Vegan Kanom Thai
Kanom (khanom) Thai, or Thai sweets, are major players in the culinary landscape that is Thai cuisine. In comparison with European sweets, however, kanom Thai might seem daunting. If European confectionary traditions are characterised by pastries and cream, then Thai dessert culture is portrayed on a canvas of sticky rice painted with coconut, starches and fresh tropical fruits.
Often left unexplored by foreigners visiting Thailand, kanom Thai offers a beaming insight into the country’s food culture. Thais are inveterate snackers with the same universal fondness for sugar found globally. But Thai sweets are unfamiliar, both in flavour and form, to many Westerners, so here is a list of nearly 100 Thai desserts, candies, and sweets you might find in Thailand.
I hope this guide to Thai desserts is helpful for those wishing the navigate the sweets scene in Thailand, but this list of kanom Thai is nowhere near comprehensive. The list is, however, expansive, so I have broken it down into the sections below.
A note on transliterations: this is a murky area, especially for me as a non-linguist. There are a few schools of thought on how Thai language should be written in the English alphabet, but for the sake of people finding my posts I tend to switch between them. For instance kanom and khanom are two variations on the same word based on two schools of transliteration.
Where the kanom may or may not be vegan or is only vegan during certain times of the year, I have added a note. I will continue to update this list as I try and learn of new Thai kanom.
Sticky (Glutinous) Rice Sweets
Khao Niao Mamuang – ข้าวเหนียวมะม่วง
A top favourite snack amongst Thais and foreigners alike, the best time of year to enjoy mango sticky rice is April through June, when the fruits are at their sweetest and juiciest. This rice portion is made by steaming glutinous rice and then finishing its cooking in sweetened coconut milk.
Khao Niao Durian ข้าวเหนียวทุเรียน
The stinky cousin to mango sticky rice, durian sticky rice is the king of sticky rice desserts.
Khao Niao Mun See Rung – ข้าวเหนียวมูนสีรุ้ง
Also cooked in sweetened coconut milk, this is a more fun and colourful partner to mango (or durian) in the country’s famous dessert dish. When coloured naturally, turmeric, butterfly pea, pandan, and black sticky rice, impart shades of yellow, blue, green, and purple, respectively, to the rice. You might also see a dish with 5 colours of sticky rice served with a set of sweet and savoury toppings that are not vegan.
Khao Niao Gaeo Bai Toei – ข้าวเหนียวแก้วใบเตย
Also made by cooking par-steamed glutinous rice with sweet coconut milk, this sticky rice sweet also contains green pandan water (extracted from the leaves of the pandan plant, called bai toei in Thai).
Khao Niao Daeng – ข้าวเหนียวแดง
Caramelised palm sugar mixed with sticky rice and topped with toasted sesame seeds.
Khao Niao Dam Mun Na Grachik – ข้าวเหนียวดำมูนหน้ากระฉีก
Also made by cooking par-steamed glutinous rice with sweet coconut milk, this sticky rice sweet also contains green pandan water (extracted from the leaves of the pandan plant, called bai toei in Thai).
Khao Tom Mat – ข้าวต้มมัด
Typically this has black beans and banana, but in practice khao tom mat (Khao Dtommat) is any banana leaf steamed parcel with coconut sticky rice inside.
Khao Niao Ping ข้าวเหนียวปิ้ง
Popular fillings include banana, black, bean, and taro.
Khanom Khao Lam – ข้าวหลาม
The perfect snack for a long bus or train journey, these tubes of sticky rice are made by mixing glutinous rice with coconut, sugar, and salt, and roasted over flame. Beans, taro, and other ingredients are often also mixed in. The gooey bits at the ends are everyone’s favourite.
Khao mao kluk – ข้าวเม่าคลุก
Khao mao, or pounded young green rice, can be made from jasmine or glutinous rice. Available for only a few weeks a year, these bright green grains have a slightly yeasty and breadlike aroma. Khao mao kluk is made by mixing the young rice with freshly grated coconut and toasted sesame seeds.
