There are ENDLESS things I love about Chiang Mai but the food has to steal the show. From restaurants to cafes, street food and activities, I decided to put together a big Chiang Mai food guide in the hope you’ll eat as much of it as possible!
CHIANG MAI ESSENTIALSAccommodation – Booking.com / HostelworldGetting there – flight / bus / train. Book using 12GoActivities: GetYourGuideFood tours: A Chef’s TourGuide book: Lonely Planet Thailand
Airport transfers: Klook
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Typical food in Chiang Mai
Like many countries, the cuisine varies as you move around Thailand. Down in the south, the most popular food is pad Thai which can be found on every corner. You’ll still find it while spending 3 days in Chiang Mai but you shouldn’t eat it exclusively because there are SO many other delicious dishes to try.
Lanna food is typical to Northern Thailand and refers to dishes traced back to the powerful Lanna Kingdom of the 13th-18th centuries. Many of these dishes won’t be found down south.
Let’s begin with the popular food Chiang Mai is famous for…
Khao Kha Moo (pork leg rice)
Famous Chiang Mai food
When I heard that Anthony Bourdain had eaten khao kha moo served by the famous Cowboy Hat Lady of Chiang Mai, I knew I also needed to tick the experience off my Southeast Asia bucket list. After following his recommendations while eating street food in Penang and Hoi An recently, I was sure this would be just as good!You can find the Khao Kha Moo Chang Phuea food stand from 5pm daily at Chang Phuak Gate Night Market. Look out for a distinctive cowboy hat above the crowd and you can’t go wrong. The pork leg dish is ridiculously succulent (although a little fatty for my tastes) and served with rice and a soft-boiled egg.
Pay 30 THB for a small portion or 50 for a large. We all know which I did…
Khao soi noodles
Famous Chiang Mai noodles
You’ve not been to Chiang Mai if you’ve not tried khao soi noodles (or been to Doi Suthep as an old saying goes!). This creamy dish is served with strips of crispy fried dough to create its signature crunch.The coconut broth is usually served with lime and chicken, although if you’re looking for vegan food in Chiang Mai, you’ll still find a few options.
Khao soi seems to be every traveller’s favourite dish in Chiang Mai and I have to say it’s mine too!
The best places to eat khao soi in Chiang Mai:
- The stand beside the Cowboy Hat Lady at Chang Phuak Gate Night Market.
- Khao Soy Khun Yai – a modest outdoor restaurant in the grounds of Wat Khuan Khama temple. Visit between 10am and 2pm for rich, spicy 50 baht khao soy with either chicken, pork or beef.
- Kao Soy Nimman – this place is so amazing! It’s more like experimental modern cuisine than authentic street food but they offer so many varieties of kao soy including the ultimate version with spicy sausage, shrimp, roast pork, shrimp and chicken. Prices start from 100 baht.
- Kao Soi Lumdeun – if you don’t mind a 10-minute drive from town, this restaurant is where locals go to eat khao soi, among other dishes. It’s a sit-down restaurant rather than a street food joint but the prices aren’t bad at all!
This sausage is so famous that I met an English couple who had flown back to Thailand to eat it again. Sounds like something I would do 😉
Pork meat is mixed with chili, garlic, herbs and spices. It has a rich, distinct flavour that’s incredibly moreish. Like many Northern Thai foods, it’s best paired with sticky rice and a cold Chang beer.
Hainanese chicken (3 types!)
A Hainanese feast with Chiang Mai Foodie Tours
Fried chicken lovers need to try this pronto! Kiet O Cha (beside the Three King’s Monument) is a family-run restaurant popular with locals. They start grilling the chicken early in the morning and sell out by 2pm, so make sure to visit early.
There are three different chicken dishes to order:
- Crispy fried chicken with chilli dip
- Boiled white chicken with a soy, chilli and garlic dip
- Grilled chicken skewers with moreish peanut satay dip.
You can’t go wrong with any of these options. I sampled all three and they were fantastic.
Book a tour via their Facebook page.
Speaking of chicken, this is absolutely no excuse to miss the popular Chiang Mai food that is Cherng Doi Roast Chicken based slightly out of town in Nimman.
Roast chicken is popular in North Thailand and there’s nowhere better than this modest restaurant. Unbelievably succulent roast chicken with crispy skin is best eaten with a Thai basil and pork salad and a handful of sticky rice, washed down with a cold Chang beer. Bliss!
