Thailand is one of the best places for a family vacation in Asia, and its incredible cuisine is among the many reasons travelers from all over the world fall in love with this Southeast Asian country.
When it comes to Thai cuisine, flavor and spices take center stage, creating a memorable culinary experience that is as diverse as it is delectable.
From bustling street stalls, to the train market near Bangkok and the Damnoen Floating Market, and even in tranquil, tiny villages like Khao Sok, Thailand’s rich gastronomic heritage is interwoven throughout the country.
Whether you’re a seasoned foodie or an adventurous traveler looking for new culinary experiences, exploring the best Thai dishes in the “Land of Smiles” is an essential part of any Thailand itinerary.
From iconic Pad Thai to fiery Green Curry and sweet Mango Sticky Rice, this guide to the best foods to try in Thailand details the must-eat meals and foods for which the country is most well known.
Join us as we embark on a gastronomic adventure through the best Thai dishes that every food enthusiast should savor when visiting this gastronomic paradise.
Best Thai dishes to try in Thailand
On a personal note, Thai food is one of our favorite types of food. So, naturally, when we first visited Thailand, we were most excited to try many of the best Thai dishes.
We embark on a gastronomic adventure through the country, indulging and sampling all the greatest foods to try in Thailand.
Eating at night markets and street stalls and the occasional restaurant during our 4 days in Bangkok before boarding an overnight train to Chiang Mai to continue our exploration, we discovered Thailand is a gastronomic paradise.
Sometimes referred to as “the kitchen to the world”, we wanted to share some of our personal favorite Thai dishes and a few of the best foods to try in Thailand for first time visitors.
Table of Contents
Pad Thai is considered a national dish of Thailand. The stir-fried rice noodles dish can be found almost anywhere, and is one of the most inexpensive meals you can have.
This beloved classic is a mix of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy – flavored with tamarind, fish sauce, garlic, red chili peppers, and often garnished with sugar, peanuts, lime, and bean sprouts.
This meal can be prepared as a vegetarian dish (although it is NOT vegan because of the fish sauce and the egg it is stir fried with), or it can be served with a selection of meats – most often chicken or shrimp.
Mango Sticky Rice
Mango Sticky Rice is a delicious Thai dessert with a unique contrast of flavors and textures that complement each other delightfully.
The dish typically features ripe mango slices served alongside a bed of rice infused with creamy coconut milk and sugar.
Often drizzled with coconut cream for some extra sweetness, mango sticky rice is an indulgent treat or a finale to a savory meal.
What makes this Thai dish one of the best foods to try in Thailand is its natural sweetness – that is so counterintuitive to many western desserts that are overly rich and sweetened with gobs of sugar.
Khao Soi is a cherished Northern Thai dish and is one of the best foods to try in Thailand if you are visiting family-friendly Chiang Mai.
This tantalizing dish is a mix of complex flavors that has earned a special place in the hearts of food aficionados. The aromatic and hearty curry soup served with crispy egg noodles immersed in a rich, creamy coconut curry broth, often complemented with chicken that falls right off the bone.
A popular choice at night markets in Chiang Mai, this culinary masterpiece should come with a word of caution. It is spicy! But spiciness is part of the essence of Thai cuisine.
HEADING TO CHIANG MAI? ALSO CHECK OUT INTO THE WILD ELEPHANT CAMP
Coconut Ice Cream
Coconut ice cream is a quintessential treat in Thailand that embodies the essence of this tropical destination.
With its creamy texture and sweet, natural flavors, this dessert is a refreshing delight. Having a coconut ice cream while relaxing on a beautiful beach is one of the best things to do in Krabi, Thailand.
Crafted from rich coconut milk, this delectable dessert is both sweet and subtly nutty.
Often served in a coconut shell or a cup, this velvety ice cream is adorned with an array of toppings, such as toasted coconut flakes, roasted peanuts, sweet corn, a drizzle of syrup, or even a tropical flower for presentation.
Pineapple Fried Rice
Visiting Thailand with kids or picky eaters who can’t handle typical spicy Thai cuisine? Then pineapple fried rice is one of the best foods to try in Thailand for your picky eaters.
This simple Thai dish offers a blend of sweet and savory flavors and can be ordered with no spice.
Combining fragrant jasmine rice, stir-fried with chunks of ripe pineapple and topped with shrimp or chicken and cashew nuts, pineapple fried rice can be commonly found throughout the country, particularly in beach destinations like Krabi and the Thai islands.
It is an inexpensive meal that even the pickiest of kids will eat.
