As I did for Sapporo, I’d like to do for Kyoto! So, here are a list of vegan-frienldy Kyoto restaurants, and a list of local sweets, snacks, and specialties that can be found in Kyoto and which are sometimes or often vegan!
A. Vegan Kyoto Snacks
1. Rakugan Sweets
While not absolute-always vegan, Rakugan style sweets are a type of wagashi (Japanese sweets) made of rice flower and powdered sugar. All over Kyoto, especially in the Gion district and in Nishiki Market, you can find Rakugan sweets in various colorful shapes. They can be pretty expensive, but I highly recommend them simply for the experience. They’re very lightly sweet and melt in your mouth.
The Rakugan sweets are the sweets on the RIGHT in this photo.
2. Kyogashi Sweets (京菓子)
I believe Kyogashi (Kyoto-Sweets) can also refer broadly to other types of sweets, but this seems to be the accepted name for the jelly-like, colored candies that you can find throughout Kyoto. Not all of them are vegan – some of them contain egg-whites (usually if they have opaque designs), so please read the ingredients labels! However, some of them, typically the entirely slightly-translucent jelly ones, seem to be vegan! Check the labels carefully, though, and keep in mind that ゲル化剤 (gelling agent) can come from either animal or plant sources!
Yatsuhashi is a Kyoto-based mochi confection that is a very popular souvenir. You will see boxes containing 10 or a dozen all over Kyoto, for others to buy and bring home t their families, friends, and coworkers. However, I highly recommend that if you’re in town, you make sure to pick up some for yourself! They come in an enormous variety of flavors and filling, including black sesame, chocolate cream, vanilla custard, apple honey, green tea, and more. Personally, I’m very fond to the plain/standard “Nama Yatsuhashi,” which is the raw (soft), cinnamon mochi wrapped around a sweet bean filling. Often times Yatsuhashi is vegan (but avoid the ones with creamy-looking fillings).
B. Vegan-Friendly Cuisine
Kyoto is famous for it’s cuisine, so I highly recommend that you visit at least one nicer restaurant while you’re there. There are various kinds of Kyoto specialty cuisines, which are highlighted fairly well in this Japan Guide article.
1. Shoujin Ryouri (the food of Zen monks)
Traditionally, Zen monks are prohibited from eating meat, fish and “stinking vegetables” (onions, leeks, garlic). In Japan a style of cooking, called Shoujin Ryouri, developed around this lifestyle. You can try Shoujin Ryouri at many temples (including many temples at Koya San in Wakayama prefecture, near Kyoto), and there are also numerous restaurants in Kyoto dedicated to Shoujin Cuisine.
Shoujin Ryouri is often anywhere from a little expensive to incredibly expensive, but there is usually an exceptional attention to detail in the dishes. Sadly, I didn’t have a chance to eat at any while I was in Kyoto, which I regret. By here are some well-regarded Shoujin Ryouri restaurants that you can eat at while in Kyoto! It is nearly always vegan, as eggs are also frowned upon and dairy is rare in traditional Japanese cooking, but as always, better to ask first!
- Ajiro (near Myoshin Temple, Northwest Kyoto) – Restaurant Website, HappyCow Page
- Daitokuji Ikyu (near Daitokuji Temple, North Kyoto) – Restaurant Website, HappyCow Page
- Iori (near Utano Station, Kyoto) – HappyCow Page
- Izusen (within Daitokuji Temple, North Kyoto) – Website, HappyCow Page (note: may use fish broth)
- Kanga An (near Daitokuji Temple, North Kyoto) – Restaurant Website, HappyCow Page
- Tenryuji Shigetsu (within Tenryuji Temple, Arashiyama, Kyoto) – Website, NeverEndingVoyage Review, TripAdvisor Reviews, HappyCow Page
2. Tofu Ryouri
Kyoto is also famous for it’s tofu production, and the cooking of tofu evolved into an art. There are Tofu Ryouri restaurants throughout Kyoto, especially around Buddhist temples. These restaurants generally serve meals with numerous small dishes, all primarily containing tofu. However, be CAREFUL. While many of these restaurants are entirely vegetarian/vegan, they aren’t all! I found this out the hard way by eating a lunch set at Okutan (which was labeled as vegan by Happy Cow at the time), only to read later that several of the dishes contained fish sauce.
- Okutan (near Nanzenj Temple, Kyoto) – Frommer’s Page, Happy Cow Page. NOTE: This is NOT a vegetarian restaurant, but a Happy Cower had success asking for an altered lunch set with only vegan dishes.
- Ryoanji Yudofu (Seigenin Building, Ryoanji Temple, Kyoto) – HappyCow Page
- Seizan Sodo (Arashiyama, Kyoto) – HappyCow Page
C. Vegan & Vegetarian Restaurants in Kyoto
Note: Keep in mind that my “all vegan” labels may be inaccurate. HappyCow is sometimes incorrect and I usually base my labels off of theirs. So always ask your server to be sure that your food is vegan/vegetarian! And at places that serve Shojin Ryori or Tofu Ryori, make sure to ask if they use fish broth (dash).
- Ajiro (all vegan) – HappyCow Page
- Cacao Magic (all vegan) – HappyCow Page
- Cafe Matsuontoko (all vegan) – My Review, HappyCow Page
- Cafe Proverbs (all vegetarian, vegan friendly) – My Review, HappyCow Page
- Choice Cafe & Restaurant (all vegan) – My Review, HappyCow Page
- Daitokuji Ikyu (all vegan, Shoji Ryori) – Restaurant Website, HappyCow Page
- F.S.N. Bar (all vegetarian) – HappyCow Page
- Hakuunan (all vegan) – HappyCow Page
- Hale (all vegan) – HappyCow Page
- Ihei (all vegetarian, vegan friendly) – HappyCow Page
- Iori (all vegan, Shojin Ryori) – HappyCow Page
- Kanga An (all vegan, Shoji Ryori) – Restaurant Website, HappyCow Page
- La Fourchette (Maybe vegan, French) – HappyCow Page
- Little Heaven (all vegan, Japanese) – HappyCow Page
- Morpho Cafe (all vegan, Burgers) – My Review, HappyCow Page
- Organic House Salute (all vegetarian, vegan friendly) – HappyCow Page
- Prunus (all vegan) – HappyCow Page
- Ryoanji Yudofu (all vegan) – HappyCow Page
- Seizansodo (all vegan, Tofu Shojin Ryori) – HappyCow Page
- Sujat (all vegan, Indian) – HappyCow Page
- Sunny Place (all vegan, Burgers) – HappyCow Page
- Tenryuji Shigetsu (all vegan, Shojin Ryori) – HappyCow Page
- Tosca (all vegan) – HappyCow Page
- Vegans Cafe & Restaurant (all vegan) – My Review, HappyCow Page
- Veggie Cafe (all vegan, Israeli) – HappyCow Page
I hope this post was helpful for those of you that will be visiting Kyoto! Have an amazing trip!