Laos has been one of the hardest countries for me to eat in as a vegan. There aren’t any solely plant-based eateries in Luang Prabang, but there are a few restaurants that have vegan options and some fantastic social enterprises. There’s a good mix of offerings from traditional Lao dishes to western specialties. Here’s an incomplete guide to vegan meals in Luang Prabang.
VISIT THE PRODUCE MARKETS
The produce of the day at the Luang Prabang morning market.
If you’ve booked accommodation with a kitchenette you’ll want to take advantage of the gorgeous produce that’s sold at the morning produce markets around Luang Prabang. Even if you don’t have a kitchen it’s worth taking a stroll through the market to see if you can identify veggies you’ve never seen before and pick up some fruits to make a fruit salad for breakfast.
VEGAN-FRIENDLY STREET FOOD
Freshly made coconut pancakes at the Luang Prabang night market.
Coconut pancakes are the best vegan-friendly street food snack in most of Southeast Asia and Luang Prabang is no exception. At the Luang Prabang night market, there are two stalls that advertise themselves as being veggie-only (Google Maps). Funnily enough, both also sell grilled fish. They also have a few dishes with egg in them so just be sure to ask which dishes are vegan. They’re used to this request and will be happy to point you in the right direction. This is a great way to try veggie versions of local Lao food but be warned that most of the foods are extra oily or deep fried. I went here often as they had my all-time favorite Asian veggie, jackfruit! Be sure to wash down your dinner with a Beer Lao–my favorite local beer in Southeast Asia, especially the white and amber brews.
OCK POP TOK CAFE
The beautiful colors of the Ock Pop Tok Cafe.
The Ock Pop Tok social enterprise operates two cafes–the Silk Road Cafe (Google Maps) in the Luang Prabang ancient town and another restaurant at the Living Crafts Center (Google Maps). Both cafes have a vibrant ambiance and a fantastic menu with many traditional dishes available. Ock Pop Tok is dedicated to using fresh organic ingredients. The menu at the social impact cafe was created by Chef Keo, who used to work in the weaving center but through the support of Ock Pop Tok was able to pursue her true passion of the culinary arts. Keo also studied nursing and uses her health knowledge to create dishes that are tasty and good for the body.
Vegan spread at the Ock Pop Tok cafe.
I had the fresh rainbow spring rolls that were almost too pretty to eat, fried spring rolls, and tofu laab salad with sticky rice. Many of the plants used to create the natural dyes at Ock Pop Tok are also used as ingredients at the cafes including turmeric, seeds, and lemongrass. Ock Pop Tok is also committed to being plastic-free. They use bamboo straws, cloth napkins, and provide free potable water in order to cut back on the wasteful consumption that’s usually associated with restaurants.
The food at Indigo House is almost too pretty to eat.
This gorgeous cafe is located on the ground floor of Indigo House Hotel (Google Maps) next to a craft shop of local wares. Indigo House also boasts the tallest roof in Luang Prabang and is an excellent place to scope out the views–I would’ve gone during sunset but it was pretty rainy during most of my evenings in Luang Prabang.
Loving the indigo rice! Not loving the plastic straws.
Back to the food, Indigo House is on the main drag so the prices may seem a bit prestige but they’re fully worth it. They use mostly organic ingredients from their farm and the way they plate food is seriously a museum-quality art form. The coffee is also 100% organic. Unfortunately, they still use plastic straws so be sure to ask for no straw or bring your own bamboo straw.
They have quite a few vegan-friendly dishes on the menu including their famous blue butterfly pea flower sticky rice. They have some fusion and western dishes but I suggest trying the plant-based traditional foods such as curries, jeow dip, and laab salads.
Vegan papaya salad served fresh over a waterfall.
If you’ve always wanted to dine over a waterfall, this is your chance! Carpe Diem (Google Maps) is located near the famous Kuang Si waterfalls which pour over into their property. They’ve built wooden patios over the falls for a truly unique dining experience. There aren’t any vegan options on the menu but they’re happy to whip up the papaya salad without any fish sauce or tiny shrimp which was fresh and delicious. They only work with local producers and give 5% of profits ASAS which supports marginalized people in Laos. I can’t think of a better way to seize the day!
Split between two meals this $15 meal was worth every bite.
Coconut Garden (Google Maps) is one of those restaurants that recommended by nearly all tourists in Luang Prabang and for good reason–the ambiance here is lovely, the staff is kind, and the food is phenomenal. I ‘splurged’ on the vegan-friendly set menu which had 4 typical Lao dishes and cost about $15. It was way too much food so I took half of it home for dinner.
The best peanut butter in Asia.
L’etranger (Google Maps) was the first bookshop to open up in Laos in 2001. The bookshop has since transformed into a community space with nightly movie screenings, art gallery, and boutique for locally produced goods. While the menu may be limiting when it comes to vegan options the peanut butter is out-of-this-world good and they have a selection of over 65 different types of teas! It was so zen here that I actually fell asleep on the cozy pillows after enjoying my mulberry green tea.
Iced soy latte with a social impact punch.
Caffeine lovers and digital nomads who are also plant-based need to look no further than Saffron Coffee (Google Maps). They have a great iced soy latte and a vegan-friendly falafel wrap. Several friends recommended the Cascara Kombucha but I kept forgetting to order it–give it a taste and tell me how it is! The gorgeous cafe makes an impact too as it’s a social enterprise that reinvests all profits into rural villages who grew opium before being empowered to produce coffee. Saffron purchases their specialty coffee from Lao hill tribes growers from the Khmu, H’mong, Mien, and Gasak ethnic groups. The coffee is organic and shade grown so it’s also eco-friendly. To learn more about their coffee cultivation sign up for one of their tasting tours.
Vegan comfort foods at Novelty Cafe.
Novelty Coffee is a great spot with a prime location on the main street of Luang Prabang. They have the largest assortment of vegan dishes out of any cafes I visited in LP including a vegan brownie and seasonal soups. I opted for the roasted veggie sandwich and a soy cappuccino as I people watched from the balcony. Novelty Coffee (Google Maps) is very cozy but it’s a bit hectic to work here for the day if you’re a digital nomad.
Soy milk fair-trade coffee just tastes better!
The international chain Joma Bakery (Google Maps) is worth visiting due to their dedication to social sustainability projects and their fantastic fair-trade Arabica coffee that’s organically grown in southern Laos by a coffee growing collective. 10% of profits are allocated to community-based grassroots initiatives in Laos. They even have signs around the cafe encouraging diners to skip the straw.
The soy cappuccino at Joma Bakery was the best I’ve ever had–even better than in Italy! They didn’t have any vegan food options that were appealing to me but there are some vegetarian-friendly foods on the menu if you eat eggs and dairy. This is a great place to work for the day as the upstairs area is very spacious, cooled with A/C, and has just slightly temperamental WiFi.
As promised, this is an incomplete guide to vegan meals in Luang Prabang. There are many more places to check out, especially local spots. For further ideas read my vegetarian friend Tara’s article on eating like a local in Luang Prabang. She’s based in LPB and vegetarian.
Where have you had vegan food in Luang Prabang? Tell us in the comments!