I first tried this tasty dish in Northern Laos a few years ago and was delighted to find it’s a popular food in Chiang Mai, too.
Meat (either fish, chicken, pork or beef) is finely sliced and fried with chilli, herbs and spices. It’s a simple yet tasty dish served with sticky rice and found at plenty of local restaurants.
Mango sticky rice
Mango sticky rice – heaven on a plate!
The most famous dessert in Thailand is mango sticky rice. You’ll see it served at street stalls, local restaurants and even Western-style cafes.
Sticky rice is topped with sliced mango, drizzled with coconut milk and sprinkled with crunchy mung beans. I’m seriously obsessed and I think you will be, too!
Sticky banana leaf rice
If you ever get sick of mango sticky rice (although who would?), there are a couple of other variations to try. At banana leaf sticky rice stalls around Chiang Mai, you’ll find ingredients like fruit, black bean, sesame and sweet potato drizzled with coconut milk and served with sticky rice.
The foodie parcels are wrapped in banana leaves and best eaten on the street.
Could we call this Thai tapas? Betel leaves are served with a selection of ingredients like peanuts, chopped onions, shrimp, roasted coconut, chilli and lime. Wrap them up in the leaf and drizzle or dip the sweet sauce that comes on the side.
Gaeng Hung Lay
If you love pork belly, this dish is for you. Large chunks of meat are served in a ginger-based broth featuring soy sauce, tamarind and peanut. The rich pork and zingy ginger go incredibly together.
Chiang Mai food experiences
It’s easy enough to find amazing food in Chiang Mai but it’s always good to have locals on the job!
There are a lot of touristy restaurants around the Old City which aren’t especially authentic. If you want to get deeper into the gastronomic scene, I would highly recommend the following…
Chiang Mai Foodie Tours
With years of experience under their belts, Chiang Mai Foodie Tours are a tour company with a difference: they’ll take you on a temple tour as well as a food crawl.
We tucked into 11 dishes throughout the morning (yes 11!) so wandering the temples was the perfect way to walk it off. We ate:
- 3 types of Hainanese chicken (fried, boiled and satay skewers)
- Banana sticky rice
- Khao soi noodles
- Kaeng hung lay (a rich pork belly curry)
- Kanom jeen nam ngiew (a spicy tomato-based noodle dish)
- Sai ua (famous North Thai spicy sausage)
- Coconut pancakes
- Kao larm (peanut and ginger inside gooey rice squares, drizzled with coconut milk)
- Banana leaf sticy rice
- Mango sticky rice!
In my element eating four lunches!
It was such a feast and I want to do it all over again! I went on the Original Chiang Mai Food Tour which starts at 9am and ends at 1pm but they also do a night food tour.
Ingredient prep for tom yum soup
I had the best morning during my cooking class. After a local market visit, we headed to the countryside veggie plot where everything is grown organically.
We used ingredients like kaffir lime leaf, lemongrass, Thai ginger and fresh chillis to make a mind-blowing six-course lunch that I’ll remember for a long time.
You get a choice of main dishes to make but I went for:
- Panang curry (made with peanuts, coconut milk and chilli)
- A chicken and cashewnut stir-fry
Two starters, a salad and dessert are also included:
- Tom yum soup
- Fresh spring rolls
- Papaya salad
- Mango sticky rice.
Cost: 900 TBH including transport, water, teas and coffees. The class runs from 9am-1pm and there are vegetarian options to choose from.
A Chef’s Tour by food truck
During a fantastic evening out, I took a Northern Food Tour by Truck courtesy of A Chef’s Tour. Half the fun was travelling aboard our own red songthaew; the other half was eating fantastic Chiang Mai cuisine with a local guide.
Among other dishes, we tried:
- Sai ua (spicy northern Thai sausage) and other goodies at Siri Wattana Market
- Khao ka moo (from the Cowboy Hat Lady)
- Laab (chopped meat with chilli and herbs) at a local restaurant
- Burmese food (pork curry and delicious salads), supporting refugees who have crossed the Thai-Burmese border.
- Nam ngiaw (spicy tomato-broth noodles with pork)
- Sweet ginger soup.
Cost: €60, a bargain for how much we ate! Book the tour here.
