Is Vietnamese coconut coffee suitable for vegans?


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This famous drink may sound vegan-friendly but it contains some sneaky ingredients that may catch you out. Find out here why Vietnamese Coconut Coffee isn’t always suitable for vegans and I’ll give you some tips on how you can still try out this delicious drink.

Unless you are buying a Vietnamese coconut coffee at a vegan establishment I would recommend reading this article first! This delicious drink may sound like a vegan’s dream, but not all is as it seems on the surface.

In this article I am going to tell you what Vietnamese coconut coffee is, how it is made, and why it isn’t a vegan-friendly drink.

But don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you have to go without! It is the perfect tropical thirst quencher that suits the warm climate in Vietnam, so I really don’t want you to miss out on this delicious drink. Therefore, I have included some handy tips on how to order a vegan version of this coffee drink.

What is Vietnamese coconut coffee?

This delightfully creamy coconut coffee, called Cà Phê Dừa in Vietnamese, is a very popular drink in Vietnam. It consists of a sweet coconut ice slushy which you pour a shot of hot strong coffee over the top of.

Think of it like a coconut coffee frappe.

You can mix the coffee in slightly to the coconut ice mix and then drink straight away.

It is perfect for a hot summers day, when you are looking for a caffeine kick as well as a cooling refreshment. Which makes it the perfect drink for Vietnam, particularly in the summertime or if you are in the South (where it is hot all year round).

Is coconut coffee vegan-friendly?

I’m afraid that Vietnamese Coconut Coffee isn’t suitable for vegans. This popular drink may sound like a vegan’s dream, but it is actually made using non-vegan ingredients.

It has nearly caught me out a few times, since coconut is often used to make vegan-friendly coffees back in the UK and other Western countries. But in this instance, this isn’t a vegan-friendly drink option.

Having spent quite a lot of time in Vietnam, I decided to ask the wait staff in a coffee shop what the ingredients were in a coconut coffee and the answer did not at all surprise me. So, let me now take you through the ingredients in this drink and why they aren’t suitable for vegans.

What ingredients are used in coconut coffee?

The main ingredients inside a coconut coffee are you guessed it, coffee and coconut. But the Vietnamese also really love sweetened drinks and will regularly use condensed milk in their coffee. So, you will also find they use condensed milk inside a coconut coffee.

This really came as no surprise to me, since condensed milk is incredibly popular in Vietnam.

They blend coconut cream with condensed milk and ice to create the slushy. Sometimes they’ll also add syrup for extra sweetness. This is then poured into a glass with a shot of coffee on the side for pouring over.

The ingredients are relatively simple, but the condensed milk is seen as a core ingredient as is used in all coconut coffees I have seen in non-vegan establishments. So, don’t be fooled by the very vegan looking drink offering on a coffee shop’s menu, it will likely have condensed milk inside.

So, is it still possible to enjoy a Vietnamese coconut coffee as a vegan? Well, yes it is. Let me tell you how.

How do you order a vegan coconut coffee?

All is not lost, vegan friends. You can still try out this delicious Vietnamese coconut coffee drink despite it containing a non-vegan ingredient.

There are two ways in which I have been able to order this drink, both of which I have enjoyed a lot. Hopefully you will enjoy these also!

1. Visit a vegan cafe

Not all vegan cafes and restaurants are going to have coconut coffee on their menu, but I have found many do, particularly in Da Nang (a seaside city in Central Vietnam).

In a vegan establishment they will likely have a vegan version of condensed milk which means you are able to get a very similar version of this popular coffee drink. It will be very sweet, but also very refreshing and coconutty!

The best vegan coconut coffee that I have had in Vietnam was from iVEGAN, a vegan restaurant with establishments in both Da Nang and Ha Noi.

2. Use this handy phrase

When I have been in a coffee shop that offers coconut coffee and I have been in the mood for something refreshing and coconutty, I have ordered it without the condensed milk.

This does mean that the drink won’t be as sweet, since the condensed milk is normally used to bring sweetness to the coconut ice mix. But you can always ask for them to add some syrup or sugar if you prefer it sweet. I quite like it with or without!

Many Western coffee shops will have staff who understand English, so you can simply ask them to make it without cow’s milk because you are vegan. If you want to be extra certain that you are ordering the right thing, you can use this phrase:

Tôi không uống sữa

This means, ‘I don’t drink milk’. And you can add the following phrase:

Tôi ăn chay

This means, ‘I am vegetarian’, but is well known for meaning ‘vegan’ also since there is no Vietnamese word for vegan.

You can also make the most out of these other handy vegan Vietnamese phrases that will make your travels in Vietnam that bit easier!

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