Thai desserts offer another facet to explore in the world of the best Thai dishes. Delighting in these sweet treats opens the taste buds to new flavours and takes food lovers on an exciting culinary adventure that can never be boring.
If you’re wandering the streets looking for a variety of Thai desserts to indulge in, we’ve put together a list of the best Thai desserts you should definitely check out. Scroll down to discover the best places that should be at the top of your must-try list for these sweet delights.
1. What makes Thai desserts so special?
In Thailand, Thai desserts known as “khanom wan thaï”, are a must at the end of a meal. They are designed to be shared among the guests around the table.
The origins of Thai desserts date back to the time when the Portuguese introduced the use of eggs, which became an essential ingredient in Thai desserts, along with flour, sugar and coconut. Mung beans, rice flour, glutinous rice, lotus seeds, palm sugar and cassava root are also common ingredients in Thai sweets.
Thai desserts reflect the importance of certain ingredients in the culture and history of this magnificent country. For example, many desserts feature fresh fruit such as mango and guava, as well as glutinous rice as the main ingredient. The best Thai desserts are often the simplest, as complexity is not a key feature of most Thai cuisines!
A unique feature of Thai desserts is their flavour. Thais are used to soaking aromatic flowers such as jasmine in water, then using this infusion to create syrups.
So it’s not surprising that some people find Thai desserts too sweet. The sweetness comes mainly from sugars such as palm sugar, coconut sugar and honey. Unlike the refined white sugars used in Western cooking, which have little flavour beyond sweetness, palm sugar and coconut sugar each bring their own unique flavour profile to dishes.
2. Top 10 Thai desserts & Sweets
2.1 Khao Niao Mamuang (Mango sticky rice)
Mango sticky rice, known as “Khao Niao Mamuang” in Thai, can be considered Thailand’s national dessert and can be found in almost every restaurant in Thailand.
Khao Niao Mamuang features glutinous rice combined with delicious mangoes. In Thailand, the mango season runs from March to May. The most popular variety in Thailand (and around the world) is called “mango nam dok mai” and is generally sweet and juicy. Traditionally, mango sticky rice uses an older variety known as ‘ok rong’, renowned for its more fibrous texture and fragrance.
The second key ingredient in this dessert is glutinous rice, which is closely associated with Thai culture as a whole. The glutinous rice is cooked with coconut milk to give the dish its characteristic flavour.
2.2 Khao Niaow Tu-rean (Sticky rice with durian)
Khao Niao Tu-rean, also known as durian sticky rice, is a classic Thai dessert that is especially popular with durian lovers! A delicious sweet mixture of coconut and durian is poured over fluffy sticky rice… It’s the perfect comforting dessert.
In some places, steamed sticky rice is stuffed inside with a large piece of durian, then topped with steamed green beans and drizzled with coconut milk. You can even ask for cream to be added on top.
Khao Niao Tu Rean is one of the best desserts, both as a durian dessert and as a traditional Thai sweet. The creamy texture of the milk blends perfectly with the sweet flavour of the fruit and glutinous rice. When assessing the quality of your Khao Niao Tu Rean, consider its sweetness, aroma and the quality of the glutinous rice used.
2.3 Coconut ice cream
Thailand’s climate is ideal for enjoying refreshing desserts such as coconut ice cream. What makes this dessert unique is that it is served in a coconut itself, rather than in a bowl or glass.
The vendor starts by dividing a peeled coconut in half. Then he scrapes out all the copra inside and sets it aside for later. The coconut cream prepared is made from coconut milk, sugar and vanilla, then placed in the coconut along with various other ingredients such as fresh copra, peanuts, jaggery, assorted jelly, baby corn and chocolate chips.
2.4. Ruam Mit (Thai fruit soup with coconut milk)
Ruam Mit is a must-try dessert when visiting Thailand, as it is incredibly popular and delicious! It can be found in many places, but the most famous is Chatuchak market.
This sweet Thai soup is a fusion of different fruits such as dragon fruit, watermelon, mango, durian and jackfruit, served with coconut milk. Some places also add fruit jelly, peanuts and many other ingredients. Just by admiring its colourful and attractive presentation, visitors are immediately drawn in.
Thai fruit soup with coconut milk offers a fresh, fragrant taste sensation, blending the bright flavours of the fruit with the creamy richness of the coconut milk. It’s best enjoyed well chilled, perhaps with ice cubes for a refreshing touch.
2.5. Red Ruby in Coconut Milk (Tub Tim Grob)
The red ruby dessert, also known as tub tim krob, is a delicious and refreshing Thai dessert made with water chestnuts and coconut cream. Crunchy, slightly nutty and creamy, it’s the perfect dessert for an everyday treat.
This dessert is prepared using crispy water chestnuts coated in a thin layer of tapioca flour tinted a brilliant red colour. They look like magnificent red rubies, served with fresh white coconut milk. The creamy taste of the coconut milk combined with the sweet aroma of the chestnuts is sure to delight the taste buds of your guests. This dessert can be found in most restaurants and street stalls in Thailand.
2.6 Kanom krok (Thai coconut pancakes)
A popular breakfast snack in Thailand is Kanom Krok, a delicious sweet coconut pudding. The main ingredients are coconut milk, rice flour and sugar.
It’s a street delicacy that can easily be found on trolleys in backstreets or Thai markets. To make Khanom Krok, rice flour and coconut milk are mixed in specific proportions and then grilled over charcoal.
