Kyoto food culture is renowned around the world, from its exquisite multi-course kaiseki meals to the intricately decorated traditional wagashi sweets. Although at first glance there might not seem to be much on offer for plant-based travelers eating in Kyoto, there are actually a surprising number of vegan restaurants in Kyoto, each offering a wide range of delicious, cruelty-free meals. These include dishes inspired by shojin ryori – a traditional Japanese Buddhist cuisine made without any animal ingredients – as well as vegan versions of both modern Japanese and Western food.
In this article, I’ll introduce five of my favorite vegan restaurants in Kyoto, to help you find the tastiest treats in Japan’s ancient capital!
Here are some of the top vegan restaurants in Kyoto for plant-based cuisine!
Being plant-based in Kyoto – or anywhere in Japan – can feel like a challenge thanks to the language barrier and the seemingly-constant presence of ingredients like dashi (soup stock which is often made with fish). However, the country’s awareness and acceptance of veganism are thankfully expanding. As a matter of fact, being vegan in Kyoto is particularly easy thanks to its history of shojin ryori and relatively high population of expats and tourists. If you don’t speak much Japanese, sticking to the numerous vegan restaurants in Kyoto is the best advice, as you can feel confident you’ll be getting a delicious meal with no animal ingredients whatsoever. Here are five of the best!
This small, cozy cafe is a family-run establishment that has long been a favorite with vegans traveling in Kyoto. Morpho Cafe’s menu is entirely plant-based, with a great selection of reasonably-priced and generously-sized meals. You can choose from comforting Japanese and Western staples like curry, ramen, pizza, and pasta. I particularly enjoyed the faux fish burger with fries, as it perfectly satisfies your cravings for junk food without being greasy. Follow your main meal up with cake, parfait, or even a warm and chewy banana and caramel pizza for dessert. Be aware that Morpho Cafe sometimes closes early, so it’s best to arrive well before the advertised closing time!
Choice is an upmarket restaurant that’s ideal for a special night out on your Kyoto visit. Not only is the entire menu vegan, but it’s also organic and gluten-free, making it a great option for people with allergies. The vibe here is classy and refined, which is reflected in the price but also the quality of the ingredients. Their specialty is homemade vegan cheese, which comes in a variety of different flavors including smoked, Italian, and rum raisin. It’s definitely some of the best vegan cheese around, with strong, unique flavors and creamy texture. You can try it on a cheese board, as part of a main dish like the vibrant chlorella and spinach pasta, or splash out on the vegan fondue – a fantastic example of how easy it is to be vegan in Kyoto.
Conveniently located near Karasuma Oike station, this is one of the more unique vegan restaurants in Kyoto. Almost everything on the menu at Gomacro Salon contains sesame in some form or another, such as seeds, oil or paste – even the drinks and desserts. This gives Gomacro Salon’s food a lovely rich, distinctive taste. In traditional Japanese style, you can choose from a rotating selection of lunch sets such as white curry or creamy noodles, with seasonal side dishes and brown rice. Be aware that some dressings may contain honey, so check with your server if you’re unsure. Afterwards, check out the dessert options – all gluten-free – for a sweet sesame treat, such as chocolate cake, ice cream, or a tofu-based, perfectly caramelized brûlée. Wash it down with a sesame cappuccino for something really different!
Mumokuteki Cafe is situated in the Teramachi Dori shopping arcade, not far from Nishiki Market. The menu is entirely vegetarian and mostly vegan, with each dish clearly labeled. There’s a wide variety of food on offer, including Japanese classics like ramen and lunch plates, as well as salads, curries, and Western-style burgers. The soy milk ramen is a flavorsome version of the original, whilst the coconut curry is soul-warming and hunger-satisfying. But make sure you save room for dessert, as there’s a wealth of delicious treats such as cake, tiramisu parfaits, and pancakes to choose from! Mumokuteki is also ideal if you’re on a family trip to Kyoto, as they not only have a children’s menu, but also a separate “family room”’ full of books and toys for children to play with.
Every vegan in Kyoto needs to visit Ain Soph Journey. A Tokyo-based chain that’s also featured in our Tokyo Vegan Guide, this is Ain Soph’s first vegan restaurant in Kyoto and it doesn’t disappoint! From its stylish interior and friendly staff to the superb quality of its menu, everything about this place is a delight. Try one of their succulent soy and seitan burgers with fries, moreish karaage-style soy “chicken” pieces, or the mild and creamy spinach-based green curry. Dessert is another area in which Ain Soph Journey excels – in particular their decadent matcha pancakes, which are quite possibly my favorite dessert in the world. Served with ice cream and fruit, and decorated with gold leaf, both the pancakes and white chocolate sauce are flavored with matcha (green tea) powder, giving you a true taste of Kyoto cuisine. Don’t miss it!
Hopefully this has been a helpful list and shown you that it’s really easy to be vegan in Kyoto. There are many more vegan restaurants in Kyoto than the ones covered here, so keep your eyes open while you explore the city – you never know what you might find!
Looking for plant-based and vegan food experiences in Japan? Browse vegan food tours, cooking classes, and dining experiences! Also, see our guide to What to Eat in Kyoto, which includes must-eat vegan and vegetarian dishes!