Khao Buk Nga (ข้าวปุ๊กงา) / Khao Nuk Nga (ข้าวหนุกงา)
A Lanna (Northern) khanom made by pounding sticky rice until it is like fluffy mochi, then coating it with sesame (and perilla seed, I think).
Kanom Tod (Fried Sweets)
Puuak Hima – เผือกหิมะ
Taro root cut into chips, fried, and then cooked a second time in a sugar syrup so that it forms a white snowy effect on the surface of the root vegetable. The taro is fried here with pandan leaf for fragrance.
Kanom Kai Hong ขนมไข่หงส์
The dough is made from rice and sticky rice flours and the filling is a paste made with mung beans. Much like with the snow taro above, the sugary coating is achieved by cooking the fried doughnuts in sugar syrup until crystalised.
Khanom Kha Moo – ขนมขาหมู
Despite its non-vegan name, this kanom is made from a mixture of flours and starches that could include rice and/or sticky rice flours, tapioca starch, cornstarch, and wheat flour. This is mixed with ingredients like beans, pumpkin, and sweet potato before being deep fried. These are served with a tamarind dipping sauce.
Kanom Nang Let – ขนมนางเล็ด
Diced water chestnuts are soaked in red dye, juice, or syrup and then coated with tapioca starch. The pieces are then boiled briefly to form a gelatinous coating. These are served iced with sugar syrup and coconut that has either been smoked with a beeswax candle or is jasmine scented.
Kanom Khao Mao Tod – ขนมข้าวเม่าทอด
Young green rice wrapped around banana and deep fried. Any time you can eat khao mao in any form, I recommend you do.
Kanom Fak Bua – ขนมฝักบัว
Typically white or green (pandan), these deep fried pancakes puff up in the middle and the sugars caramelise around the edges. I have seen some recipes with egg, but have not found this in practice.
Kanom Dok Jok – ขนมดอกจอก
Similar to German rosette cookies, a metal flower shaped mould is dipped in hot oil and then a slightly sweet and salty sesame batter. When the mould is placed back in the hot oil the cookies shake off and fry up. Then they are removed from the oil and placed on a round surface to make them look like blooming flowers.
Gluay Khaek (กล้วยแขก) or Gluay / Kluay Tod (กล้วยทอด)
Bananas dipped in a batter made with rice flour and slaked lime solution and fried, these goodies stay crispy for hours. The odd vendor may untraditionally use egg, so best to ask.
Mee Krop – หมี่กรอบ
Usually not vegan, you can find packets like this sold during the annual vegetarian festival. Thin rice noodles are deep fried and then mixed in a sweet and sour sauce. It lasts for a little while and makes a great gift to bring back home.
Kanom Nga Tod – ขนมงาทอด
Popular in many Asian countries and called jian dui in Chinese, these glutinous rice flour balls are filled with a paste (common fillings are mung bean, red bean, and black sesame among others), rolled in sesame seeds, and fried.
Kanom kai nok krata – ขนมไข่นกกระทา
Made with both yellow and purple sweet potatoes, these moreish balls are commonly available street snacks made by making a dough of cooked sweet potato and tapioca starch before deep frying. Want to try it? Here’s a recipe.
Khao Mun Kuai – ข้าวมูนข่วย
This Tai Yai (Shan Thai) sweet is made of sticky rice flour rings dipped in sesame seeds, fried slowly on low heat, and then simmered in a sugar cane syrup. Mae Hong Son is a good place to find them.
Pa thong ko – ปาท่องโก๋ and khanom see kha ขนมสี่ขา
An ideal accompaniment to congee, pa thong ko is a type of deep fried dough fragrant with ammonia. This may not sound appetising but it is a welcome flavour. The crullers are also eaten with custard, either plain or pandan (not vegan unless indicated otherwise) and with fresh soy milk at breakfast time. Khanom see kha (four legs) is a version local to Phuket that is coated with sugar before frying.
