10 Traditional Japanese Veganized Dishes
Japan radiates tasty food. No really, it is consistently ranked as a top food destination, and for good reason! Does being vegan mean you have to miss out on all these local dishes? Of course not! Here are the absolute must-try traditional Japanese veganized dishes you have to eat in Tokyo, and where you can find them!
Katsu curry ranks amongst my top favorites of all Japanese cuisine. I am a sucker for crispy, fried to perfection, goodness. Vegans and non-vegans alike can now enjoy the tastiest katsu curry from Co-Co Ichibanya’s animal-free menu. The katsu menchi cutlet is moist on the inside and crunchy on the outside, a perfect companion to the rich and flavorful Japanese curry. What’s even better is that this soy cutlet is available at every Co-Co Ichibanya’s chain restaurant across Japan.
Location: Any Coco Ichibanya Restaurant
There are lots of vegan ramen options in Tokyo, but there is one that always tops the list: T’s Tan Tan. With their ramen shops in Tokyo station, Ueno station, Ikebukuro station, and Narita airport, there is always a place to stop in and try the famed vegan tantanmen. You can’t go wrong with a steaming bowl of golden sesame creamy ramen, especially with those chewy noodles.
Location: Tokyo station, Ueno station, Ikebukuro station, Narita airport
Unagi is a traditional Japanese dish made out of eel and added to rice to make a bento box. Japanese eel is officially critically endangered, so it is even more important to find a veganized version of this! My favorite vegan unagi bentos in Tokyo are found at Saido in Jiyugaoka. These “eel” boxes are incredibly flavorful and taste just like the ocean!
Anmitsu is a Japanese dessert that dates back a long while. This treat consists of agar “jelly” cubes from red algae and red bean paste. It also usually includes mochi and fruit to make a beautiful little dessert. There is a quaint little sweet shop in Sugamo called Kanro Shichifukujin that has a completely vegan sweets menu featuring this gem. It is a bit out of the way, but well worth the journey to find this gorgeous dessert.
Taiyaki is a Japanese street food snack that can be found at little stalls across cities. Usually, these contain eggs or some sort of dairy, but at a cute, small shop in Ebisu, you can find an egg-free dessert! Taiyaki looks like a fish and they fill it with red bean paste that is warm and sweet. I love to pick one of at Taiyaki Hiiragi and then enjoy the day at the park nearby with my little treat.
Sushi is definitely the quintessential meal that comes to mind when thinking of Japanese food. While Tokyo isn’t exactly brimming with veggie sushi options, there are certainly places in which you can find a lovely set. I had an outstanding experience at the completely female-run sushi restaurant called Nadeshiko in Akihabara. They prepare an incredibly beautiful and delicious sushi set made out of vegetables. The level of creativity to make the sets is impressive as well!
Shojin Ryori is a Buddhist temple food, which traditionally was vegan. Nowadays chefs add katsuodashi inside, so this is unfortunately not vegan-friendly. However, there are temples are restaurants that are happy to accommodate and make their items fish-free! The upscale restaurant Daigo boasts an incredible menu created by a Michelin star chef. Shojin Ryori is a delicate and thought-provoking meal that features many small dishes that chefs intricately create. While not cheap, it is worth it to splurge on a meal like this I think.
Karaage is Japan’s answer to fried chicken. There are lots of places around Tokyo that boast a vegan version of this tasty bar food. You can usually find it in izakayas, Japanese bars. The current favorite of the city is Izakaya Masaka, located in the basement of the renovated PARCO mall in Shibuya. You can chow down on huge chunks of crunchy fried chicken topped with a variety of different sauces. I find the spicy sauce and the bang bang sauce as the best flavors!
Tempura is one of those dishes that are usually accidentally vegan! Fried vegetables are definitely my jam, so I am always happy to find a vegan bowl. You can find a cheap and tasty tempura meal at the chain restaurant of Tendon Tenya. Simply order the vegetable tempura bowl from the screen and when you pass the ticket on to the staff ask for no sauce! This will get you a lovely, animal-free bowl but make sure to pass on the dipping sauce as well. Handy to bring your own mini soy sauce for occasions like this.
Location: Any Tendon Tenya stores
I am personally okonomiyaki’s number one fan, so I am always looking for this Japanese-style pancake. You traditionally make it using mountain potato, but lately, they make it using egg instead. So it is not always easy to find it as a vegan version, unfortunately. My favorite okonomiyaki in the city has to be at Zen in Shinjuku. They have clearly marked vegan options, and the Japanese veganized version tastes just like the original! It’s also full of delicious veggies. The perfect meal to complement a draft beer!
With such a wide variety of Japanese food, you really cannot have a bad meal here in Tokyo! These vegan versions are full of flavor and give you the sensation you aren’t missing out on a thing.
What are your favorite traditional Japanese veganized foods? Where do you go to get your fix?