Is Vietnamese Coffee Vegan?

We used to say one of the best things about Vietnam was the coffee and like most people we’d extol the virtues of it’s taste not realising anything about it’s production. All that was before we found out that it’s often not vegan. It might be hard to believe that a drink made from beans isn’t vegan, but Vietnamese coffee has a hidden side that most people don’t know about. Let’s just be clear, we’re not talking about the popular tourist attraction and incredibly cruel trade of civet coffee (weasel coffee of Kopi Luwak) where the beans have been eaten by a civet cat and poo’d out.That’s clearly not vegan and is as full of animal cruelty as it is of caffeine, read more about why here. No, we’re talking about good old fashioned Vietnamese coffee, often served dripped straight from a stainless steel filter called a ‘phin’ and served over ice.

Vietnamese 'drip' coffee served in a traditional phin.

Vietnamese ‘drip’ coffee served in a traditional phin

We love plenty of ice with our Vietnamese coffee.

We used to love getting a local Vietnamese iced coffee… before we knew the truth

Vietnamese coffee tastes like a chocolatey, vanilla infused, sweet, salted glass of rocket fuel on ice; we know because we drank loads of it and there’s no denying that it tastes good. Vietnamese coffee is usually made from robusta beans, the mainly inferior quality bean in the coffee world. Robusta coffee beans make coffee with a bitter, ‘burnt tire’ taste and has nearly twice as much caffeine as the better quality Aribica bean brewed coffee, we found this out from this article on The Roasters Pack. To compensate for the awful flavour of the beans, people started to roast them with other additives to produce a better flavour, additives like butter and fish sauce.


Beans, beans and more beans...

Why oh why would you add fish sauce to coffee beans?!

We were worried that our coffee fix may not be possible whilst in Vietnam...

We were worried that our coffee fix may not be possible whilst in Vietnam…

The first person to burst our coffee flavoured bubble was fellow vegan travel blogger Amélie, creator of Mostly Amélie one of our favourite travel blogs, who told us about things she’d read about coffee beans in Vietnam being roasted in butter and fish sauce and then we began to dig a little deeper. The more people we asked, the more people told us about the practice of roasting beans with extra flavourings (butter has been the most popular addition) but a lot of people simply didn’t have any information. Let’s face it, if you sit down in a cheap, side of the road coffee place, it’s unlikely the vendor will know how their coffee is produced. We looked online and discovered shocking facts like “Only 10 percent of coffee is real coffee” from this alarming article explaining how most coffee in Vietnam is just made from chemicals. The Wall St. Journal confirmed their findings that Vietnamese coffee is roasted in butter oil and our hearts sank a little further. Vietnamese coffee giant, Trung Nguyen, (Vietnams’s version of Starbucks) state on their website that “beans are generally roasted in what is referred to as “butter oil”, which may or may not be actual clarified butter oil.”

So may or may not be vegan…

After we read that there was probably fish sauce, butter and more in our coffee we stopped looking online because it was all just too depressing. We were looking down the barrel at 3 months in Vietnam with the thought of no coffee. But then our luck began to change and we heard from a few different people that shared our love of good, pure coffee and we began to find small coffee shops that were roasting their own beans and brewing up good quality coffee with no animal products and no nasty chemicals.

The perfect start to any day; a soya latte with a double espresso chaser.

The perfect start to any day; a soya latte with a double espresso chaser

The Coffee Factory have branched all over Saigon.

The Coffee Factory have a few branches in Saigon

In Ho Chi Minh City, we discovered The Coffee Factory (we emailed them and they confirmed they roast all their beans in house with no additives, butter or fish sauce, so 100% vegan). The coffee was good, their little cafes are funky and we were happy to get our caffeine fix there. We also emailed Shalom Coffee who also confirmed they roast their own beans in house with no animal products but sadly we never got to visit them in person. We kept an eye out too for places selling Kho Coffee, a socially responsible cooperative growing and producing high quality, sustainable and environmentally friendly coffee in Vietnam. They have shops all over Vietnam and like us, they don’t believe in ruining their coffee with animal products (or anything else for that matter). When we got to the coffee lover’s paradise of Hoi An we found coffee from Faifo Roastery on sale in coffee shops around town (9 Grains Bakery and Coffee, 11 Coffee and their new shop in the old town Faifo Coffee, 130 Tran Phu Street). Not only are the owners lovely, but they roast their own organic, Vietnamese, vegan coffee!

