I am allergic to peanuts, yep, I’m one of those people.
So when we were going to be traveling to Thailand I was a little nervous about what I was going to be able to eat. In my experience here in the US, almost all Thai food has peanuts on it. I’ve had more than one experience where I’ve ordered Thai food at home and forgotten to specifically ask for no peanuts and then have to send it back for a new dish. It’s a bummer.
So if you are like me and have a peanut allergy and want to visit Thailand, don’t hesitate, here’s what you need to know.
Traditional Thai food doesn’t use a lot of peanuts
- Aside from a few dishes most food doesn’t have peanuts in it. So you will be able to enjoy tons of rice, curry, and noodle dishes without fear of anaphylactic shock.
Dishes to avoid
- Pad Thai contains crushed peanuts on top as a garnish. Since it is a popular dish and there is the issue of allergies some restaurants will not add the peanuts, rather they will be in a condiment dish on the table.
- Massaman Curry contains peanuts in the curry sauce, sorry, you just don’t get to try it.
- Papaya Salad contains peanuts as a garnish on top. A lot of times it’s easy to just ask for this dish without the peanuts. I did have one occasion where I asked for it sans peanuts and they told me it wouldn’t taste good and recommended trying something else, which was a little strange, but I wasn’t going to fight the server on it, so I just went with a different salad.
- Satay Skewers will come with peanut sauce either drizzled on top or on the side for dipping. You can definitely ask for no peanut sauce when ordering, but it’s also a good idea to make sure that the meat hasn’t been marinated in the sauce either just to be safe.
Learn to some Thai
- I’m allergic to peanuts = chawn/pom-pay too-eh lee-song
- I’m allergic to nuts = chawn/pom-pay too-a
- Could you prepare a meal without peanuts = tam ah-hahn mai sai too-eh lee-song dai mai
- A lot of people do understand English, especially in big touristy cities, and most restaurant workers will understand “no peanuts” but it’s always good to know how to say it in their language too.
Go ahead and try some street food
- A lot of people and forums seem to say to avoid the street food if you have an allergy, but I would beg to differ. If you are ordering from a cart you can watch them make your food, and if you see them going for the nuts you can stop them. Although, if you have a severe allergy, like you could have a reaction from your food being in the same vicinity of peanuts, you will want to go for a cart that doesn’t sell anything containing peanuts.
Bring an EpiPen or two, or ten.
- Fun fact, I never had an EpiPen until I traveled to Thailand. In my everyday life it never seemed necessary, my allergy isn’t severe and I’m really good at not eating things that have peanuts in them. So it never seemed reasonable to spend an exorbitant amount of money on one. However going to a foreign country where I don’t speak the language you never know what can happen. So I figured between a $500 EpiPen pack and death, I’d fork over the cash.
Know your body and your allergy level, and be smart.
- This might be the most important thing because allergies can have different levels of severity. For me, I actually have to consume, like put in my mouth, chew, and swallow a peanut to go into anaphylactic shock. While other people can have a reaction just by smelling it, or eating something cooked in peanut oil. Knowing yourself and what your body can handle will be the first defence against having an allergic reaction. And lastly be smart, if something looks or smells suspicious either ask, or don’t eat it. I’d rather go buy something else to eat than have to break out my EpiPen 100% of the time.
Avoiding peanuts in Thailand is so much easier than a lot of people expect, which is awesome because they have some really great food there. And chances are if you have made it this far with your peanut allergy you know how to be smart, careful, and pay attention to what you are eating. So don’t let an allergy hold you back from experiencing some amazing food and culture in Thailand!
Do you travel with an allergy? What are your tip and tricks, and how do you deal with it? Let me know in the comments.
Life in Wanderlust