As two people who have spent most of our twenties traveling in Asia, we know a thing or two about the region. During our travels, we’ve had the pleasure of visiting some of the most vegan-friendly destinations in the world and some places where it was a lot harder to find vegan food. But Asia has been different, and that's mostly thanks to the local cuisines.
You see what makes Asia so unique compared to Europe, North America, and Latin America is that many of the traditional cuisines are so vegan-friendly on their own, which is a big reason why we’ve fallen in love with this region.
We love to find all vegan restaurants that serve burgers and pizza with vegan cheese just as much as the next person, but our favorite way of traveling is discovering local cuisines and having our minds blown by the traditional food of the countries we visit.
Food is how we connect to places and how we perceive new cultures. Our goal is to experience the world through food, no matter where we travel. To us, the best food experience is sitting shoulder to shoulder in a loud and sweaty restaurant in India eating masala dosas with our hands next to locals enjoying a quick breakfast before work.
But, not everyone realizes how vegan-friendly Asia can be. Southeast Asia comes up when the subject is discussed, but South Asia is often overlooked by vegan travelers which is a shame since it offers some of the best food in the region.
Read on to discover the most vegan-friendly countries in Asia.
It probably comes as no surprise that the country with the highest number of vegetarians in the world comes first on our list.
With a cuisine that is primarily based on vegetables, legumes, and rice, it is no secret that the Indian Kitchen provides some of the healthiest and most versatile vegan food in the world.
Southern India is especially great for vegans traveling to Asia with dosas, banana leaf veg thalis, puri, idli, and other dishes that are vegan by default. Naturally, every day in India was a feast for two obsessed foodies like us.
Northern India was supposed to be harder to be vegan in, or so they said. “They put ghee in everything,” everyone told us both before and while we were traveling in India.
As it turns out, the rumors could not have been further from the truth and our feast continued as we moved north.
There is a big misconception that India is very vegetarian-friendly but not so vegan-friendly, and yes, a lot of ghee and dairy products are used, especially in Northern India, but they can be safely avoided.
See, what makes India unique compared to the rest of the world is the sheer number of pure vegetarian restaurants that are scattered everywhere. These pure vegetarian restaurants are not fully vegan, but most dishes are.
Another thing that is cool is that there is a more modern vegan scene growing beside the traditional cuisine. We had the opportunity to try some amazing Western food in India as well. One restaurant that stands out, in particular, is Bean Me Up in Goa which remains one of the most innovative vegan restaurants we’ve ever been to.
Traveling to India? Don't forget to book a highly rated hotel before you arrive!
Obviously, Bali isn’t a country on its own, but we still think that the Island of Gods deserves its own spot on this list. In fact, we would argue that no vegan food guide to Asia is complete without Bali on it.
Our love for Bali started in our bellies. Never before had we been to a place with so many vegan restaurants and it was love at first sight.
For two weeks we gorged ourselves on vegan pizzas for breakfast, seitan steaks for lunch, and all the burgers, tacos, and bowls we could get our hands on. It was incredible, and long before we had to leave, we knew we would be back.
That was three years ago, and we’ve returned several times since and had plenty of time to explore the beautiful coastline, the picturesque rice fields, and the impressive vegan food selection.
Meanwhile, many miss out on the actual Balinese cuisine and the island’s own local delights.
Let's not forget that tempeh originates from Indonesia and that tofu is a staple product for both non-vegans and vegans in Bali. The Balinese make a dish called tempeh goreng which is essentially fried tempeh served with creamy peanut sauce. It is to die for.
The point we want to emphasize is that you should try all the trendy vegan spots in Bali if you ever visit, as long as you set aside a few meals for some traditional Balinese food.
Or perhaps you’d enjoy how to make some of these Balinese dishes at a vegan cooking class?
There are many hotels and guest houses in every price class in Bali and we can help you find the best one. Book a hotel in Bali today!
Thailand has recently become one of the most vegan-friendly countries in Asia. Chiang Mai is especially popular among vegan travelers, although the rest of the country is quickly gaining ground and the selection of vegan restaurants in Bangkok is rapidly expanding.
Similar to Bali, Thailand has a good combination of traditional vegan Thai food and more western inspired eateries. It’s a vegan melting pot in its true meaning.
For example, in Bangkok you can eat noodle soup for breakfast, vegan burgers and waffles for lunch, and finish the day off with a pad thai - all within a few blocks of each other. Even on the islands, you can find more and more vegan options with Koh Phangan, Koh Tao, and Koh Lanta having the most options.
Thanks to the Chinese Buddhist form of gin jae, veganism is a concept that is understood by most Thai people. This means that even if you end up at a non-vegan restaurant, there will be options to choose from if you order using gin jae.
Check out our guide on How to Eat Vegan in Thailand which explains how to avoid things like fish sauce and shrimp paste by using local Thai phrases.
