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It’s easy to be vegetarian in Kyoto. As Japan’s ancient capital, it has a long tradition of shojin ryori or Zen Buddhist temple cuisine, which is entirely vegan and includes multiple small dishes using seasonal ingredients.
Eating in a temple is a highlight of a visit to the city, but there are many other vegan and vegetarian restaurants in Kyoto, both modern and traditional.
There is also an increasing number of traditional restaurants that specialise in one dish, like ramen or gyoza, that now provide meat-free options.
As I emphasise in our guide to surviving as a vegetarian in Japan, planning is key. You will likely struggle if you wander into a random restaurant as dashi (fish broth) is used in many dishes. It’s best to use the Happy Cow app to find veggie-friendly meals nearby.
We spent a month in the city tracking down the best vegetarian food in Kyoto from casual ramen joints to sophisticated multi-course meals.
Most of the vegetarian restaurants serve set lunches which include an array of seasonal dishes for a healthy, balanced, delicious, and affordable meal.
Many of these restaurants are small, family-run places and were sometimes closed when we expected them to be open.
It’s worth checking their Facebook pages before you visit for any unexpected closures (you may have to use Google Translate). It’s always a good idea to have a backup plan. Google Maps is the easiest way to find your way around (see the map below).
I’ve included current prices but they are subject to change. The current exchange rate is approximately 1 USD = 110 yen and 1 GBP = 155 yen. Note that most restaurants don’t accept credit cards. 7-Eleven is the best place to withdraw cash with international cards for free.
- Video: Explore Kyoto
- Kyoto Vegetarian Restaurants
- Vegetarian-Friendly Restaurants in Kyoto
- International Vegetarian Food in Kyoto
- Vegetarian Kyoto Map
- Vegetarian Cooking Class in Kyoto
- Other Japan Vegetarian Guides
This post was originally published in August 2019 and last updated in 2021.
Video: Explore Kyoto
Discover the best Kyoto activities in this video.
Kyoto Vegetarian Restaurants
All these restaurants and cafes are entirely vegetarian (some are vegan), so you can safely choose anything from the menu.
1) Shigetsu (TOP PICK)
The best place to try Zen Buddhist cuisine or shojin ryori in Kyoto is at Shigetsu inside Tenryu-ji temple.
It’s located in the Arashiyama neighbourhood in the western hills and you can combine lunch with a day visiting the temples, bamboo forest, and other attractions in this lovely area.
See my detailed guide to the best things to do in Kyoto for more sightseeing tips.
You dine on the floor in a large tatami mat room with no tables or chairs and views of the temple’s garden (apparently you can request a chair). For a while we had the huge empty space to ourselves.
We ordered the cheapest lunch set and were served multiple small dishes on a red lacquer tray. We couldn’t identify much of what we were eating, but that’s part of the culinary adventure and is the closest vegetarians can come to kaiseki (Japanese fine dining).
We later learned that the mysterious jelly-like cubes were konnyaku, known in English as Devil’s Tongue, which is made from the root of the tuberous plant konjac.
Other dishes included goma dofu (sesame tofu), yuba (sheets of soy milk skin), nasu dengaku (eggplant grilled with miso), nama-fu (raw wheat gluten), pickles, mushroom and cucumber salad in a sesame sauce, and pumpkin soup.
The food ranged from exquisite to odd and we loved the opportunity to try random things knowing that it was all meat-free, something we don’t often get to do.
It’s best to make a reservation on their website at least three days in advance, but you might be able to get the basic set if you just turn up.
Cost: 3300 yen, 5500 yen or 8000 yen for lunch set including rice, soup and five, six, or seven side dishes. You must also pay the 500 yen temple entrance fee.
Details: Inside Tenryu-ji temple, Arashiyama. Open from 11 am – 2 pm every day.
Website: Shigetsu website.
2) Hobodo Cafe (TOP PICK)
This cute vegan cafe has a relaxed, vintage vibe with mismatched furniture and shelves of books. It’s in a quiet, off-the-beaten-track residential neighbourhood, but it’s only a 15-minute walk from Gion.
The friendly couple who run Hobodo Cafe speak some English and provide an English menu. You have the choice of curry, the set lunch, or a takeaway bento box.
We had the excellent value set lunch and it was one of our favourites in Kyoto. It includes rice, miso soup, and seven side dishes—ours included delicious dumplings and various vegetables.
Cost: 1000 yen for lunch set.
Details: 東大路西入 正往寺町452 仁王門アパート1F. Open from 11 am – 5.30 pm (3 pm on Tuesday). Closed Wednesday and Thursday. They may run out of food later in the day.
Website: Hobodo Cafe on Happy Cow.