Enjoy a vegan coffee and watch the world go by at Faifoo in Hoi An.

Enjoy a vegan coffee and watch the world go by at Faifo in Hoi An

Read about the provenance of the coffee beans current,y being roasted by Faifo.

Read about the provenance of the coffee beans currently being roasted by Faifo

It seems that if you’re willing to spend a bit more on your coffee and head to a small coffeehouse that roasts their beans on the premises, or you find somewhere selling a reputable brand who are aiming for quality, then it’s entirely possible to fill your days in Vietnam with caffeine, just like the locals.

So, is Vietnamese coffee vegan?

There’s no hard and fast way of knowing unless you find someone roasting their own beans is the simple answer. With some research and a little effort (feel free to share good places you find in the comments below) you can be sure to get your caffeine fix, vegan style, when you travel in Vietnam.

Vegan Coffee in Saigon

Our friend Adelle from Ardor SEO who is based in Vietnam has helped us to help you find vegan coffee in Saigon. She has visited each of the locations listed below and spoken with the owners to confirm that their coffee beans are vegan friendly. There are of course many more vegan coffee options in Saigon but these will give you a good starting point to find your caffeine fix without a knob of butter or dash of fish sauce for added flavour…!

Khom Coffee in District 1
Coffee Hut in District 1
Cokernut Cafe in District 1
Talk Barista in District 3

More vegan food for thought…


Share This Story Via Social Media


  1. Trudy Pachon November 25, 2018 at 9:53 am - Reply

    Great post! Really good to know.

    • Vegan Food Quest November 26, 2018 at 2:42 am - Reply

      glad you found this helpful! we were so happy to find out this information becuase we were big fans iof Vietnamese coffee. now we have to be very careful…

      • Jimmy January 24, 2023 at 5:23 am - Reply

        This article contains no facts.
        1, Vietnamese coffee is not roasted in butter or any other crap. Things are added to the coffee AFTER ROASTING.
        2, Very few roasters if any use butter, they use animal fat, or ” edible butter oil substitute”
        3, There are many roasters using gigh quality fine robusta, that will not have anything added at all.

        • Vegan Food Quest January 24, 2023 at 5:37 am - Reply

          thank you for your comment and clarification of the process. however, butter or animal fat or any non-vegan ingredient added before, during or after the roasting process is of course still an issue for anyone avoiding animal derived ingredients in their diet. so hopefully this blog post will continue to alert people to the fact that their coffee may not be vegan. if you wish to send a list any roasters and / or coffee shops that offer ‘vegan coffee’ that would be greatly appreciated.

  2. Deborah Nash April 15, 2019 at 6:17 am - Reply

    Very info post! Just unbelievable. Appreciate your all the thoughts. Keep this up. Happy blogging!

  3. Samuel July 20, 2019 at 12:21 am - Reply

    I understand that you dislike animal products, but claims like “ruining coffee with animal products” sounds off and offensive. Let alone, the fact you drank it Nd enjoyed it before finding out.
    Vietnamese coffee blends are traditionally roasted with butter for various reasons and many of the most beloved blends are roasted this way. It is not some barbaric, uncivilised method. It is a traditional method with roots in local culture.

    I am not attacking you, just pointing out that your language sounds offensive.

    • Vegan Food Quest July 20, 2019 at 10:20 am - Reply

      Hi Samuel,
      Thanks for your comment and opinion about using butter and other animal derived products in Vietnamese coffee.

      Sorry if you thought that our language was offensive, it was certainly not meant to be that way at all. The reason for the post was to inform others who wish to avoid animal products of these ‘hidden’ ingredients and for that reason the post has been successful. Many people have contacted us to say thank you for informing them…

      There is no doubt that the process has tradition and is “rooted in local culture”, we would not deny that fact. Do we agree with it? No, of course not because we would rather live in a world where no animal derived products are consumed.