Krayasaat – กระยาสารท
Typically associated with the Autumn Buddhist festival Saat, these bars are made with popped rice (not dissimilar to popcorn), sesame, peanuts, sugar (in this case cane sugar), and coconut milk. Think of them like a Thai granola bar of sorts.
Kanom Galorjee – กะลอจี๊
Fried disks made with glutinous rice flour that are then cut up and rolled in a sesame, peanut, and sugar coating.
Kanom Nam Gati (Sweets in coconut milk) and Kanom Chuam (Sweets in Syrup)
Nam Kaeng Sai – น้ำแข็งใส
Many of the sweets I mention below in this section will be found at a nam kaeng sai business. Vendors have a dozen or more (sometimes many more) toppings to be served with ice, coconut milk, and syrup. Most items are vegan.
Man Sampalang Cheum – มันสำปะหลังเชื่อม
Found frequently at nam kaeng sai (iced sweet stalls) vendors, this is made from simmering cassava in sugar syrup. Here I am eating it with lod chong. You can try making candied cassava with my recipe. You can also find other fruits and vegetables cooked this way, like pumpkin and pineapple.
Gluay Chuam – กล้วยเชื่อม
There are many types of banana in Thailand. I believe these are gluay (also kluay) kai, or egg bananas, named for their small size. They are simmered in coconut syrup and served with salted coconut cream. You may also see red bananas in syrup, their colour obtained by from a chemical reaction with hydrolysed lime they are soaking in before cooking.
Tab Tim Grop – ทับทิมกรอบ
Diced water chestnuts are soaked in red dye or syrup, coated with tapioca starch, and boiled to resemble large pomegranate seeds. This is then served with ice, coconut milk, and sugar syrup. The liquid make have been smoked with a beeswax candle or made with jasmine syrup. Young coconut and plain water chestnuts frequently accompany this dessert, which can also be found at nam kaeng sai stalls.
Sarim – ซาหริ่ม
Dessert noodles made with mung bean starch, served with coconut milk,, sugar syrup, and ice. Also part of the nam kaeng sai mix.
Khao Tom Nam Woon – ข้าวต้มน้ำวุ้น
These glutinous rice triangles are made by wrapping and boiling sticky rice in pandanus leaf, hence they are fragrant with grassy, nutty pandan.
Sala Loi Gaeo– สละลอยแก้ว
Snake fruit in salted sugar syrup.
Bua Loy Puuak – บัวลอยเผือก
Pieces of taro are coated in tapioca starch and boiled. This achieves an effect similar to the tab tim grop above, only soft and not crunchy. My favourite place for this is at Gateway Ekkamai shopping centre in Bangkok, from the sweets stall in the food court.
Bua Loy – บัวลอย
Sticky rice balls mashed with vegetables like taro and sweet potato, rolled into balls, simmered, and served with warm coconut milk sweetened with palm sugar. This may include a poached egg, so ask. Try my recipe for bua loi if you’d like.
Kanom Plaa Grim Kai Tao – ขนมปลากริมไข่เต่า
Yes, the name of this dish translates to plaa grim (a type of fish) and turtle eggs. There are two halves to this dessert, a sweet palm sugar syrup and salty coconut cream. This dish illustrates perfectly how salt and sugar complement each other.
Lod Chong – ลอดช่อง
The Thai version of what is called Cendol in Singapore and Malaysia, lod chong is a dessert of short pandan noodles in palm sugar sweetened coconut milk. My favourite lod chong in all Bangkok is dished up by a small stall in Chatuchak market and here is a map link. Here you have an option to have it with black sticky rice, which I recommend.
Fak Tong Gaeng Buat – ฟักทองแกงบวด
Pumpkin cooked in sugar (usually palm) sweetened coconut milk.
Sakoo bai toei nam gati – สาคูใบเตยน้ำกะทิ
Sago pearls with pandan, served with salted coconut milk. Sometimes the sago is very firm and cut into squares, or served soupier as in the Chinese style.