Often served in a carved-out pineapple shell for an added touch of visual appeal, this dish exemplifies creative meal presentation and is one of the most delightful and satisfying foods to try in Thailand.
Green Curry (Kaeng Khiao Wan)
Curry is an essential part of Thai cuisine. And green curry, or Kaeng Khiao Wan, is perhaps the most popular curry dish to try in Thailand.
Literally translated to ‘green and sweet’, this delicious dish, renowned for its striking green hue derived from a blend of fresh herbs and green chilies is rich and creamy.
Made with a coconut milk base, then infused with an aromatic mix of lemongrass, garlic, coriander, shallots, kaffir lime leaves, and other traditional spices, this green curry Thai dish is typically coupled with a choice of tender chicken, beef, or seafood.
Green curry is a perfect balance of heat, sweetness, and the fragrant essence of herbs. Paired with a steaming bowl of jasmine rice it is no wonder green curry is considered one of the best Thai dishes and one of the essential foods to try in Thailand.
Panang curry is a famous Thai curry which is rich and creamy in texture. It is a red curry and its flavor is unique compared to other Thai curries. It originated in central Thailand and is quite popular around the world.
Dried chili pepper, lemongrass, kaffir lime, as well as cumin, and galangal make the red curry paste delicious and packed with flavors. It has a nutty and sweet taste due to coconut milk and peanuts.
It is normally served with meat which can be chicken, beef or pork. However, there are seafood and vegetarian variants available. Usually, the curry is accompanied by a bowl of steaming hot jasmine rice.
Panang curry’s distinct flavor offers a perfect balance between sweet and spicy which makes it a must-try dish for your 7 days in Thailand itinerary.
It goes well with most types of meat, seafood or even vegetables, in case you don’t consume meat.
Some Panang Curry variations may contain shellfish or nuts; therefore, it is always better to confirm the ingredients list in advance, especially if you have any allergies or dietary conditions.
Panang curry is not very spicy but you can ask for adjustments in spice levels while ordering.
Recommended by Lavina from Continent Hop
Papaya salad, also known as Som Tam, is a popular side dish in Thai cuisine.
It is typically made with shredded unripe papaya, tomatoes, green beans, peanuts, and a tangy dressing that balances the sweetness, sourness, and spiciness.
The combination of the crispness of the papaya, the crunch of the peanuts, and the zing of the dressing creates a blend of flavors that is both invigorating and refreshing.
No visit to Thailand is complete without savoring this authentic dish, which is often paired as a side with sticky rice and meat, such as chicken or beef.
Tom Yum Kung
Tom Yum soup, also known as Tom Yam, is one of the most popular Thai foods in the world and with a very good reason. It is delicious and its sour spicy flavor coming from its herbs and spices has many health benefits.
The soup is believed to have originated in Central Thailand the Rattanakosin Kingdom and it has extended nowadays to all areas of the country so you will be able to enjoy this mouth-watering dish in some of the most exotics islands in Thailand such as Koh Kood.
“Tom” means boiling and “Yam” or ‘Yum” spicy and sour.
Tom Yam Kung soup is a red curry type of shrimp soup which basic ingredients are lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, Thai chili, Thai red curry paste, oyster mushrooms, water, shrimp, fish sauce, vegetable oil, sugar, salt, coconut milk, lime juice and cilantro.
While the basic recipe is with shrimps there are different variations of the soup where the shrimp can be replaced by chicken, squids or clams. Experiment and get to try as many variations as possible during your visit to Thailand or in one of the many Thai restaurants around the world.
Recommended by Pilar from Travel the World Pages
Pad Krapow was the first dish I tried when I was traveling through Thailand many years ago and it is now my favorite Thai dish.
The one thing I’ll remember most is that I thought it was the most spicy thing I’d ever eaten, and now I can’t get enough!
Pad Krapow is regarded as the actual national dish of Thailand and not Pad Thai as many travelers like to think! The dish was inspired by the Chinese style of stir-frying but it is certainly 100% Thai!
You may see it on the menu as fried (holy) basil with chicken, beef, pork or seafood. That’s because the basic ingredients are Thai holy basil, garlic, chili and meat of your choice.
It may sound simple but with the addition of fish sauce, sugar and a mix of fresh vegetables, the dish becomes a fine balance of spicy, sweet and sour! Although you may only remember the spice!
The dish doesn’t normally contain nuts but some chili oils may have traces to ask if you’re allergic.
You can always ask for fewer chilis to begin with but for me, it’s the heat that really gives you the full flavor hit of this dish!
