All Speed, No Guilt: Vegetarian Fast Food in Japan

By Ryan Noble
Updated: June 27, 2024

Japan has a wealth of wonderful cuisines with centuries of history behind them, ranging from the multi-course splendor of kaiseki cuisine to the intimate expertise of omakase chef’s choice sushi, but sometimes you just want something quick and easy on your way to your next destination. Enter: Japanese fast food restaurants.

But hold on, there’s a twist if you’re a vegetarian, you can’t just wander into any of these establishments and point to the first thing you see on the menu. It’s sure to be packed with meat, fish and all manner of hidden animal byproducts.

So, let’s take a look at vegetarian and vegan fast food in Japan!

6 vegetarian fast food options in Japan 

  1. Mos Burger: Green Burger and soy patty burgers
  2. Coco Ichibanya: Cocoichi veggie curry
  3. Royal Host: Nikuvege vegetable curry and mixed grain rice
  4. Freshness Burger: Soy-based burgers (mostly)
  5. McDonald’s: Hotcakes for breakfast or desserts
  6. Bonus! IKEA: Vegetarian katsu curry and more

1. Mos Burger: Green burger and soy patty burgers

A poster at the front of a Mos Burger, promoting their Green Burger, a vegan burger option.

We’re starting strong with Mos Burger, dishing up a burger that’s not only vegetarian but actually vegan! The Green Burger places a plant-based patty, lettuce, tomato and tomato sauce between a squishy, delightfully green bun made from spinach. 

Despite being made of soy-based protein, konnyaku (yam) and cabbage, the burger is surprisingly meaty, hitting the spot for any burger cravings. It’s also served with a vegan green teriyaki mayonnaise sauce, equally as great for dipping your fries into.

Outside of their Green Burger, Mos Burger manages to extend its vegetarian menu with a separate selection of soy patty burgers, opening the door to plain, teriyaki, spicy and cheese burger options.

Note: Only the Green Burger is truly vegan as it doesn’t use milk in the bun, whereas the soy patty burgers do contain dairy.

2. Coco Ichibanya: Cocoichi veggie curry

The exterior of Coco Ichibanya, showing off the different food samples at the entrance.

Delicious at any time but especially cozy if you’ve been traveling on a cold or rainy day, the Cocoichi Veggie Curry is one of the few Japanese curry chains that offers a fully vegetarian curry base that doesn’t use any animal-derived ingredients.

Using this as your base, you can then add toppings to your heart’s content, including seasonal vegetables, potatoes, eggplant, natto, spinach, cheese and scrambled or boiled eggs for an extra hit of protein. Of course, if you’re vegan, you can choose to leave the latter off!

Sides include a variety of salads with various toppings and dressings, but sadly none of the tempting potato options, like the Hurricane Potato or potato croquette, as these contain animal-based ingredients.

To eat with full peace of mind, double-check their full allergy menu before ordering. 

3. Royal Host: Nikuvege vegetable curry and mixed grain rice

The exterior of a Royal Host, a family restaurant chain in Japan. Bicycles are parked outside.

Next up, we’re heading to Royal Host, a “family restaurant” — a unique category of restaurant in Japan that simply refers to a family-friendly, affordable establishment — where you can enjoy a fully vegetarian vegetable curry (believe us, it’s worth mentioning). 

Dig into a generous serving of pumpkin, broccoli, eggplant, corn and other fresh vegetables, served alongside a mixed grain rice of quinoa and chia seeds, all of which is smothered in a comforting curry sauce. 

Note: While no animal products are directly used in making our vegetable curry, the cooking utensils and frying oil are shared in the kitchen with those used to prepare animal products.

4. Freshness Burger: Soy-based burgers (mostly)

The exterior of a Freshness Burger, a fast food burger joint in Japan.

Freshness Burger is a burger chain in Japan with stores as far south as Kumamoto Prefecture and as far north as Hokkaido — that is to say, they’re everywhere.