Kanom Ko Nam – ขนมโคน้ำ
Fresh coconut caramelised with palm sugar inside of glutinous rice dumplings. You might also find kanom ko, which is the same dessert but the balls are rolled in freshly grated coconut instead of being served in coconut milk.
Krong krang – ครองแครงก
Tapioca and rice dumplings affected with a grated paddle to create an almost gnocchi like appearance, krong krang are also served in fresh coconut milk.
Kanom Ray Rai – ขนมเรไร
Also called khanom rung rai (ขนมรังไร), these rice flour noodles are made with a special wooden press for making this particular dessert. The noodle bundles are served with shredded coconut, sugar and toasted sesame seeds, and fresh salted coconut cream.
Kanom Nung (Steamed Sweets) and Kanom Tom (Boiled Sweets)
Kanom Tuai ขนมถ้วย and kanom fak tong ขนมฟักทอง
Kanom tuai can be made with different flavours (e.g. pandan). The white sweet here is with coconut milk (kanom tuai gati ขนมถ้วยกะทิ). The yellow sweet is khanom fak tong, which is made with pumpkin.
Kanom tan – ขนมตาล
Made from the fruit of the same palm that produces palm sugar. The batter was traditionally left to ferment slightly to let natural yeasts develop so it would rise naturally, but nowadays many people use leavening agents to speed up the process. Either way they taste good.
Salapao sai sang ka yaa – ซาลาเปาไส้สังขยา
The custard in question here is pandan flavoured. This was bought in Phuket during the vegetarian festival, so was vegan. This custard would often contain animal products otherwise, so ask if in doubt.
Kanom Sai Sai – ขนมใส่ไส้
Also known as khanom sot sai (ขนมสอดไส้). Caramelised balls of palm sugar shredded coconut inside of sticky rice dough inside of salted coconut cream.
Kanom Kee Noo – ขนมขี้หนู
Yes, the literal translation of kee noo is mouse droppings. Steamed jasmine infused sweet rice flour crumbles served with fresh coconut.
Kanom Chan – ขนมชัน
Beautiful and fun to eat, kanom chan is made by steaming individual layers of batter made with various starches (depending on desired consistency).
Kanom Gorsui – ขนมกสุ้ย
This is a speciality of Phuket. Steamed rice flour treats made with brown sugar, then topped with salted coconut.
Khanom nam dok mai – ขนมน้ำดอกไม้
Steamed rice flour treats made with jasmine scented water.
Giam Goi (เกี่ยมโก้ย) / Kanom Tuai Kem (ขนมถ้วยเค็ม)
Made in the same way as the kanom dok mai above, this is more savoury than sweet. This isn’t uncommon with kanom, which is more an indication of a snack than a sweet. Giam goi are steamed rice flour cakes with various toppings. Often they are not vegan, so look out for these at vegan businesses and during the vegetarian festival. The toppings here are fried shallots with a sweet, sour, salty, and spicy sauce.
Kanom Pui Fai Jay – ขนมปุยฝ้าย
Also called fa gao (Chinese), these colourful steamed cupcakes often contain animal ingredients. Again, look for them at vegan establishments or during the vegetarian festival.
Kanom Man Sampalang – ขนมมันสำปะหลัง
Made by steaming grated cassava (tapioca) with coconut milk, flour, and sugar. They can be steamed in cups or trays (and then cut into squares, seen here). After they are coated in coconut.
Khanom Keng Sai Kem – ขนมเข่งไส้เค็ม
The yellow dot in the middle is a sweet-savoury mashed mung bean mixture (that could include meat) with coriander root, white pepper, salt, and sugar. Surrounding this is a mixture made from sticky rice flour, sugar, and water.
Kanom Ko – ขนมโก๋
Palm sugar caramelised coconut wrapped in sticky rice dough, boiled, and rolled in salted coconut.