Chiang Mai food markets
Some of the best places to eat in Chiang Mai are the abundant night markets. I don’t think I’ve ever been somewhere with so many.
Obviously, I ate at so many for the sake of this Chiang Mai food guide, not just because I’m greedy 😉
Chang Phuak Gate Night Market
As well as the Cowboy Hat Lady’s pork leg rice, there are plenty of typical Chiang Mai foods on offer at Chang Phuak Gate Night Market. Other options include khao soi noodles, dim sum, smoothies, waffles and sweet rotis. Go hungry!
It’s open from 5pm, seven days a week. The locals eat there so you know it’s good!
The Student Market at Malin Plaza
If you want to skip the tourist markets in Chiang Mai, this student market is full of local gems. We were a few of the only Westerners there and most of the stalls weren’t in English: a sure sign the food would be good.As well as lots of clothes and accessories, there are pop-up stands and static restaurants. We ate an enormous hotpot meal which we cooked ourselves at the table. It included all-you-can-eat meat, veg, seafood, noodles, sushi, fried chicken, soft drinks and ice cream for 180 THB per person. Bargain!
Malin Plaza is a little out of town (past Nimman) but it’s worth the journey. Pay 100 THB in a Grab or 30 in a red songtheaw taxi. It’s open every night from 6pm.
The Saturday & Sunday Markets
Despite how touristy they feel, my favourite nights in Chiang Mai are spent at the weekend night markets. The whole city comes alive with food stalls and massage stations while the smell of satay and other grilled goodies hangs in the air.
For 150 THB you can eat 4-5 dishes. Last time at the Sunday Market, I ate sushi, gyoza, chipsticks, a Thai omelette and mango sticky rice.
The best thing to do at the weekend markets is grab a smoothie and sit back for a 70 THB foot massage while people-watching.
- The Saturday Market – find it at the south of the city around Sun Phung Gate
- The Sunday Night Market – find it in the city centre, stretching from Tha Phae Gate to the Three King’s Monument.
Both markets serve typical Chiang Mai food like khao soi, general Thai dishes like pad Thai, and world cuisine like sushi. Get ready for a feast!
Warorot Market isn’t very touristy so it’s one of the cheapest places to eat in Chiang Mai. Unlike the night markets, it’s open all day and sells everything under the sun. Fresh market produce, spices, dried fruit, sweets, clothes and shoes… The list goes on!There are also tons of locally-run food stands at Warorot. I sampled delicious coconut pancakes and flavoursome sausages (sai ua) served with rice. The sausage stand can be found towards the back and is widely renowned as the best of its kind in Northern Thailand.
There are also pop-up stalls serving famous Thai tea as well as an unusual tea coffee mix that I have to say I liked.
Chiang Mai Night Bazaar
Gyoza at the Sunday Night Market
The Night Bazaar is most definitely for tourists. Like a permanent version of the weekend markets, it’s as much about souvenirs as it is food, plus the prices are slightly inflated.The market stretches for miles and you’ll find plenty of food courts and stands hidden between the various sections.
From Thai food to Japanese and Vietnamese, it may not be the most authentic place to eat in Chiang Mai but it’s worth checking out, especially if you want to pick up your souvenirs at the same time. The Night Bazaar is open daily from 6pm.
Ming Muang Market
Ming Muang is unique because it sells such a mix of local and tourist goods. It’s where cooking classes bring their guests in the early morning so it’s a great place to pick up foodie souvenirs.
Buy herbs, spices, dried teas (including rosebud and butterfly pea) and packaged pad Thai and tom yum cooking sets. Local grocery stalls sit beside tourist stands selling gorgeous and affordable skirts, dresses and baggy traveller pants.
Chiang Mai food: cafes & restaurants
While much of the best food in Chiang Mai is served on the streets, the cafe and restaurant scene is also strong. Rather than serving overpriced Western food, Chiang Mai has a collection of gorgeous, ethical cafes that focus on fresh produce and good causes. Don’t miss…
Free Bird Cafe
Healthy, ethical food in Chiang Mai
As ethical businesses in Chiang Mai go, you can’t beat Free Bird Cafe based in fashionable Nimman. They don’t just give a percentage of their profits to charity but all of them!You can dine on a veggie lunch knowing that 100% of your money is going towards education for Northern Thai and Burmese hill tribes. Not only that, there’s a zero-waste shop onsite selling bamboo straws, second-hand clothes and more.