The coconut rice pancakes are cooked in a cast-iron frying pan with half circles. Once ready, people add a finishing touch by sprinkling a little green onion or corn on top, which adds a visually appealing note and enhances the flavour while toning down the sweetness of the coconut milk. Crispy on the outside, soft and fragrant on the inside, these sweet pancakes are never boring.
2.7. Sangkaya Fak Thong (Thai pumpkin custard)
Thai pumpkin custard, known as Sangkaya Fak Thong, is truly adorable! It’s a unique combination found only in Thailand, combining pumpkin with a delicious egg cream mixture. Visitors love this dessert for its sweet, smooth and indulgent texture.
Preparing Thai pumpkin custard is an elaborate process that requires the chef to be meticulous and skilful. The tasty pumpkins are carefully cleaned, gutted and then filled with an egg cream filling. They are then steamed until tender. Once ready, the pumpkins are cut into 8 to 10 pieces and wrapped in banana leaves before being sold.
2.8. Khao Tom Mad (Bananas in sticky rice and coconut milk)
This dish is not only a traditional Thai dessert, but you can also find it in the land of a million elephants, in Laos. Khao Tom Pad, also known as filled sticky rice, is a popular street food in Thailand.
Khao Tom Mad are delicious sweet sticky rice cakes filled with banana and black beans, then steamed in banana leaf packets. In Thailand, there are over 20 different types of banana, and the smaller, sweeter red bananas are used in recipes like this. They are then sold wrapped in banana leaves, ingeniously tied with shaved bamboo ‘strings’.
Khao Tom Mad is available in street markets throughout the country. It can be enjoyed as a sweet snack or as a meal in its own right. This dish is often offered to monks during major religious festivals.
2.9. Luk chup (Thai fruit-shaped mung bean desserts)
This delicious dessert is known as Luk Choop, and can be thought of as a cake or sweet because of its sweetness. Originally from Portugal, it is colourful and made from green beans and coconut milk.
What makes Luk Choop unique is its shape. These little mung bean pastries are carefully shaped to resemble mini-fruits and vegetables such as mango, chilli, mangosteen, strawberry, small wild melon, orange peel and many others.
They are then covered in bright colours to accentuate their vitality. Looking at the display in the bakery, you’d think you were in front of a tropical fruit stand. The appearance of these desserts is so attractive that they seem specially designed to appeal to children. That’s why a great deal of attention is paid to their aesthetics.
2.10. Thai roast (Thai pancakes)
The roast or rotee was introduced to Thailand many years ago by Indian immigrants. It is a type of pancake that is generally eaten as a dessert. It can be eaten either with sweetened condensed milk or topped with banana, chocolate or other ingredients of your choice.
Thai crepes are very different from fluffy French crepes. When you eat them, you’ll be surprised by their crispy, melt-in-your-mouth texture and unique flavour.
After adding the filling of your choice, such as bananas or chocolate, the crêpe is covered with a meringue made from beaten egg whites and sugar, then topped with chopped egg yolks. It is then folded and toasted to create a delicious combination of flavours and textures. Depending on your preference, you can also add sweetened condensed milk or extra chocolate.
Enjoy the best Thai desserts in Bangkok
When you come to Thailand, it’s essential to clearly appreciate Thai cuisine in general, and the unique desserts in particular. Don’t miss the following local addresses:
Chatuchak Market is the largest market in Thailand, covering almost 11 hectares and packed with stalls selling all sorts of products. By visiting this market, you can find everything from clothes and accessories to furniture, handicrafts and delicious food. This market is also known as the culinary paradise of the land of the Golden Temple, making it easy for you to discover Thai cuisine.
Although it is a Chinatown, Yaowarat is best known for its traditional Thai food, as well as Thai-Chinese dishes. The long queues in front of the stalls and the full tables are testament to its enduring popularity.
Food Street Soi 38
The small street Sukhumvit Soi 38 is full of typical Thai street food. Although this area is the smallest in terms of street food sales, visitors are still delighted by many delicious Thai options. This dessert paradise is located right next to Thong Lor station and the stalls only open in the evening.
Sam Yan Market
Located in the heart of the capital Bangkok, Sam Yan Market and its surrounding areas are packed with Thai street food. Sam Yan is famous for its grilled, fried and cheap meat dishes. You can also enjoy sweet desserts, like a cup of fresh coconut cream or mango/durian sticky rice, for example, at Suan Luang market next door.
- Address: Lumpini, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330
- Open: 4.30 am – 10 pm
Located right next to Lumpini Park on Ratchadamri Street, you’ll easily find plenty of street food stalls serving dinner. Visitors often come here to enjoy authentic Thai Som Tum, Laab and glutinous rice.
Thong Yoy cafe
- Address: Khwaeng Pathum Wan, Pathum Wan, Bangkok
- Opening Hours: 9 am – 8 pm
Thongyoy Cafe is one of the most photogenic cafes in Bangkok, and dining here will make you feel like royalty back in the Ayutthaya era. Their desserts come served in sleek gold platters and are delicately plated, often looking too good to eat.
You will find uncommon Khanom Thai like Gleeb Lam Duan and modernised versions of Thai desserts like Bua Loy cake.
The best way to discover a country is to immerse yourself in its culture, and especially its cuisine. Thai desserts attract travellers with their variety of colours. Seemingly unrelated ingredients combine in unique ways to create a harmony of flavours.