As with many Asian cultures, food is a huge part of the social and spiritual construct in Thailand. Many families or friends will join together over large meals, and food is the center of many religious and spiritual festivals. Breakfast is a bit of a strange puzzle – with traditional Thai breakfast dishes influenced by Chinese and Western dishes.
While living in Thailand, we often ate many of these breakfast dishes and miss some of them fondly! I’d love to figure out how to make Thai jok at home. Until then, here’s our list of the best breakfasts in Thailand.
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What Do Thais Eat For Breakfast?
In Thailand, breakfast does not follow a hard construct as with many western countries. Meals are not limited to certain times of day but rather by the availability of certain produce and products available in season.
Much of the food in Thailand is rich and creamy, thanks to the heavy use of coconuts in their cooking. Many Thai breakfasts will also contain shrimp, fish sauce, or some kind of seafood addition; Thailand’s status as a nation of islands means that food from the sea has always been a specialty.
Breakfast food in Thailand differs from region to region, with many areas sharing a base recipe but adding their own twists. Where northern regions use chicken and chili, islands like Koh Tao and Koh Phi Phi may use fish and lemongrass to enhance their Thai breakfasts.
10 Thai Breakfast Foods To Eat In Thailand
Thai food is all-around delicious, with rich, creamy textures and unique fresh produce the star of the show. Here are 10 of the most delicious Thai breakfast foods to eat during your visit to Thailand
Many Asian countries have a version of the thick rice porridge known as congee, and Thailand’s contribution is called jok. Popular for a Thailand breakfast, this thick, mushy gruel is a neutrally flavored dish that provides a great nutritious base for many Thai breakfast dishes. Eat jok by itself, or add more flavorsome ingredients like eggs, grilled meats, and spicy chili.
Expect to see jok on most hotel breakfast buffets in Thailand. We never ate this at home, but would always eat it when staying at a hotel, topped with all sorts of tasty toppings.
Learn more about eating and drinking in Thailand:
Khao Tom Gung
Don’t confuse khao tom with jok – while both dishes are rice-based, some slight differences make all the difference. Jok has more of a neutral taste that is interspaced with strong flavors from supporting meats and herbs like spring onions.
On the other hand, Khao tom is a rich rice soup made with coriander, lemongrass, and soy sauce, usually containing chicken, pork, or fish. This salty, umami flavor is comforting, warming, and makes a great Thai breakfast dish to start your day. Khao tom gung (the version containing chicken) is the most popular breakfast variety in Thailand, and is a typical breakfast in cities like Chiang Mi.
Be careful when purchasing khao tom gung from street vendors or stalls – rice is very quick to go rancid when not stored appropriately and can make you or your friends very unwell!
Khai Jeow (Thai Omelette)
If you want a more traditional breakfast in Thailand, khai jeow might be the way to go. Translating as ‘omelet and rice’, this simple Thai breakfast is easily found at restaurants, street vendors, and markets across the country. Thai omelets differ from Western omelets in one major way – these delicious eggy pancakes are deep-fried, leaving them fluffy on the inside but crispy and crunchy on the outside.
Many Thai breakfast omelets are served with minced meats like pork or chicken, and come poured over a rice sphere with chili sauce and green vegetables. If you’re a vegetarian, simply ask for no meat with your khai jeow and enjoy this classic Thai breakfast.
Gai Yang and Moo Ping
In Thailand, breakfasts made from grilled meats are common, convenient ways to fill up before starting your day. Moo ping (grilled pork) and gai yang (grilled chicken) are two of the most popular options for hungry customers in a rush during the week. Many street vendors will sell these grilled Thai Breakfasts already skewered on sticks, so buyers simply hand over the money and eat on the run.
If you visit a Thai market, you’ll see fish, chicken, beef, and pork all seasoned in neat little rows, with dipping sauces for every taste. You can often purchase a small bag of rice to accompany this easy Thai breakfast – otherwise, just eat from the skewer!
Thai Iced Tea
If you like masala chai, you’re going to love Thai iced tea. Breakfast in Thailand isn’t all about food – sometimes, you need a delicious beverage to wash everything down with. Like hot Thai tea, Thai iced tea is a refreshing mix of spices, sugar, and condensed milk, sipped with ice on a hot summer’s day.
You can find Thai iced tea at almost every street corner in vendors’ carts, or – even better – make it yourself from scratch!
Pa Thong Ko
There is something immensely satisfying about fried food in the morning, and pa thong ko fills bellies and warms souls all at once. Based on Chinese crullers, these fried doughnuts are a popular early morning breakfast in Chiang Mi and Bangkok, and are usually enjoyed with a bowl of jok or dipped in sweetened condensed milk.
The best place to get pa thong ko is at street markets early in the morning, as they will be the freshest batch of the day. Otherwise, these delicious Thai breakfast snacks are readily available at restaurants or small cafes.
Khanom Krok – Thai Coconut Pancake
Many Thai breakfast dishes are savory, but if you’re after something sweet, you can’t go past khanom krok. This unique and sweet Thai dessert is often eaten as a breakfast or mid-morning snack for a helpful sugar boost to get through the day. Made from a mixture of rice flour and coconut milk, khanom krok have many common and unusual ingredient combinations found in street markets. From spring onions to sweet corn and mango, these jelly-like snacks sell rapidly during the early morning hours – if you can get your hands on one, try one of the most unusual combinations for a taste adventure you won’t soon forget!
Fresh Thai Fruit
Thai fresh fruit is some of the best in the world, and with such an abundance, it only makes sense that it’s one of the most common breakfasts in Thailand. From rich, sticky mangoes to deliciously sweet rose apples, mangosteens, and pineapples, the tropical climate of Thailand provides incomparable harvests year-round, and you’ll find most of them in fresh fruit markets around the country.
Your Thai breakfast fruit will come with a thick, luxuriously sugary dipping sauce, or potentially a small bag of sugar, salt, and chili powder for a sweet-and-spicy combination. Look for local favorite green mango, served with sugar and shrimp flakes for an unusually sour, umami taste.
Originating in the Philippines, salapao (or steamed buns) is Bangkok’s staple breakfast for busy city workers. These fluffy, moist buns usually contain a combination of minced pork, vegetables, garlic, or sweet corn, though some will also contain fish or chicken.
Famous for their ease of eating on the go, salapao has become synonymous with the hectic lives of inner-city dwellers. You’ll find the best salapao in large street markets, though the small buns made in the homes of Thai families are also delicious.
A Thai Taste Adventure
Breakfast food in Thailand may not be what you’ve come to expect at home, but it is still absolutely delicious. Even if you aren’t sure, many of the ingredients are commonly used in other nations – the only difference is the time of day we would eat the meal. While you may not consider something like grilled meat or rice soup to be an early-morning starter, there is no denying that these traditional breakfasts in Thailand are delicious, nutritious, and incredibly satisfying.