It is agreed by many that Chiang Mai, is the best city in the world for vegetarians to visit. It's not that no better vegetarian food can be found elsewhere. But where Chiang Mai excels, is with the sheer number of vegetarian eateries. Furthermore, in few places can you find the food more competitively priced. In many areas, you can buy more local vegetarian food than you can eat, and not pay more than two US dollars.
But there is more than just grass roots fare on offer. Some of the restaurants are a little more pricey, but still provide amazing value and an even greater variety.
Here is a rundown of what I consider the best vegetarian restaurants in Chiang Mai - taking into consideration not only prices, but also the quality of food as well as portion sizes:
This restaurant is often referred to as the best vegetarian restaurant in Chiang Mai. While I am not so quick to give it this title, I would definitely acknowledge it as one of the top three. What is great about Anchan Restaurant is that it has a unique take on the local Thai food. The flavours at this restaurant are particularly delicate and each dish's flavours is balanced beyond reproach.
The changes every week or two, but there is always a good selection of green and red curries, stir fries and a few noodle dishes. The menu is not very extensive in terms of both mains drinks and desserts. However, everything that they do offer is of the best quality consistently.
Anchan is especially popular for small events like celebratory dinners, as it has a colourful upstairs setting.
It wasn't until I finally visited, that I realised how good this place is. Not only is it located in a prime position within the old city of Chiang Mai, but the food is a real delight. They put and clean natural food preparation first with a wonderfully fresh menu. Almost every item that you order – especially the appetisers – comes with some form of fresh side salad. From the fact that they don't smother everything in oil, to the many options also provided for vegans, Taste from Heaven is a real gem. If you like what you try there, you can even attend the vegetarian cooking classes that they hold.
What could be better than a vegetarian restaurant located on the grounds of a beautiful northern Thai Buddhist temple? Welcome to Pun Pun Vegetarian Restaurant. They are all about slow food here, which means making almost everything from scratch. They source most of the produce from their local farm, and you can tell - just by the taste of the food - how natural is their approach to preparing each dish.
They have an extensive menu with lots of local Thai dishes as well as their own take on various Western mains and desserts. Imm Aim Vegetarian Cafe
This vegetarian cafe tends to be a little polarizing. Some consider this the best place to eat vegetarian in Chiang Mai, while others think that Imm Aim has little to offer. My experience is that Imm Aim is fantastic for certain things, which you will struggle to find elsewhere. Their specialty tends to be rice-based salad dishes like their amazing Kao Pad Pesto - a rice salad made with nuts and herbs . They also do nice iced teas as well as decent smoothies and juices.
I'd have to stay, that of all the vegetarian restaurants in Chiang Mai, the Bodhi Tree Cafe is, in my opinion, the best. It is set in the shadow of one of the many temples in the heart of Chiang Mai - but off the main drag, making it a peaceful place to eat. It is also the best spot in the city for raw dishes, and is even raw-vegan friendly, which is a rarity anywhere.
The care that goes into preparing the dishes here is what makes it super special. They don't use any additives or other nasties in the process. But the food is still full-flavoured, fresh and filling.
It must be said that the prices are a little more than average, but these are matched by the portion sizes - which are generous. The vibe of the Bodhi Tree Cafe contributes a lot to its popularity, and its quiet location is hard to beat.
So that is the rundown. There are so many places to choose from and there are always new ones springing up. Do you have a favourite vegetarian restaurant in Chiang Mai that I haven't mentioned? Let us know.