Finding the best Chiang Mai Cooking Class [updated for 2019]
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Post updated for 2018
Chiang Mai cooking classes are famous. Tourists visiting the city usually have ‘visit a cooking school in Chiang Mia’ on their list. And there are loads. Hotels and guesthouses are full of leaflets for them. Tripadvisor has a long list. A Google search brings up nearly 2 million hits for ‘Chiang Mai cooking class’ and even more for ‘Chiang Mai cooking school’. So which do you choose? Which are the good ones? Which are value for money? Where can you cook the dishes you want? Where are the vegan and vegetarian cooking classes in Chiang Mai?
Hanging out in Chiang Mai with my parents back in October 2016, we thought a Thai cooking class in Chiang Mai would be a fun thing to do together. Kris and I did one in Pai back in 2007 and it was awesome. We love Thai food anyway, and my parents had been enjoying lots of great food we’d recommended during their trip with us. Why not learn how to cook it so we can attempt to replicate it back home?
I gave it some thought and came up with several things to consider when choosing a Chiang Mai cooking class. Scroll to the bottom of this post for our summary of the top 23 cooking classes in Chiang Mai, with details of the lengths, prices, menus and location of each.
Reviews of Chiang Mai cooking classes
My ‘go to’ when choosing travel related things is Tripadvisor. There is even a post ‘The Top Ten Chiang Mai cooking classes’. Each recommended course has a long list of reviews from happy guests. And that’s the problem. They all have a five-star rating. All the Chiang Mai cooking schools have positive reviews. While the list gave me an idea of what courses were available, I couldn’t choose between them based on reviews or ratings.
So what else do you consider when choosing a cooking school in Chiang Mai?
How much time do you want to spend on your cooking course? If you are really into cooking and have a lot of time, then there are full-day courses. You start at 8.30 or 9, and cook and eat until somewhere between 3 and 5.30, depending on the course. They usually include some other activities such as a market visit or a talk on farming.
If you are only in Chiang Mai for a few days, you might want to do a half day course. There are morning only classes like the one at Asia Scenic from 9am-1pm where you cook and eat lunch. Most others offer an evening class like the one at Mama Noi between 4.30 and 8.30 where you cook and eat dinner. There are fewer afternoon courses, but Siam Rice run a course from 12-3.30.
All courses vary in length slightly. Check out the table at the end of this blog or the course websites for the exact timings.
If you have even longer, you can do a three-day vegetarian or vegan cooking course in the mountains with YouSubai cooking school. Running from Monday to Thursday, it includes cooking and optional yoga sessions. The price for the three days including accommodation is 3,200 baht. Alternatively, Mai Kaidee cooking school has a three-day vegan and vegetarian cooking course in Chiang Mai.
I bet if you’re thinking of doing a Thai cooking class, you know what dishes you want to learn how to cook. Maybe you’re one of the many who loves pad thai (not us, we really don’t like it that much). Perhaps you want to be able to make a decent red or green curry to impress your friends, and make your own curry pastes rather than buying them from the supermarket.
There is a range of food you can cook at Chiang Mai cooking schools, and the choice is vast. If you do a full day course, you usually cook about 7 dishes. On a half day course, you will cook fewer, usually about 4-5. You eat everything you cook, so choose wisely!
On many courses, like the one we took at Galangal Cooking Studio (you can read about our experiences here), you choose a dish from each category, usually salad, stir-fry, soup, curry paste, curry, and dessert. Each person on the course can usually pick a different dish, so if there are several of you, you can learn and eat a range of dishes.
Some courses offer different dishes on different days of the week. For example, at A Lot of Thai, the menu changes each day.
At Pantawan Cooking, there is a different theme each day: Monday – Northern cuisine, Tuesday – Issan (northeastern cuisine), Wednesday- healthy Thai food, Thursday – Thai Home style, Friday – Royal Thai cuisine. Sat- All time Thai favourites, Sunday – Chef’s choice.
Similar to Pantawan, Small House Cooking school offers different menus: including Thai, Northern Thai and vegetarian. You choose which one you want to do that day.
