What Street Food is there for a Vegetarian in Vietnam?

Ask around about Vietnamese street foods and you’ll be told about phở bò (beef noodle soup), bánh mì (French baguettes) filled with slices of ham, liver pate and salad, and gỏi cuốn (fresh spring rolls) usually filled with pork and prawns. I love street food, but as a vegetarian I always end up heaving a big sigh when I’m excitedly told about only meaty foods.

After hearing about these foods again and again, and after only a quick glance around the streets, I didn’t have much hope for veggie-friendly Vietnamese street food. However, as I started exploring the small side streets, heading out earlier in the morning and later at night, and looking at what all the street vendors had in their carts and baskets, I found that there is plenty of vegetarian street food in Vietnam!

Cơm Chay (Sticky Rice)

In Saigon, we stumbled upon this lovely lady selling various kinds of sticky rice. Vietnamese locals would pull up on their motorbikes and grab a take-away box of rice for breakfast. We realised that she was only around early in the morning, and packed up by 9am because she was sold out of rice. Our favourite was white rice with chickpeas, sugar and dessicated coconut. A box of rice cost 10,000 VND (29p).

Sticky rice vietnam street seller Vegetarian Street Food in Vietnam

The really lovely lady selling sticky rice on the streets of Saigon.

sticky rice Vegetarian Street Food in Vietnam

Different types of steamed sticky rice, seperated by banana leaves.

Bánh mì Chay

Bánh mì is usually meaty, however most vendors will give you a discount if you refuse meat and ask only for salad, Laughing Cow cheese or fried eggs. There is a bánh mì vendor on every street corner and every vendor has different fillings to choose from, so browse a few stalls and you’ll definitely be able to find one with a veggie option.

French baguette Vegetarian Street Food in Vietnam

French baguettes and bread rolls being sold in Hanoi.

fill my baguette Vegetarian Street Food in Vietnam

Common fillings available for baguettes.

In Nha Trang, we found a specifically vegetarian bánh mì seller who has tomato chutney, heaps of salad and 2 kinds of vegetarian soy ham. Just look out for a sign saying, “bánh mì chay” (vegetarian baguette). A bread roll costs from VND 10,000-20,000 (29-57p).

baguette seller Vegetarian Street Food in Vietnam

One of many women selling crusty baguettes across the country.

Potato Cakes

The sign says it all. Sweet potatoes, green beans and coconut all mashed and molded into cakes, sold on the streets in Hoi An. There was also a white version of the potato cakes in Dalat, however they didn’t have as much of a flavour as the yellow ones in Hoi An. Potato cakes cost VND 5000 (14p) each.

Potato cakes Hoi An Vegetarian Street Food in Vietnam

Potato cakes on sale in Hoi An.

Hot potato cakes Vegetarian Street Food in Vietnam

Hot potato cakes cooked on a make-shift griddle.

As well as these three street foods, you can find fresh fruits and fruit smoothies everywhere, and I also came across stalls selling yoghurt and beans, and roasted chestnuts.

Are you keen on street food? Do you know of any other vegetarian street foods in Vietnam?

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  1. Yum, glad you found some veggie street food. I have found a few veggie friendly street food things in Beijing like steam buns and tofu and veg on sticks. I also like to have the yoghurt drinks in glass bottles they sell on every street corner. I’ve eaten more street food in places like South America where I would always get cheese empanadas, fresh juice etc. I do like to try street food whenever I can find veggie options.

    • Oh my, I love anything yoghurt! Sounds really good =) I’m excited to eat street food in Costa Rica when I go in May, though I don’t know much about what’s available in Central and South America (other than rice and beans)..

  2. A lovely lady selling food to another lovely lady. I’m so glad that you never give up and share your finds for all to enjoy!

  3. What a great idea to get vegetarian bahn mi! I’m always trying to get more veggies in too. I’m not vegetarian, but don’t really like meat that much so I don’t eat it too often. I found meat was typically pretty easy to avoid when I was in Thailand… I miss sticky rice! Did you try the purple one in the picture? It was my fave!

