Vegan Thai Food

Vegan Thai Food

In this article, we’re going to take a look at some of the basics for making amazing vegan Thai food. Before we start, it’s worth noting that all Thai food is cooked with four flavors in mind, these are sweet, salty, savory, and spicy.

This is always the first lesson given to anyone learning to cook Thai food, so it’s important to understand before you try cooking yourself. 

Thai cooking makes use of a lot of vegetables, and most of them are bought fresh from the markets to be used later in the kitchen the very same day.

This abundance of vegetables might mean that you automatically assume that a lot of Thai food is vegan, and whilst this isn’t necessarily true, there is some good news.

Many Thai recipes are able to be adapted to be suitable for vegans, so even if you find a recipe that you think you’d enjoy, but can’t eat as it contains non-vegan ingredients, then don’t worry.  So, for an in-depth guide to preparing and cooking amazing vegan Thai food, keep reading!

What Thai Food Is Vegan?

Many vegans are often disappointed when they find out that not many dishes in Thai cuisine are vegan. In fact, many of the most popular dishes incorporate fish into them for seasoning purposes.

Oyster sauce, fish sauce, or dried shrimp are all common seasonings and mean that most dishes are neither vegetarian nor vegan. 

If you are in Thailand, and a dish is marked as vegetarian on the menu, it is probably vegan too. But always check with the server.

However, because dairy products aren’t really used in Thai cooking, it’ll usually be eggs that decide whether a dish is vegetarian or vegan, and these can be omitted easily if you ask for them to be removed. 

Best Alternatives For Non-Vegan Ingredients

But what about when you’re cooking at home? How do you try to replicate the delicious and authentic taste of a Thai restaurant without using ingredients that aren’t vegan?

Well, there are a number of great products available that will be able to provide you with all of the traditional flavors, without using any animal products in them, so you can make your Thai dishes with no concern. 

Vegan Fish Sauce

Cooking using fish sauce isn’t pleasant due to its horrific smell, but if you’re in Thailand, many restaurants will be more than happy to remove the fish sauce and other animal-based products in order to make a dish vegan. So what about cooking at home?

Thankfully, there are a number of great vegan fish sauce alternatives available, but if you’re having trouble finding these vegan fish sauces, then don’t be afraid to add some extra light or dark soy sauce instead. It might not taste quite as good, but it will still provide that umami flavor that Thai food is known for. 

Vegan Oyster Sauce

In Thailand, even if a dish is listed as vegetarian, it’s worth checking if it has oyster sauce, as it’s still used heavily in dishes that don’t contain any actual meat. 

Trying to find a vegan alternative to oyster sauce is hard, but many people recommended combining some light soy sauce and vegan Worcestershire sauce together in order to try and replicate oyster sauce’s unique taste. 

Unfortunately, the texture that oyster sauce has is impossible to replicate when vegan, so your food might not feel the same compared to the authentic dish! 

Vegan Shrimp Paste

With shrimp paste being used so frequently in Thai cooking, it feels like something that needs to be included in your dish in order to keep the recipe as authentic as possible. But is that possible when vegan?

Thankfully, miso paste makes for the perfect vegan alternative to shrimp paste, which is so often used in different Thai curries, even if they have no actual meat in them!

The addition of this paste will help to provide your dish with a new level of depth and flavor, and the salty and pungent nature of the paste is similar to what shrimp paste is like too. 

Ingredients Needed For Vegan Thai Food

So, if you’re planning to do some Thai cooking in your home regularly, then there are a few different ingredients that you should keep stocked up on to ensure that your Thai dishes taste as good as they possibly can, with no cruelty involved. 

Keeping these ingredients in your pantry means that you’ll always be able to create delicious Thai food when those cravings kick in! 

Vegan Thai Food

Soy Sauce

The ingredient needed most when cooking any Thai dish is soy sauce, and if you think you’re going to be cooking Thai dishes regularly, then it’s probably best to buy a large quantity of soy sauce all at once. 

Using a combination of dark and light soy sauce is the key to creating amazing and authentic-tasting vegan Thai food, but learning how to balance the two is difficult. However, with some experience, you’ll be able to balance the two soy sauces easily. 

Curry Pastes

If you’re a fan of Thai Curries, but making your own Thai curry paste from scratch is too much effort, then you should definitely keep plenty of Thai curry pastes stashed in your pantry.

Finding vegan ones might pose a slight challenge, but look out for Thai Kitchen or Mekhala, who both do great vegan Thai curry pastes. 

To make your own curry paste from scratch, the only special equipment you need is a blender, and it stores well in the freezer too, so we always suggest just making a large batch of Thai curry paste all at once, and storing it till you need it. 

Nuts

When vegan, it can be difficult to try and find healthy sauces of fats and proteins that you would typically get from meat.

However, using nuts is a great way to do so, and thankfully a lot of Thai dishes incorporate nuts into their recipes, either as a garnish or even as the main ingredient. 

Buying your nuts in bulk is the best way to make sure that there is always some in your pantry when you need them, and it will save you a lot of money too.  You can opt for whatever nuts you like, but cashew nuts are the ones most commonly found in Thai dishes. 

Dried Red Chilies

As we mentioned at the beginning, there are four tastes that are important to Thai cooking, and one of them is spicy.

Many dishes will ask you to use dried red chilies to help bring the heat to your cooking, so it’s best to store enough in your pantry.  

Dried red chilies can be stored for long periods of time, so don’t worry if you’re not using them every day. Finding them in grocery stores might be a little difficult, so you might need to look online. 

Tofu

Tofu is commonly used in Thai cooking, regardless of whether the dish was intended to be vegan or not, so having tofu around ready for cooking your favorite Thai dish is essential. 

There are many different tofu options available, and the one you choose depends on what dish you’re making. Firm or extra-firm tofu is excellent for seasoning and coating in cornstarch to be fried and later added to curries or stir-fries. 

Silken tofu is often used to replace eggs across various dishes, including desserts, or even as a replacement for scrambled eggs in fried rice recipes!

Equipment Needed For Vegan Thai Food

You’ll most likely have a lot of the equipment in your kitchen to cook great Thai kitchen dishes, but if you’re not sure if you have everything you need, here’s the equipment you’ll need most. 

Wok

No matter what Thai dish you’re making, you’ll always need to use a wok, so it’s worth investing in a good quality wok, which will ensure that none of your ingredients stick to the bottom of the pan. 

Pestle & Mortar

Whilst not entirely necessary, if you want the truly authentic Thai cooking experience when making Thai curries, then a pestle & mortar is essential. Just make sure that you buy one big enough to fit all of your ingredients in. 

Blender

If you’re not a fan of the physical aspect of using a pestle & mortar, then opt for a blender instead, and it can also be helpful when trying to make great curry paste in a rush too.  Make sure it’s got enough power to break down vegetables otherwise you’ll be disappointed. 

Conclusion

So, creating great vegan Thai dishes at home is much easier to do than you would initially think, and although you might have to make some adjustments to the original ingredients used in the recipe to make it vegan, we’re sure it will still taste great, so what are you waiting for?  

Brandon White
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