Kanom Leb Meu Nang – ขนมเล็บมือนาง
Rice flour dumplings rolled in freshly grated coconut, served with sesame seeds, sugar, and salted coconut milk.
Kanom tua paep – ขนมถั่วแปบ
Dough made with sticky rice is flattened into a disk, boiled, and then rolled in/stuffed with a coconut and mung bean mixture. This is served with sugar and sesame seeds on top.
Kanom Guan (Stirred Sweets)
Kanom Piak Boon – ขนมเปียกปูน
Hello, I am the first person in the room to call bullshit on charcoal, but these are delicious. The alkalinity of hydrolysed lime imparts an eggy flavour and the coconut husk charcoal is used for the black version gives a pleasant gritty texture. The green is made with pandan.
Kanon Gee Gooi – บนมกีโก๊ย
Also called fa gao (Chinese) and Tee Nya Kuih (Malay), this sweet is yellow from the addition of alkaline water, which also imparts an eggy flavour. It is served with a dark palm sugar syrup.
Ta Ko – ตะโก้
This favourite can come in many forms, with the most well known perhaps being tapioca with corn. Taro (pictured), sweet potato, pumpkin, and other ingredients can also feature. Ta ko are topped with rich coconut cream.
Kalamae – กะละแม / กาละแม
Sticky rice flour, palm sugar, and coconut milk are stirred together until cooked down into a taffy like consistency.
Look Chub – ลูกชุบ
Made with mung beans instead of almonds, these sweets are shaped into fruits and vegetables much like marzipan. Formerly enjoyed only by the royal family, luk chup is now available on the streets. It can be made with agar or gelatin.
Wun Met Manglak – วุ้นเม็ดแมงลัก
Think of lemon basil seeds as the chia of Thailand. They don’t impart any flavour, but the texture is nice.
Kanom Wun Gati – วุ้นกะทิ
While this is typically made with agar, I have seen some recipes using gelatin, so double check ingredients on this should you find some.
Kanom Alua – ขนมอาลัว
This kanom is made with wheat flour, coconut milk, sugar, and food colouring. The mix is cooked until thicken and then piped into shapes. Finally these are left to sun dry for a few days to obtain a crispy outer shell.
Maprao Gaew – มะพร้าวแก้ว
Shredded coconut is stirred in coconu sugar until crystalised slightly. Then it’l shaped and left to dry.
Griddled and Grilled Sweets
Khanom Baa Bin – ขนมบ้าบิ่น
Khanom baa bin is often sold in this round shape, but this coconut sweet also comes in other forms. Sometimes it is made by baking, or a combination of stovetop and baking methods. You can try my recipe for individual caramelised kanom baa bin pieces here. The variation that is square and baked may or may not contain eggs.
Gluay Ping (กล้วยปิ้ง) and Man Yang (มันย่าง)
Banana and cassava are slow grilled and then served with a warm coconut syrup. These are easily found in Bangkok’s Chinatown. The syrup may or may not contain butter, so check first.
Khanom Jaak – ขนมจาก
Shredded coconut, sticky rice flour, and palm sugar are wrapped in nipa palm leaves and grilled. The leaf, in combination with cooking process, imparts a smoky pine-like aroma.
Roti – โรตี
Roti in Thailand are typically not vegan because of use of butter or ghee, and the addition of condensed milk. During the vegetarian festival, however, you might be lucky enough to find someone making a vegan version. You can also find this brand of dairy free condensed milk at 7-11 during the festival.
Pakistani Style Roti – ปากีสถาน
While the roti above was thin, large, and rolled, these are Pakistani roti found in Hat Yai during the vegetarian festival. I had mine drenched in vegan condensed milk.
Khao Kreap Nga – ข้าวเกรียบงา
These disks are made with palm sugar, coconut, flour, and sesame seed. They are cooked and dried, and then grilled until crispy.
Sao Ping – เซาปิ่ง
Various fillings such as black bead, red bean, taro, and more are wrapped in a dough that is moulded in a ring and fried. Also called kanom pia tod (ขนมเปี๊ยะทอด). Ask if the dough contains egg.