Don't forget to book a hotel in Bangkok before you come to Thailand!
Where should we begin? Honestly, we have such a burning passion for vegan food in Sri Lanka that it’s hard to collect our thoughts. The truth is that Sri Lanka is one of our favorite countries in the world and the cuisine definitely plays a part in that.
So what is it that makes Sri Lanka so special?
First off, just like in the neighboring country of India, the Sri Lankan people have a similar relationship to vegetarian and vegan food. It has been a part of their culture and tradition for so long that you will never be the only one in a room that refrains from eating animal products.
Sri Lankan cuisine could even be considered more vegan-friendly than India's cuisine due to the island’s heavy use of coconut milk in place of dairy.
With an abundance of coconuts, exotic tropical fruits, and vegetables, there is no wonder that the Sri Lankan cuisine is so vegan-friendly. If you venture away from the restaurants catering to tourists, you will be introduced to some of the best vegan food of your life. Also, in the capital of Colombo, there is a large number of pure vegetarian restaurants.
Whenever you order food in Sri Lanka, you always get served a feast.
Sri Lankan meals typically consist of multiple side dishes which is a great way to try a bit of everything.
Let’s say you order a fresh jackfruit curry, then you should expect to be served rice (which tends to be unlimited and refilled), at least two sambals, papadums, salad, and sometimes even fruit.
If you’re lucky, they might throw an extra curry or two in the mix depending on the restaurant.
But flavorful curries and unlimited amounts of rice are not the only reasons why we loved being vegan in Sri Lanka.
No, our favorite Sri Lankan vegan food is a breakfast item called string hoppers which is made from fermented rice and served with the most delicious coconut chili sambal.
Book a home stay or a hotel and experience the Sri Lankan hospitality today!
According to Happy Cow, there is a total of 77 all vegan restaurants only in central Taipei. You can find everything from local Chinese/Taiwanese food to Italian restaurants, bakeries, Indian food, and pretty much anything else you can imagine.
We haven't been to Taiwan yet, but we are planning a visit and will hopefully get there sometime this year.
If we broaden the search on Happy Cow a bit, we end up finding close to 400 vegan-friendly and vegetarian restaurants in Taipei, meaning there is no doubt that Taipei is one of the most vegan-friendly cities in Asia and the world.
Find a hotel in downtown Taipei and discover all the vegan food first hand!
Nepal might seem like an odd addition to a list of vegan-friendly countries in Asia. But the fact is that being vegan in Nepal is as easy in the capital as it is 14,763 ft (4,500 meters) up at base camp. Once again, this is mostly due to the traditional cuisine being vegan-friendly by default.
Dal bhat is the most popular Nepalese dish and is made of lentils and rice. It’s served at most Nepalese restaurants in the country and is accompanied by several smaller curries.
Momos are another popular dish in Nepal. These South Asian dumplings are of Tibetan origin and are served with a local chutney dipping sauce.
Veg momos are always vegan, and you can get them served steamed, fried, in soup, or spicy in a vegetable curry.
Due to Nepal’s location between India, China, and Tibet, there is more to the kitchen than traditional Nepalese dishes.
For example, one can enjoy Chinese inspired veg chow mein, Tibetan thukpa soup, North Indian dishes, and many other regional delights as a vegan in Nepal.
Although, the most impressive thing about Nepal is the availability of vegan food. In both Kathmandu and Pokhara, you will have plenty of options to choose from, but the same goes for the Himalayan treks that Nepal is so famous for.
Victoria first visited Nepal in 2013 and did a 10-day trek to Annapurna Base Camp and not once did she have an issue finding vegan food. All the tea houses provide dahl baht and other local vegan dishes by default. You will not go hungry, that’s a guarantee.
The two of us later returned to Nepal in 2016 and decided to do a smaller more unknown trek called Mardi Himal, and even though the tea houses on the trek had just opened up to the public, there were plenty of vegan dishes. We even ate freshly made momos at Mardi Himal Base Camp one night!
Pro Tip: Note that many of the “dairy-free milks” sold in Nepal aren’t actually vegan and some even contain fish so be careful when you order milk for your coffee or smoothies. If possible, ask the restaurant to see the dairy-free milk package to check the ingredients for yourself.
Let's us help you find a highly rated hotel in Kathmandu and Pokhara!
One of the most vegan-friendly cities in Southeast Asia is Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia. This small little city is just a few hours from the Thai border, and it is a melting pot of cultures and cuisines.
Little India boasts a large selection of vegan Indian restaurants while Chinatown is filled with several vegan-friendly Chinese restaurants. Combine that with cute coffee shops serving vegan coffee and churros, and you have one of the most vegan-friendly cities in Asia.
Penang is also one of the easiest places in the world to get a visa for Thailand or do a visa run if you’re already in Thailand but want to stay for longer. We’ve covered the process in detail and recommend you check it out.
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