Recommended by Jeff from Life of Y
Thai Coconut Chicken Soup (Tom Kha Gai)
Tom Kha Gai, also known as Thai coconut chicken soup, is a staple on most menus in Thailand. This delightful soup is a perfect blend of flavors that pairs great with a bowl of steamed rice or as a starter for those with a big appetite.
Tom Kha Gai features a creamy broth made with coconut milk infused with the fragrant notes of lemongrass and makrut lime leaves. Combining these ingredients gives it a distinct taste and leaves it milky white in appearance, which sets it apart from other broths. Plus, it’s one of the few broths that isn’t typically spicy.
This traditional soup is popular in central Thailand, particularly in areas influenced by neighboring Laos. However, you can easily find it in Thai cooking classes, markets, or sit-down restaurants throughout the country.
While the dish traditionally includes chicken, you can also find variations with seafood, cubes of pork blood, or tofu for vegetarians and vegans.
Recommended by Catherine Xu from Nomadicated
Grilled Pork Skewers (Moo Bing)
If you are visiting Thailand and love to try street foods, there’s so much to experience here.
Visiting the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok and the many floating markets and public markets around the river areas is part of the fun of exploring and eating your way around the city.
One of the most popular takeaway foods to try in Bangkok and all around Thailand is Moo Ping or grilled pork skewers which are so delicious just freshly made from the grill.
Moo Ping is savory pork marinated in a light savory sauce and typically served with peanut sauce topping after it is grilled.
You can also eat the pork without the peanut sauce since the marinade is also simple with a sweet and sour type of sauce. Ping in Thai means quick grill and basically that is what you will get when you try this yummy street food that you can easily find in any public marketplace in Thailand.
Don’t be afraid to experience the street food here in Thailand, it is amazing, cheap and Moo Ping is one of the easiest and tastiest pork grills that you should try and look out for when you visit the country.
Recommended by Noel from Travel Photo Discovery
Without a doubt one of the best and most unique foods to try in Thailand is Miang Kham.
Loosely translated as a “one bite wrap” in English, this yummy little snack is filled with an array of Thai flavors that will leave you craving more!
Whilst you can put anything in your Miang (food wrapped in leaves), it commonly includes a combination of ginger, chilies, lime, coconut and peanuts, plus an additional meat option. This can leave it with a range of flavors; from the hotness of the chilies to the sourness of the lime whilst still being salty and sweet!
The reason it’s incredibly popular in Thailand, and specifically in Northern Thailand where it originated, is due to its health benefits. The snack is high in antioxidants and provides a boost to your immune system.
Traditionally, Miang Kham is made for a catch-up between family and friends and is mostly eaten during the Thai rainy season when the Chaplu plant is readily available.
All in all, Miang Kham is one of the best foods to try in Thailand because it encapsulates Thai culture in a small snack whilst also being incredibly delicious.
Recommended by Alex and Leah from Alex and Leah on Tour
Pad See Ew
For those who prefer a more savory taste, a Pad See Ew is the perfect dish. This stir-fried noodle dish is a popular street food alternative to Pad Thai, made with soy sauce instead of the sweet and tangy tamarind sauce.
In fact, Pad See Ew translates to “stir fried soy sauce noodles” in English, though the soy sauce is often mixed with Oyster sauce.
Pad See Ew is bold and hearty since it’s made with wide rice noodles and packed with protein, often cooked with meat (chicken, pork or beef) as well as Chinese broccoli and egg.
The dish, while a popular favorite in Thailand, has roots stemming back to the early 1900s, when it was believed to have been introduced to the country by Chinese immigrants.
Pad See Ew is also commonly made with MSG, a popular ingredient in Thai food.
However, it usually doesn’t contain nuts though may be topped with chili flakes, and can be made vegetarian by swapping the meat for tofu or extra vegetables. Because the soy sauce is usually mixed with Oyster sauce, this dish is not suitable for vegan diets.
What sets a Pad See Ew apart from other dishes in Thailand is that the noodles caramelize in the soy sauce/oyster sauce combination, creating a tantalizing flavor that’s unlike any other Thai dish.
Written by Sean Lau of Travel Thailand Together
Boat Noodles (Kuai Tiao Ruea)
Boat Noodles, known as kuai tiao ruea in Thai, are a culinary gem from the ancient city of Ayutthaya. This iconic dish originated hundreds of years ago in the Kingdom of Siam, when the capital was still interconnected by a complex series of canals rather than roads.
Vendors would prepare the noodles aboard small boats for customers to eat along the riverbanks.
The heart of this dish lies in its rich, aromatic broth. It typically features meatballs made from either beef or pork, seasoned with an array of local spices and herbs, and sometimes infused with a dash of dark soy sauce.