Kanom Tokyo – ขนมโตเกียว
Pancakes with custard filling that may or may not be vegan. During the vegetarian festival you are more likely to find a vegan version. Sausages or pork may also be inside.
Mun Ping – มันปิง
Steamed cassava, coconut cream, and sugar are mashed together, formed into balls, and grilled over a low heat. These contain corn too.
Kanom Luk Tao – ขนมลูกเต๋า
Luk tao means dice, a description based on the cubed shape of this kanom. There are many fillings (e.g. mug bean, sweet potato, etc…), but black sesame is my favourite. The dough may contain egg so ask.
Kanom Taeng Taek – ขนมถังแตก
Thick rice flour and coconut milk pancakes folded with various fillings like fresh coconut and sugar, corn, and more. Custard fillings are typically not vegan unless specified during the vegetarian festival. The batter may also contain egg outside of this scenario.
Kanom Krok – ขนมครก
The famous Thai pancakes everyone goes mad for in Thailand, these are made with rice flour, jasmine rice, and coconut milk. Toppings range from sweetcorn to spring onion, with many items in between (gingko, taro, sweet potato, and more)
Kanom Buang – ขนมเบื้อง
Based on an ancient dessert, khanom beuang are typically non-vegan. Egg is often used in the batter and the filling often contains egg based ingredients like meringue. During Teetsagon Kin Jay, however, you might be lucky enough to find vendors making vegan versions with coconut fillings.t
Misc Thai Sweets and Snacks
Roti Sai Mai – โรตีสายไหม
Especially famous in Ayutthaya, this hand pulled candy floss (not spun, as many references state) is wrapped in a thin roti and eaten like a burrito.
Chao Guuai – เฉาก๊วย
Chao kuai is made with the Chinese mesona plant, which is left to oxidise in the sun. The dried plants are then boiled with an alkaline liquid and mixed with a starch to solidify into a jelly. In Thailand chao kuai is often served with brown sugar, but can be found at nam kaeng sai (iced dessert soup) stalls as well.
Kanom Tup Tap – ขนมตุ๊บตั๊บ
Tup tap is the onomatopoeic word signifying the sound made while making this khanom. Warm peanut taffy is pounded with wooden mallets before it is flattened, sprinkled with more peanuts, and rolled. The tubes are then cut and sold.
Kanom Mai Faa – ขนมไหมฟ้า
This Chinese peanut filled sweet is wrapped in hand pulled cotton candy made with maltose syrup and sugar. Sometimes vendors will say it’s honey. I don’t know if it’s literally honey or not, so best to ask.
Kanom Pang – ขนมปัง
Another snack with a custard filling that is often not vegan, soft white bread smeared with sweet stuff is a favourite snack in Thailand. Look for them during the vegetarian festival for vegan versions.
Packaged Kanom Pang – ขนมปัง
Worthy of its own mention are kanom pang you can purchase at convenience stores like 7-11 and Family Mart during Teetsagan Kin Jay. These are filled with coconut taro and coconut pandan custards.
Makaam Gaew – มะขามแก้ว
Sweet and tart candied tamarind fruit.
Khao Pot Kluk Maprao – ข้าวโพดคลุกมะ
As simple as it sounds, this mixture of coconut and corn (with a bit of salt and sugar) is sometimes all a person needs to refuel on a warm morning stroll.
Sai Mai – สายไหม
Your standard candy floss, but with some tropical twists. For instance, banana, lychee, coconut…
Sapparot Phulae – สับปะรดภูแล
These apple sized mini pineapples are like pineapples amplified. Very sweet and acidic.
Prik gap glua – พริกกับเกลือ
While not a specific dessert on its own, it isn’t unusual to dip fruits in various seasonings. The standard is prik gap glua, which is made from sugar, salt, and fresh chilies. Others include shrimp and fish sauce.