The food culture in Okinawa is quite unique in comparison to that of mainland Japan, as a result of the islands’ remote location and history as an independent kingdom with strong ties to other parts of Asia. Whilst not all Okinawa cuisine is suitable for plant-based travelers (pork features rather prominently, for example), there are many vegan restaurants in Okinawa offering a wide variety of dishes inspired by both local ingredients and mainland Japanese cuisine, plus food from further afield like China and America.
In this article I’ll introduce five of the best vegan restaurants in Okinawa, to help keep you fueled as you explore this stunning tropical paradise.
Tips on Dining Out as a Vegan in Okinawa
Being vegan in Okinawa, at least on the main island, is actually easier than in many other parts of Japan. This is in part due to the high numbers of tourists and US army personnel, which means English menus are fairly common and dietary restrictions often catered for. While traveling in Okinawa, take the opportunity to try some vegan-friendly local flavors, such as goya (bitter melon), shiquasa (a citrus fruit similar to a lime), umibudo (a type of seaweed known as “sea grapes”), kokuto (black sugar), and beni imo (purple sweet potatoes) – all of which are frequently used in dishes here.
Okinawa Vegan Guide: 5 Vegan-Friendly Restaurants in Okinawa
Here are some delicious vegan restaurants in Okinawa for best plant-based fare!
- Esparza’s Tacos & Coffee
- Ukishima Garden
- Pizza Sun
- Rockers Cafe
Located in the heart of American Village just next to its iconic Ferris wheel, Tami’s vegan cafe is a bright oasis with full-length windows and a sun-filled terrace offering great views over the area and out towards the ocean. They’re open for both lunch and dinner, with a more extensive menu in the evenings. The food is a little pricey, but the quality matches the cost. Try the daily Tami’s lunch plate to taste some local flavors while eating in Okinawa, or go for a burger and fries for something more substantial. With options including faux fish, miso cutlet, and teriyaki mayonnaise, each generously-sized and bursting with salad and sauce, you’re sure to find something you like.
2. Esparza’s Tacos & Coffee
This Mexican restaurant isn’t strictly vegan as it serves non-vegetarian options too, but the vegan menu is extensive and well-labeled. There are four vegan tacos to choose from, with a variety of fillings including refried beans, grilled vegetables, roasted tofu, fresh guacamole, falafel, salad and plant-based cheese. There are also plenty of vegan desserts on offer, such as crispy cinnamon nachos, and fluffy churros served with a rich, warm chocolate dipping sauce – heaven! Esparza’s is the ideal place to go during your Okinawa visit if you’re traveling with non-vegan friends, or if you want to have a break from Japanese food and enjoy something a bit different.
3. Ukishima Garden
This stylish vegan restaurant in Okinawa’s capital of Naha showcases local, organic vegetables and grains in a sophisticated setting. Just off the central Kokusai Dori (International Street) in the center of the city, it’s a convenient choice for an upmarket meal during your trip to Okinawa. For lunch, there is a selection of a la carte meals to choose from, including a nutritious and flavorsome plant-based version of the prefecture’s famous taco rice, with tofu and homemade salsa. During the evening they also have set menus available, providing the perfect way to sample a variety of the restaurant’s best dishes. Previous highlights include a wonderfully seasoned herb cutlet, soul-warming soup, and sushi appetizers that are a stunningly close approximation of the real thing.
4. Pizza Sun
A prime example of how easy it is to be vegan in Okinawa, Pizza Sun is a standard, non-vegetarian pizzeria that just happens to have vegan pizza on the menu. Located mere minutes from the beach, this cheerful eatery is bright and welcoming, with cheap beer and both indoor and outdoor seating. The vegan pizzas come in three different sizes to suit your group size and appetite, loaded with perfectly melted plant-based cheese and vegetable toppings. Miles away from the traditional Japanese Buddhist vegan cuisine of shojin ryori, this is the place to come to if you’re plant-based in Okinawa and looking to satisfy some junk food cravings!
5. Rockers Cafe
As might be expected from the name, Rockers Cafe is a laid-back bar and restaurant that also acts as a music venue in the evenings. Rockers does serve non-vegetarian food, however, if you’re vegan in Okinawa, eating here is by no means a compromise. The restaurant has obviously put thought into the vegan dishes they serve, which include burritos, lasagna, and the Okinawa favorite taco rice. The curry plate comes with generous servings of two different curries, as well as rice and salad, whilst the burgers are laden with salad and homemade vegan mayonnaise, rounded off with perfectly-seasoned chunky fries. Don’t miss the rich, moist rum raisin cake for dessert, or if you’re full, grab a cookie for later!
That concludes our quick overview of some of the best vegan restaurants in Okinawa. I hope it has reassured you that not only is it possible to visit this gorgeous island paradise on a plant-based diet, but you’ll actually find some amazing plant-based food here. Enjoy!