Note – Free Bird is a no laptop zone so don’t come there to work.
This leafy garden paradise is the best place I’ve found in Chiang Mai for lying on a beanbag and relaxing. The menu at Blue Diamond boasts tons of Thai dishes, healthy breakfast bowls, smoothies and salads… But the bakery will blow all that healthiness out the window!
I can recommend the chocolate and peanut tart, the coconut pie and the cinnamon buns. Prices are a little inflated here, as you’d expect from a Western-style cafe.
Reform Kafe is a vegan cafe serving fantastic dishes including delicious massaman curry (made with potato and coconut milk), veggie burgers and stir-frys. Even the mango lassis are like a whole meal in themselves.
This restaurant is very atmospheric with hanging lanterns and a swimming pool in the corner. You could easily spend the day there working and eating.
If you’re in the market for a seriously delicious brunch, shell out the extra baht to visit The Larder. Tucked away on a leafy street in Nimman (across the road from Maya Mall), it’s a little oasis in the otherwise busy modern neighbourhood.The cafe isn’t quite as cute or quirky as others in this blog but the food makes up for it. I paid almost 200 THB for this fig, mascarpone, pomegranate, mint and balsamic open sandwich but wow, it was worth it!My only complaint is that it would be hard for groups to dine together as most of the tables are little individual ones.
Visit from 8.30am-3pm (last order 2pm).
If you’ve made it this far into my Chiang Mai food guide, congrats because we’re onto a good one. Crazy Noodle is probably my favourite dinner spot in Chiang Mai and better yet, it’s affordable. I’ve yet to see another Westerner in there so it’s definitely a local gem.The noodle soup dishes come with so many toppings and combinations; like the pork cutlet noodles for 65 baht (don’t forget to add a gooey egg) and the seafood extravaganza for 160 baht.
Choose between 5 noodle types and 3 different soups – the hot and sour one is my favourite.
Coffee in Chiang Mai
Although the traditional food in Chiang Mai food is fantastic, the coffee scene can rival it. There are lots of cosy cafes and airy gardens to relax and sip your favourite beverage.
Read next: where to drink coffee in Chiang Mai
Around the corner from Free Bird Cafe in stylish Nimman, Ristr8o Lab is one of the best coffee roasteries in Chiang Mai. They actually describe themselves as a ‘coffee cult’ with stores as far away as Australia – and we all know their coffee is on point.
The speciality menu at Ristr8o spans pages, ending with really unusual ones. I went for a regular flat white but I’m intrigued about blueberry cheesecake coffee…
Fahtara Coffee & Restaurant
Yet another gorgeous cafe in Chiang Mai, I loved the garden setting of Fahtara. I also loved the enormous litres of iced coffee, and felt like I was back at the Oktoberfest – only with a laptop and caffeine buzz instead of lederhosen and thousands of drunk tourists!
Fahtara also serve brunch, salads and Thai dishes. Visit for good food, copious amounts of coffee and the relaxed shady setting.
Nowhere Roast and Brew
If there’s something that’s consistently good in Chiang Mai, it’s the garden cafes. Nowhere Roast and Brew is a breezy outdoor coffee shop with inspirational signs everywhere like ‘do more of what you love’ – definitely inspo for online workers (although I couldn’t find any plug outlets so that might hinder your productivity).
This colourful cafe decked with Nepalese prayer flags also supports local farmers. Shop at the vintage store or drink coffee at the cute bar in the garden. Tasty iced lattes are 70 THB.
My Secret Cafe in Town
This final listing isn’t a garden cafe but a gorgeous air-conditioned coffee shop with excellent iced coffee, Thai tea and cakes (don’t miss the chocolate and peanut butter brownie).
As the name suggests, it’s tucked away from the main road which is perfect for escaping the crowds and enjoying a bit of peace and quiet. Tiled floors, high ceilings, vases of flowers and abstract wall art give it a quirky, old-fashioned feel.
How much does food cost in Chiang Mai?
If you eat street food in Chiang Mai, you can easily eat a meal for 30 THB. Bring 150 THB to a night market and you can snack on 4-5 small dishes.
In fashionable restaurants and cafes, expect to pay 100-250 THB a meal. Third-wave coffee tends to cost 70 THB a cup upwards.