However, what makes Ayutthaya Boat Noodles truly unique is the inclusion of cow’s blood, serving not only as a flavor enhancer but also as a natural thickener for the broth.
Distinct for its miniature portions, Ayutthaya’s Boat Noodles are traditionally served in small bowls, a nod to their historical roots where vendors hawk their wares from boats along the canals.
Recommended by Rose from Rose Campau
Want to visit an active floating market? Check out Damnoen Floating Market, one of the best day trips from Bangkok.
Chicken Red Curry
If it is your first time visiting Thailand, there’s one dish that you absolutely must try (and it is my personal favorite), a Chicken Red Curry. This masterpiece hails from the central region of Thailand and is the perfect blend of flavors that will leave your mouth watering.
Chicken Red Curry, or “Gaeng Phed Gai” as the locals call it, is a rich and aromatic Thai curry known for its tasty, coconut milk-based sauce that’s infused with the perfect blend of heat, sweetness, and savory flavors.
The curry paste, a mix of red chilies, lemongrass, galangal, and an array of spices, is the heart of this dish, giving it its vibrant red color and a fragrant kick. The paste and spices that give this dish its flavor and fragrance also make for great Thailand souvenirs.
The tender pieces of chicken are simmered in this sauce, along with a variety of vegetables, such as bamboo shoots, bell peppers, and Thai eggplants. The flavors are further enhanced with the addition of kaffir lime leaves and Thai basil, giving the dish its distinctive Thai character.
Although not as common, some restaurants serve it with fresh pineapple which gives it an extra sweetness.
What makes Chicken Red Curry so special is its balance of spicy, sweet, and savory elements. The creaminess of the coconut milk beautifully complements the fiery heat of the chili.
Whether you’re exploring the bustling streets of Bangkok, or relaxing on a tranquil beach in Phuket, finding a local restaurant serving Chicken Red Curry is a must!
Recommended by Peta and Jonas from Exit 45 Travels
Northern Thai Sausage (Sai Ua)
One of the best Thai foods to try is Northern Thai Sausage, known locally as Sai Ua. It originated in the Northern Thai regions, like Chiang Mai, but it can be found all over Thailand.
These sausages do have a bit of spice to them, but they are not overly spicy.
This sausage is made with fresh pork and a large amount of herbs, most typically lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and Galangal. It has a very fresh flavor when you bite into it.
You will find these at Chiang Mai Restaurants, at local food stalls, or at the night markets.
Most of the time the cook will throw it on the grill fresh for you to heat it up, or cook it through. And then they will cut them into bite-size pieces and serve them with some sticky rice, and some places may even give you a few pieces of pickled ginger.
You can find these yummy Northern Thai sausages any time of the day and they are super popular at the food markets and around the walking streets. Enjoy it as an appetizer or order two for a savory main dish!
Recommended by Abbey from Trips on Abbey Road
Morning Glory (Pak Bung Fai Daeng)
The Thai name for this dish is Pak Bung Fai Daeng or Pak Boong, while sometimes called Water Spinach Stir Fry due to its main veggie ingredient namesake in other places in Asia but best known as Morning Glory.
It consists of green vegetables, chilies, garlic, onion with pepper, soy sauce, mushroom sauce and either vegetarian stock or fish/oyster sauce if using meat/shrimps to accompany.
All of the ingredients are stir-fried in a wok on high heat before they come out steaming to your table.
This is the perfect vegetarian breakfast street food in Thailand.
It is traditionally a vegetarian meal but can be found with shrimp or meat.
There is no better way than eating this beautiful meal on the small street food stall tables between seeing the beautiful sights of Thailand.
Although Morning Glory is found all over Asia including Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Malaysia and Vietnam, I highly recommend traveling to the North of Thailand to sample this deliciousness, specifically Anusarn Market in Chiang Mai.
As with most street foods in Chiang Mai, this meal is very cheap and suits all budgets.
Recommended by Shireen from The Happy Days Travels
Drunken Noodles (Pad Kee Mao)
Drunken Noodles, or Pad Kee Mao in Thai, is a dish that is believed to have originated in central Thailand.
The initial historical recipe did not include noodles, but was instead an added addition when rice noodles were introduced to Thailand over trade and cultural exchange between Thailand and China.
Drunken noodles are spicy hot and include hot Thai chili peppers, fresh ingredients and sweet holy basil. This combination of flavors is said to sober up anyone after a drunken night or a hangover day and this is how the funky memorable name came to be.
The well-balanced stir-fry sauce contains soy sauce, fish sauce and sugar. Ingredients in a drunken noodle recipe can differ, and you are free to add eggs and chicken to make it a filling lunch or dinner meal.