  4. Vietnam actually has quite a lot of vegetarian and vegan food to offer! Except for the street food stalls, there are quite a few cheap vegetarian restaurants. The food there is AMAZING! They usually have a sign saying ‘Anh Chay’ (I think, I” check with my Vietnamese friend) which translates to vegetarian food. I found that in the south you’ll find more of them – litarelly every village has at ;least one. In the north, they seem to be less popular, but there are still quite a few. When I cycled through Vietnam, I wrote down vegetarian in Vietnamese and just showed it to the people working in the restaurants – usually they served me some sort of fried vegetables with rice. Oooh now I want to go back to Vietnam and eat ALL the food haha

    • Yes, we visited a lot of veggie restaurants, all of which were good and cheap :) We ate a lot of tofu in those restaurants, but also curries, noodle soups, spicy veg, and rice of course. You’re right though, there were definitely more options down South, even though Mui Ne only had 1 veggie restaurant. Makes me hungry just thinking about it all!

  5. Sticky rice with mango was definitely my favourite dessert when travelling in Vietnam. I also craved a lot of it in Thailand and Cambodia. Without a doubt, Vietnam is a vegan and veterinarian friendly place and it offers a great variety of tropical fruits which I simply loved !

  6. Hi there,
    Thanks for your link on http://facebook.com/healthyvietnamesestreetfood

    It’s an interesting post about vegetarian food in Vietnam. I just correct some words for you guys in Vietnamese, and hope it helps you when you travel to Vietnam.

    From your post: “Com-chay” for the vegeterian bread, it actually is “Banh mi chay”, you can google “Banh mi” term to see how great the baguette in Vietnam.

    “Com chay / Cơm chay” means “vegetarian rice”

    “Ăn chay” (pronoun: *anh-chay*): means vegetarian people.

    If you have a chance to travel to Palmerston North, plz visit our place (Healthy Vietnamese Street food) on the Square, we serve “Banh mi chay” and the Vegetarian noodle soup (Phở chay) in the winter ;)

    Hope to see you there!

  7. Very nice blog about the vegetarian food choices in Vietnam. I am actually planning to go there but I was bit concerned about the veggie food options since I am a vegetarian. Your blog kind of gave ideas to explore and experience Vietnamese veggie food. Thanks!

  8. Thanks for your informative post on veg food in Vietnam along with pictures – it gives me a good idea of the sort of things to look for and expect. We are going there for a 15 day cycling trip across the country with an organised tour. They have said they will organise vegetarian food for us but we will have opportunity for checking out the street food. I did find it a little hard in SE Asia (Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand) unless I planned a bit before hand and did some research on the HappyCow website.

    • Hi Narayana – awesome to hear that you’re heading to Vietnam. I’m sure that the tour will be lots of fun! Vegetarian food isn’t hard to find – especially if you have someone who knows how to ask in Vietnamese – but the street food is definitely worth checking out if you have some free time to wander around the cities and towns. I would say finding veggie food in Vietnam is very comparable to Thailand. Research always helps for vegetarians… Where are you cycling from, to and through?

      • Hey Charlie – we are looking forward to it – its in Dec so the weather should be pleasant. Our Vietnam by Bike is confirmed on the 27th December, We are going with World Expeditions – http://www.worldexpeditions.com/au/index.php?section=trips&id=68
        The cycle part is fairly flat with lots of stops along the way to interact with locals and take in the local scenery , there won’t be more than 3hours at one time.
        We also have a support vehicle if at any stage we need a rest. .We start in Hanoi and cycle to Halong Bay and spend a night on a luxury junk and then take a train to Hue – see a bit of the countryside and then finish in Ho Chi Minh. We have a couple of days in Hanoi and HCMC so should be able to sample the street food.
        Its was much easier to find veg food in Oz than Thailand partly due to language difficulty and also the fact that there is fish sauce in pretty much everything.