3) Little Heaven
For high-end, creative vegan cuisine, head to Little Heaven. They make a modern version of shojin ryori—there are many courses of beautifully presented, seasonal dishes but some westernised dishes are mixed with the traditional Japanese.
We were seated in a private room on a western-style table and chairs overlooking a small garden. Highlights of our meal included yuba cooked in various ways, an impressive plate of sushi (replicating eel, tuna, and scallops), and an incredibly creamy matcha tofu cheesecake. There were so many beautiful touches like vegetables shaped like butterflies.
It’s in the Arashiyama area but a few train stops from the main area. You need to book at least three days in advance, but a few weeks is better. You can email [email protected]
Cost: 5000 yen for set menu plus 8% tax and 5% service.
Details: Sagano hirakichou 8–29 Ukyou-ku. Open from 1 pm – 7 pm. Irregular opening days.
Website: Little Heaven website.
This Kyoto vegetarian restaurant has eclectic decor, large windows overlooking the Kamo river, and a small range of vegan products for sale.
At lunch there are two set meals and a curry plate. I got the most expensive Peaceful lunch set which included rice, soup, and lots of small dishes. It included a few soy meat dishes (deep fried and in curry) which I don’t usually like, but it was well prepared and the vegetables balanced it out.
Simon enjoyed the curry which was a generous amount of food but less variety than the lunch set.
Cost: 1000 yen for curry, 1200 yen – 1500 yen for lunch set.
Details: 2nd floor of Ebisu building (the door is to the left of Lawsons), Shimozutsumi-cho, 82. Open from 12 pm – 7 pm (lunch until 3 pm). Closed Thursday.
Website: Padma website.
5) Veg Out
Veg Out has a great location with views of the Kamo River.
The vegan menu includes Buddha bowls and paninis but our favourite dish was the obanzai lunch set which includes rice, soup, salad, and a mix of Japanese and international dishes.
The raw mint chocolate cheesecake and kombucha were also delicious and they have a small bulk buy section including granola.
Cost: 1500 yen for obanzai lunch set. Other dishes from 1000 yen.
Details: 1F, 44 Inari-cho, Shimogyo-ku. Open from 8 am – 8 pm (lunch from noon – 3 pm). Closed Mondays and some irregular days (check Facebook).
Website: Veg Out website and Facebook page.
6) Cafe Waka at Otera House ( 和香)
Cafe Waka offers delicious vegetarian Buddhist set lunches. The location is a little off-the-beaten-track (we were the only tourists there), but it’s only a 15-minute walk across the river from Gion.
Our set lunch included tea, rice, miso soup, pickles, deep-fried soy meatballs, leafy greens with tofu, cold silken tofu in miso sauce, and vegetables in mayonnaise. It’s great value and you can also get an even cheaper lunch box to take away.
I believe most, if not all, dishes are vegan but it’s best to check.
Cost: 1000 yen for lunch set and 600 yen for takeaway lunch box.
Details: 397–9 Shinkaichō, Shimogyō-ku. Open from 11.30 am – 3 pm on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Website: Otera House website and Happy Cow listing.
7) Vegans Cafe and Restaurant
This Kyoto vegan cafe is just a 15-minute walk from one of the city’s top attractions, the Fushimi Inari shrine.
The most popular dish is the charcoal-grilled deep-fried tofu rice bowl where the vegan chef applies his BBQ skills as a former roast meat restaurant owner. It’s seriously good (get the large unless you aren’t very hungry). The soy milk miso ramen is huge and is packed full of veggies and tofu.
They also sell some vegan products and fresh vegetables.
Cost: 1080 yen for large BBQ tofu rice bowl.
Details: Fushimi-ku Fukakusa Nishi Uramachi 4-chome 88. Open from 11.30 am – 4.30 pm (until 8.30 pm on Saturday). Closed Wednesday.
Website: Vegans Cafe Facebook page.
Yoshuji is a vegetarian restaurant in the village of Kurama in the mountains north of Kyoto. One of our favourite things to do in Kyoto is take the train to Kibune and hike through the forest to Kurama where you can visit the beautiful Kurama-dera temple and finish with lunch at Yoshuji.
The restaurant is in a cosy Japanese farmhouse with an irori (fire pit) in the centre. You can order a bowl of noodles or shojin ryori set lunches.
We chose the cheapest set which came with rice, miso soup, pickles, enoki mushrooms, goma dofu (chilled sesame tofu), mashed tofu with wild greens, mashed yam with seaweed, and konnyaku served like sashimi with a dark miso sauce.
Yoshuji is halfway up the stairs leading to Kurama-dera on the right hand side (or left as you come down as we did after hiking from Kibune). There is an English menu outside.
Cost: Noodles from 1200 yen and sets from 2100 yen – 3000 yen.
