peanut sauce. Coat your tender baked tofu in a Thai spicy peanut sauce as the main dish with sautéed vegetables, wheat noodles, or coconut rice for a complete meal.
Vegan Panang Curry With Tofu
This thick curry with a nutty, salty, and sweet flavor is made traditionally from peanuts, salt, shrimp paste, garlic, shallot, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, coriander root, kaffir lime, lemongrass, galangal, and chili peppers.
You can also use peanut butter, tofu, carrot, maple syrup, fresh mint, zucchini, fresh ginger, tomato paste, curry powder, and coconut milk to make your Thai Panang curry instead of the traditional ingredients.
Thai Green Papaya Salad
Also called Som Tam, Thai green papaya salad is famous in Thailand for a good reason. Besides the taste, green papaya salad is nutritious and low-calorie. Green papaya said is made with crunchy and unripe fruits to create a flavor-filled and beautifully unique dish.
Vegan Thai Green Curry
Although this Thai recipe requires several ingredients, it’s easy and quick to make. You’ll need fresh herbs like lemongrass and cilantro with green chiles, green onion, makrut lime flavor, garlic, and coconut broth. However, you can swap your green curry vegetables for whatever that’s available in the house.
Tempeh Stuff Sweet Potatoes
If you want to explore more advanced Thai cooking, consider making the Tempeh Stuff Sweet Potato recipe. Besides being a protein and nutritional powerhouse, the flavor and taste will leave your taste buds asking for more. You’ll need to combine onion, garlic, and tempeh inside a roasted sweet potato and eat with a homemade peanut sauce. Consider garnishing your meal with sriracha, green onion, peanuts, or cilantro.
Tofu Satay in Coconut Sauce
This tofu satay is packed with a flavor that only requires a few ingredients, like red curry paste and peanut butter. The trick lies in freezing the tofu long before preparation, letting it thaw, and squeezing the moisture out to produce a meatier texture before grilling. Use coconut sauce to enhance its taste for a delicious vegan meal.
Thai Yellow Curry
You’ll need to prepare the yellow curry from scratch in this recipe. Note that the yellow color comes from turmeric, a vital ingredient in the dish. Consider using thick coconut milk rather than the thin version for the curry, or opt for canned coconut milk.
Also, add flavors like Thai basil and soy sauce, plus your preferred vegetables.
Lemongrass Curry With Tofu and Broccoli
One simple Thai recipe your whole family will enjoy eating is the lemongrass curry with tofu and broccoli. This healthy and nutritious dish contains rice, tofu, broccoli, red chili, lime juice, lemon, soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, and lemongrass. Consider adding some chopped peanuts for extra crunch.
Thai Sweet Sticky Rice
It wouldn’t be nice to end the list without mentioning this popular Thai dessert. Thai sweet sticky rice contains a few ingredients like coconut milk, mango, and sweet rice, and it’s the perfect way to finish any Thai meal mentioned above.
Are Thai Dishes Good for Vegans?
As a traditionally Buddhist country, Thai recipes are generally plant-based. However, seafood and meat are now common Thai dish ingredients, although you can make your Thai recipe vegan-friendly by substituting animal products and by-products for vegan alternatives.
What Popular Thai Meal is Vegan?
The Thai dish that has received worldwide popularity is Pad Thai, a sweet-sour sauce and stir-fried rice noodles dish with peanuts sprinkled as a garnish. However, it’s not vegan but if you want to eat vegan Pad Thai at a vegan restaurant, the chefs will replace meat with tofu.
Is Soy Sauce Vegan?
Soy sauce theoretically contains vegan-friendly ingredients like water, wheat, and soybean. However, some manufacturers include non-vegan ingredients like meat or fish-derived flavor enhancers that compromise the soy sauce’s vegan status. Therefore, it’s best to do your research and check the product ingredients listed on the packet before buying any acclaimed vegan soy sauce.
The Bottom Line
Vegan Thai food is flavorful and satisfying. Thus, Thai cuisine should be at the top of your list if you’re looking for an enjoyable vegan meal option. While traditional Thai dishes involve animal products like fish sauce or eggs, you can use many plant-based alternatives to create delicious recipes.
For example, you can substitute soy sauce for fish and tofu for meat. With such a variety of tasty vegan Thai recipes available, it’s easy to enjoy a delicious – and healthy vegan meal whether dining out at a Thai restaurant or eating at home. So what are you waiting for? Give vegan Thai food a try!
If you’re looking for where to get regular cooking, fashion, and beauty tips to help your vegan lifestyle, Vegan Justice League is your best bet. Go through our blog posts for top-notch tips and tricks for healthy vegan living.