They have three soy-based burgers on the menu, featuring 100% plant-based patties and buns that are 45% lower in carbs than their regular sesame buns:

  • Soy avocado burger: A soy patty topped with creamy slices of avocado, crunchy slices of onion, and a homemade Thousand Island sauce" made from a mix of mayonnaise, ketchup, and garlic oil.
  • Soy teriyaki burger: A soy patty that’s slathered in their sweet and spicy special sauce, with a dash of koji — a fermented ingredient similar to miso — that adds a salty, umami quality to the overall flavor.
  • Soy garden salad burger: Piling five different vegetables into the bun alongside the soy patty, this burger will have you on your way to hitting your fruit and veggie goals for the day.

Note: The hamburger buns and sauces are made using animal-based ingredients, so depending on how strict you are in your vegetarianism, Freshness Burger may not be an option.

5. McDonald’s: Hotcakes for breakfast or desserts

A serving of McDonald's hotcakes, bought alongside a hash brown and orange juice.

Since it’s hard to even think of the phrase “fast food” these days without picturing McDonald’s, we’re adding them to the list… but don’t expect much!

Unlike the plant-based burger options that can be found across Europe or the beloved McPlant burger of the UK, the McDonald’s menu in Japan is yet to include any vegetarian or vegan burgers.

Before you despair, the Japanese McDonald’s is still worth a visit. You could start your day with some breakfast pancakes smothered in syrup, or explore the menu for Japan-exclusive drinks and desserts. 

Many vegetarians find themselves stopping by McDonald’s to try the latest seasonal desserts or shakes, forsaking the main menu entirely (and for good reason) in favor of crispy, gooey pies — like the summer exclusive Banana Caramel Pie — or refreshing new milkshakes, like their McShake Salt Lychee, blending salty and sweet with every sip.

6. Bonus! IKEA: Vegetarian katsu curry and more

A close-up of IKEA's Swedish meatballs, served with peas, mashed potato,, cranberry sauce and gravy.

You likely won’t take time out of your Tokyo plans to visit the Swedish haven that is IKEA, but if you’re staying here for a longer period of time and find yourself in need of furniture… you might as well take a break for lunch, right?

Stop by the IKEA cafe and indulge in mock-katsu curry made from soy protein, hearty plant-based meatballs — served with creamy mash, peas, gravy and cranberry sauce — vegan soft serve and a selection of vegan snacks to take home, like their vegan instant ramen. 

Being vegetarian in Japan FAQs

A selection of skewered lily buds resting on a bowl, arranged by size.

Is it difficult to find vegetarian food in Japan?

Not at all! Japan has a rich variety of vegetarian options ranging from traditional dishes like vegetable tempura to modern plant-based cafes. However, it can take some searching to find dishes that are truly vegetarian or vegan without any hidden animal byproducts.

Can I find vegetarian sushi in Japan?

Absolutely! Many sushi restaurants offer vegetable rolls like avocado or cucumber rolls, and some even specialize in vegetarian or vegan sushi options.

For example, in this sake pairing and omakase sushi experience in Tokyo you’ll have your own personal chef serving up 15 pieces of luxurious sushi, each paired with a high-quality sake, and everything can be crafted for a vegetarian or vegan diet upon request.

How can I communicate my dietary preferences in Japanese restaurants?

Learning a few key phrases like "yasai dake" (vegetables only) or "niku nashi" (no meat) can help you communicate your dietary needs to restaurant staff in Japan. But for a few more phrases to help you navigate Japanese menus and ingredients for a vegan or vegetarian diet, check out our guide to finding vegetarian and vegan food in Japan.

Are there vegetarian alternatives to traditional Japanese dishes like ramen or curry?

Yes, certain restaurants offer vegetarian versions of popular dishes like ramen made with vegetable broth or curry made with tofu and vegetables.

And if you can’t find them? Make them! Join one of our vegetarian or vegan cooking classes in Tokyo and blend eating with experience.

We strive to be as accurate as possible and keep up with the changing landscape of Japan's food and travel industries. If you spot any inaccuracies, please send a report.
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Ryan Noble
Ryan’s love for Japan may have begun with Naruto — something he refuses to hide — but it only grew once he truly understood the beauty of this country’s language, culture, and people. He hopes to use that passion to bridge the gap between Japan and the rest of the world, shining the spotlight on its hidden gems and supporting the revitalization of rural regions.
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