Details: 1074–2 Kuramahonmachi, Sakyō-ku. Open from 10 am – 6 pm. Closed Tuesday.
Website: Yoshuji website.
Vegetarian-Friendly Restaurants in Kyoto
Some of the best vegetarian food in Kyoto isn’t found in vegetarian restaurants. The restaurants below serve meat and fish, but they also cater for vegetarians (and often vegans).
They are good options for dinner as most of the vegetarian restaurants only open for lunch. You can try classic Japanese dishes like ramen, gyoza, and okonomiyaki in a typical setting.
9) Mimikou for Udon (TOP PICK)
On our latest visit to Kyoto, Mimikou is the place we ate the most. This traditional udon (wheat flour noodle) restaurant is located near Yasaka Shrine and is popular with tourists.
Two pages of the English menu are dedicated to vegetarian dishes including ramen and curry donburi (rice bowls), but best of all is the curry udon.
Our favourite dish was the kitsune (fried tofu) curry udon with vegetable tempura, which is fantastic comfort food. You can choose your type of udon (we liked the regular noodles which are quite thick), spice level (medium was ideal for us), and any extra toppings.
The vegetarian menu is vegan except for the option to add egg. They confirm that they do not use dashi in the soup.
It can be messy so use the paper bib the staff bring you!
Cost: Kitsune curry udon is 885 yen (1123 yen with tempura).
Details: 528–6 Gionmachi Minamigawa. Open from 11.30 am – 8.30 pm. Closed Tuesday.
Website: Mimikou Happy Cow listing.
10) Omen Kodai-ji for Udon
While we prefer the udon at Mimikou, you can try a different type of vegan udon at Omen Kodai-ji, which is conveniently located in the heart of the Higashiyama sightseeing area.
They offer a vegan version of their set which includes thick udon noodles, vegetables, sesame seeds, tempura, and dashi-free soup. You add your own vegetables and noodles to the soup.
Cost: 1800 yen for the vegan udon set.
Details: 362–2 Masuyachō, Higashiyama-ku. Open from 11 am – 9 pm (but I think it closes between lunch and dinner and reopens at 6 pm). Closed Thursday. There’s also a branch near Ginkaku-ji temple.
Website: Omen website.
11) ChaoChao for Gyoza (TOP PICK)
This gyoza bar is a fun place for a drink and a quick, inexpensive meal. The staff are friendly and speak some English.
The Shijo-Kawaramachi branch of Gyoza ChaoChao has a vegetarian menu in English with five types of vegetarian gyoza plus side dishes like bean sprout salad. Vegan options are marked on the menu but are much more limited (only the yuba gyoza and a chocolate and banana dessert gyoza).
All the gyoza we tried were delicious including mashed potato, yuba, mushroom risotto with cheese, and shibazuke (soy pulp and pickles).
Cost: 1500 yen for a set including two gyoza, one side, and a drink. 430 yen for one portion of gyoza.
Details: Shijo-Kawaramachi branch at 河原町通四条下ル順風町312–1. Open from 11.30 am – 3 pm and 5 pm – 11 pm (all day on weekends).
Website: Gyoza ChaoChao Happy Cow listing.
12) Chabuton for Ramen
Chabuton is a ramen chain that offers vegan ramen and gyoza. We first went here in Osaka and it became our favourite place to eat near Kyoto Station (it’s on the 6th floor of the Yodobashi camera store).
When you arrive, order and pay at the vending machine. The machine is in Japanese but if you look at the English menu you can compare the items you need—the vegan ramen and gyoza are marked as green on the menu.
Once you have the ticket give it to the staff and tell them you want the vegetable gyoza (the meat gyoza shares the same button).
The ramen comes quickly and is packed with vegetables including avocado, okra, tomato, and radish. You can jazz it up with condiments like chilli that are provided on the table. The gyoza are delicious too.
Cost: 750 yen for ramen and 320 yen for gyoza.
Details: 6th floor of Yodobashi on Karasuma dori near Kyoto Station. Open from 11 am – 11 pm.
Website: Chabuton Happy Cow listing.
13) Tokkyu Ramen for Ramen
This basic ramen joint near Yasaka shrine has no English sign so look for the red lantern and hand-written sign saying vegetarian and vegan ramen.
They offer one vegan ramen made with a creamy sesame miso broth topped with bean sprouts, cabbage, green onions, bamboo shoots, and sesame seeds. We prefer Chabuton, but this location is convenient when sightseeing in Gion.
Cost: 850 yen for vegan ramen.
Details: 30–4 Bishamonchō, Higashiyama-ku. Open from 11.30 am – midnight. Closed Wednesday.
Website: Tokkyu Ramen Happy Cow listing.