Besides, the dish is a popular street food in Thailand. I loved the Pad Kee Mao served at the Chatuchak market in Bangkok, and I can only recommend it to anyone who enjoys spicy hot Thai food.
Recommended by Marina from Masala Herb
Khanom Khrok, sometimes also spelled as Kanom Krok or in another variation, is a traditional Thai dessert. You can find it all over Thailand, especially at night markets and street stalls, and it is also a popular dish in Laos.
Khanom Khrok translates to “rice pudding” in English. While it is not a pudding but rather a teeny-tiny pancake, the main ingredient is rice flour which is mixed together with coconut milk and sugar to form a dough. To this basic dough, some additional ingredients can be added such as corn, green onions, or taro for added flavor.
What sets Khanom Khrok apart from regular pancakes is the special pan in which the small pancakes are prepared. This pan consists of a dozen small indentations on both sides.
The dough gets poured and baked in each indention separately after which two half-circular doughs are formed together into one circular shape.
Khanom Khrok is a must-try dish in Thailand and can be eaten as a snack or as a dessert. A great benefit is also that it is a naturally vegan Thai dish which makes it suitable for plant-based travelers.
One portion of Khanom Khrok mostly consists of five small pancakes and is served in a basket made from banana leaves.
Recommended by Annelies from Travelers & Dreamers
Pork Larb (Larb Moo)
Pork Larb (Larb Moo) is a spicy dish from Thailand’s North Eastern region otherwise known as Isarn. However, being a popular street food it is also quite commonly found around most of Bangkok and other Thai cities.
Pork Larb consists of minced pork (chicken, duck, and mushroom are also common) mixed with a powerful combination of chili, fish sauce and lime juice. Traditionally, a coarse toasted rice powder is mixed in while cooking which adds a nutty aroma. Finally, this is all topped with generous amounts of roughly chopped fresh coriander, mint, and raw finely sliced red onion shallot for freshness.
You can opt to go entirely without chili (mai sai pet) or ramp up the heat to your preferred level. Locals generally eat this one spicy, and I suggest it is worth the try if you can handle the heat.
Larb is often served along with Somtum (Papaya Salad), Grilled Pork Neck, Sticky Rice and other Isarn dishes and washes down well with a cold beer.
Recommended by Josh Shephard from The Lost Passport
Other drinks and foods to try in Thailand
There are several other foods to try in Thailand and drinks that aren’t necessarily meals or Thai dishes, but are worth trying on your trip to Thailand.
So many unique and delicious tropical fruits grow in Thailand. Pineapple and coconut are popular fruits found in many Thai dishes. But there are a few other fruits that are more challenging to find in other parts of the world.
Fruits like Durian, Rambutan, Mangosteen, Lychee, and Dragonfruit are worth trying at least once.
A word of warning regarding durian. This fruit is known for its pungent smell. In fact, many hotels will fine you for bringing durian into their establishment. While it may smell like dirty gym socks, luckily it doesn’t taste like them. The fruit has more of a mango texture with a melon flavor.
Thai Milk Tea
Thai Milk Tea is a popular, creamy drink consumed throughout the country.
The sweet drink combines strongly brewed black tea, condensed milk or evaporated milk, and sugar. It is typically brewed with various spices such as star anise, tamarind, and orange blossom, giving it a unique and aromatic flavor and a distinctive orange color.
The drink is often served over ice, making it a refreshing and cool beverage. In some restaurants, it may also be topped with a creamy froth or whipped cream to enhance its richness.
Scorpion, crickets, tarantula? 😲
Yes, you read that correctly. At some of the night markets, like Khao San Road Market in Bangkok, you can buy fried scorpions, crickets, tarantulas, and snakes.
This is not something that Thai people actually eat in daily life. It is more of a novelty for tourists. You can find similar novelties at the Wangfujing Night Market in Beijing, China, as well as other countries in Southeast Asia.
So what does it taste like? We did actually try the fried scorpion. It tasted like tangy jerky, and had a distinct aftertaste that is hard to explain.
10/10 would not recommend, but for the novelty factor, if you want to say you tried it, a fried scorpion on a stick will cost you the equivalent of $3 USD.
Why these dishes are the best foods to try in Thailand
Thailand is one of the best foodie destinations in the world, and trying some of these popular and best Thai dishes is a great way to experience and appreciate the culture of this incredible country.
Whether you are visiting Thailand for the first time or the hundredth, you will likely never get tired of these great foods to try in Thailand.
Do you have a question or comment about any of these best Thai dishes and foods to try in Thailand? We’d love to hear from you! Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
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