      All the best and thanks for taking the time to read the article and reach out with your opinion.


  4. Lucas December 7, 2019 at 4:21 am - Reply

    Thank you thank you thank you for putting this list together. I am so fond of Vietnamese coffee and it was a bad shock to find out I may never be able to drink a cup of coffee in Vietnam again. It was a huge relief to find this page. Thank you!

    • Vegan Food Quest December 9, 2019 at 1:35 am - Reply

      Good luck in finding your Vietnamese coffee fix Lucas! It’s certainly getting easier as more and more independant coffee shops are opeing with high quality options without the nasty additions…

      • Mel February 20, 2020 at 3:21 am - Reply

        It’s completely true that the coffee is ruined by animal derived products! It’s completely unnecessary and just because something is rooted into culture doesn’t make it acceptable or make it right somehow. Gay people get stoned to death in some cultures, does that make it acceptable? No, animal cruelty is also unacceptable.

        Thanks for the informative article!

        • Vegan Food Quest February 20, 2020 at 3:26 am - Reply

          Thank you for commenting Mel

          We are of course for zero animal exploitation and would love to live in a world where this is a reality. it makes us even more sad when products that 100% do not need animal derived ingredients are markets. as you said it is completely unnecessary 🙁

          Great that you found our article informative …

  5. Kaitlyn June 19, 2022 at 11:41 am - Reply

    Hi, do you know if Cong Caphe coffee is vegan friendly? Thanks

    • Vegan Food Quest June 20, 2022 at 3:40 am - Reply

      hi Kaitlyn, i’m sorry but we are unsure. if you are able to find out their roasting process and they can confirm that it is we would be happy to link to them in our guide though!

      • Kaitlyn June 23, 2022 at 11:07 am - Reply

        I found out they roast their coffee beans naturally, so no added anything. BUT their coconut coffee isn’t vegan and has condensed milk in it 🙁

        • Vegan Food Quest June 24, 2022 at 1:39 am - Reply

          well done for checking Kaitlyn, it just goes to show that we always needed to check and then double check to be sure that what we are drinking / eating is vegan friendly!

  6. Malcolm November 25, 2023 at 7:15 pm - Reply

    I am an asthmatic and have a serious fish allergy. I was suffering increasing bouts of breathlessness. Eventually I found a link between my coffee breaks and increased breathlessness.

    I was using beans from a large American “Cost Consciius” retailer. I checked the beans and noticed a faint fish odour. When I spoke with one of my Malaysian friends they told me it’s common practice in Vietnam for the coffee beans to be soaked in fish oil to lessen their bitterness.

    • Vegan Food Quest November 27, 2023 at 12:48 am - Reply

      hello Malcolm, thank you for your comment. i hope that you have found a new coffee supplier that roasts the beans only with no additivies, and this has helped with your associated health issues…

  7. Rita March 21, 2024 at 3:32 pm - Reply

    I found out about butter usage in Vietnamese coffee at Phin Coffee Beans and Tea in Hanoi. I was shocked as my sister has a dairy allergy and I had been buying Vietnamese coffee for her. There was no ingredients listed either… The thoughtful proprietor at Phln Coffee explained the situation to me saying to stay away from the shiny beans as they are usually roasted in butter, he didn’t mention fish sauce . He had coffee beans that did not have butter.
    Phin Coffee Beans Nd Tea
    2 P. Lương Văn Can, Hàng Gai, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội 100000, Vietnam

    • Vegan Food Quest March 22, 2024 at 2:07 am - Reply

      It came as a shock to us too, that’s why we wrote this blog post to try and tell other people to beware. Of course this isn’t just a problem for vegans and vegetarians, but for those with an allergy like your sister too. Good to hear that Phin Coffee in Hanoi serve vegan coffee that has nothing added to the beans. Will check them out next time we are in Vietnam.

Leave A Comment

Go to Top