14) Tosuiro for Tofu
Kyoto is famous for its tofu and there are a number of restaurants that specialise in it, but they usually use dashi.
The Gion branch of Tosuiro offers a vegan set menu if you book at least a day in advance (three days if you email). It’s not cheap but it is an unusual experience and the setting is traditional in a 130-year-old merchant house.
You’ll experience tofu in all its forms including goma dofu (sesame tofu), yuba (soy milk skin), yudofu (a simmering pot of tofu and greens), and grilled miso-glazed dengaku tofu. We did get a little tofued out but are glad we tried it.
Cost: 6237 yen (including tax and service) for Rokuhara vegan set.
Details: 38–1, Bisyamonten-Cho. Open from 11.30 am – 3 pm and 5 pm – 10 pm. Closed Tuesday.
Website: Tosuiro website.
15) Teppan Tavern Tenamonya for Okonomiyaki
Teppan Tavern Tenamonya is not the place to go if you are offended by meat being cooked next to you, but it’s a good choice if you are travelling with a meat eater who wants to try the famous wagyu beef.
It’s a small izakaya (pub) with counter seating and a grill in front of you to keep the food hot. Most of the guests are foreigners these days as it’s close to Yasaka shrine, is ranked highly on Tripadvisor, has an English menu, and is run by a friendly couple.
It’s so popular that booking at least two days in advance (further in high season) is essential (I emailed).
Despite the meat focus, they offer a number of tasty vegetarian dishes including okonomiyaki (the Hokkaido version was good), yasaka soba (fried noodles with vegetables), and fried potato with cheese.
Cost: 950 yen for Hokkaido vegetarian okonomiyaki.
Details: B1F, 537–2 Gionmachi Minamigawa. Open from 5 pm – 11 pm. Closed Thursdays.
Website: Teppan Tavern Tenamonya website.
16) CoCo Icibanya for Japanese Curry
Looking for the nearest CoCo Ichibanya is one of the easiest ways to find a vegetarian meal in Japan. Most branches of this Japanese curry chain have a separate vegetarian menu—look for signs on the window or for the green menu at the tables. The regular English menu is helpful to explain the ordering process.
You choose your fillings (we usually get vegetables and eggplant), spice level (3 is pretty spicy), and size of rice portion. It’s tasty, filling, inexpensive, and quick.
We went to CoCo Ichibanya Keihan Shichijo but there are many branches. I check the Google Maps reviews to see if anyone mentions the vegetarian menu.
Cost for a Main Dish: Vegetarian curries from 654 yen to 911 yen.
Details: Various branches. Open from 11 am – midnight (some branches 11 pm or 1 am).
Website: CoCo Ichibanya website.
International Vegetarian Food in Kyoto
On short trips to Japan we usually stick to Japanese food as it’s so good, but as we were there for over two months on our last trip, we did fancy something different occasionally.
Here are our favourite international restaurants for vegetarian food in Kyoto.
- Pettirosso – This friendly izakaya is run by an Italian guy and his Japanese wife who cooks up delicious Italian/Japanese fusion. They do serve fish but have plenty of vegetarian and vegan options clearly marked on the menu. The 1500 yen dinner set is good value. It’s only open in the evenings from 5 pm and booking is a good idea.
- Que Pasa – Surprisingly delicious burritos with vegetarian and vegan options. It’s run by Japanese guys who lived in California so they know what they’re doing.
- Ain Soph – This popular vegan restaurant isn’t our favourite, but if you’re craving a veggie burger they are pretty good.
- Kyoto Beer Lab – Cool brewpub on our favourite canal street. You can get a tasting flight of beers with vegan snacks like soy meat red wine stew, edamame, and vegetable sticks with dip. Not the best for a filling meal, though.
- Pizzeria Da Naghino – Authentic Neapolitan-style pizza.
Vegetarian Kyoto Map
Vegetarian Cooking Class in Kyoto
Taking a cooking class is the best way to learn more about Japanese cuisine and familiarise yourself with the unusual ingredients like yuba (soy milk skin tofu) that are often found in vegetarian Japanese cuisine.
We took a private class in the home of Emi Hirayama of Uzuki Cooking who is happy to cater to vegetarians. Read about our Kyoto cooking class experience.
Other Japan Vegetarian Guides
- Vegetarian Survival Guide to Japan
- The Best Vegetarian Restaurants in Tokyo
- The Best Osaka Vegetarian Restaurants
- 2 Week Japan Itinerary
Plus don’t miss my massive guide to our favourite Kyoto attractions including tips on how to escape the crowds in this popular city.
I hope you enjoy eating your way around Kyoto as a vegetarian as much as we did! There are many more vegetarian restaurants that we didn’t have time to try. Leave a comment below if you have any more recommendations.
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