In a couple, there is a fixed menu for all. For instance, at Red Chilli, the menu each day is:
Soup Tom Yum Soup and Tom Kha Soup
Curry paste Red Curry Paste and Green Curry Paste
Curry Gang Ped Pon Lamai Ruem and Green Curry
Stir-fry Pad Thai with Prawns
Dessert Sweet Sticky Rice with Mango
This is a total of nine dishes, so you are getting a lot here if that’s what you want to cook.
Schools sometimes offer a more specialist menu. Red Chilli also has a Northern Thai cooking course. Thai Akha offers normal dishes plus three dishes from the Akha hill tribe.
If you want to try more Northern Thai food, there’s a great sounding food tour where you try 20 different dishes that we’d like to do next time. Check it out: Chiang Mai 20 dish Food Tour.
If you spend some time in Bangkok during your trip, you should definitely try lots of the street food in Bangkok, especially the area we recommend around Silom.
Vegan and Vegetarian Cooking Classes in Chiang Mai
If you are into vegetarian, healthy or organic food, there are specialist vegetarian Thai cooking courses for you, like the one at Sammy’s Organic Thai cooking school (only Facebook) and Basil healthy Thai. My friend Emma took the course at Mai Kaidee and really recommends it. They not only have vegan and vegetarian cooking classes in Chiang Mai and Bangkok, but restaurants in Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Phnom Penh and even New York!
Other cooking schools in Chiang Mai offer vegan and vegetarian menus. Thai food uses a lot of fish sauce and oyster sauce, so these courses use alternatives and of course, for the vegan courses, egg free.
Since we had done a Thai cooking class before, we had already learned how to cook pad thai, red curry and fried rice. I also don’t eat nuts, so chicken with cashew nuts didn’t appeal. We wanted to learn some of our favourite Thai foods – laap (spicy pork salad), yam talay (spicy seafood salad) som tam (spicy mango salad), pad siew (fried big rice noodles) and khao soi (a northern Thai yellow curry with noodles. The choice of dishes at Galangal Cooking Studio offered all of these. We could choose from each category, there were four dishes in each category, so between the four of us, we cooked the whole menu!
Travel Blogger Travel Dave did a course through the website Withlocals, which pairs up tourists and travellers and local people offering tours. He did a course with Vannee where you can choose what you want to learn from 50 dishes!
If you like cooking courses, you might be interested in doing one in Myanmar. We did a great course near Inle Lake with Bamboo Delight. Read more about it in this post: Food in Myanmar: Yangon Food Tour and Burmese Cooking course.
Most Thai cooking schools are in or close to Chiang Mai city. Others like Thai farm cooking school are outside the city on their own farms. If you go to a farm, you’ll be able to hang out there, and learn how various fruits and vegetables are grown. Farms are also sometimes organic, so you can see how organic food is grown.
Travelling out to a farm will take a bit longer, so if you are short on time, you might want to stay nearer the city.
What’s included in your Chiang Mai cooking class
Almost all courses include a market visit. They take you to a local fresh market and show you what the various ingredients for Thai cooking look like. Do you know what galangal is?
You’ll also get a cookbook so you can attempt to replicate the dishes when you get home.
Most courses organise a pick up from your hotel and a drop off at the end, unless you are staying far out of the city.
Half day courses range in price from 800 to about 1200 baht per person. Full day Thai cooking courses are obviously more expensive, costing from 900 to 2000 baht. Considering this includes a huge meal as well as the tuition and other activities, it’s quite a bargain.
Another way to choose a Chiang Mai cooking class is, of course, to take recommendations from travel bloggers. See who bloggers you follow on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram did courses with. Google it and see what blogs there are on it.
Here’s a great post on the dishes you can cook at Mama Noi’s.
Comparison of Chiang Mai Cooking Classes
Here is a table I compiled of the top Chiang Mai cooking classes (based on Trip Advisor) which might help you choose your cooking course. All prices and information are correct at the time of writing. They are in alphabetical order.
If I have forgotten a great course, let me know so I can add it to the table.
Have you taken a Chiang Mai cooking course? Which Chiang Mai Thai cooking school did you do it at and would you recommend it? Leave a comment to share your experiences with others.
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