Our Favourite Places to Eat in Kyoto
Kyoto, Japan may not be so vegan friendly that every hotel you stay at has a vegan restaurant around the corner, but it did happen to us a few times, so things are changing for the better!
Giselle standing at the gates of Fushimi Inari Taisha
We had little difficulties finding plant food all over Japan.
The difficulties we did have, had most to do with everyone we came across speaking only Japanese, as well as all ingredients on packaged items being only in Japanese.
On the Shinkansen heading for Kyoto
What made us very happy is that Veganism has exploded in Kyoto
in the past few years, and there are plenty of vegan restaurants all around the city, so we were up for a little challenge in searching out these restaurants rather than having to eat salad with no dressing everyday.
Since we’ve already covered Tokyo for Vegan Eats
, let’s get to our favourite places in Kyoto shall we?
Cafe Matusuontoko is tucked away in one of the the busy shopping areas of Kyoto but still pretty easy to find.
We arrived at dinner time and it was quite busy with several tourists and locals.
There were quite a few yummy things on the menu, even donuts! As much as Cody and I love Japanese food, we were both in the mood for something more western so we both went for burgers.
I tried the Teriyaki fried soy meat burger. It was delicious.
The texture was really nice with a bit of chewiness, and not dry at all. It was a tad sweet, and of course savoury and served with a small serving of thin shoestring fries.
Cody scarfed his burger and fries down pretty quickly, so I can only assume it was equally delicious. I checked with him, and yes-just as I suspected, it was very tasty.
Like Cafe Matusuontoko, Hale is also located in busy central Kyoto down an alleyway.
It is small restaurant that sits very few people. We were greeted by the friendly chef and seated at the bar where we could watch him work.
The menu was small but we still had trouble deciding what to have so we went for the set meal.
Hale specializes in traditional Japanese cuisine, and serves up some Kyoto’s famous vegetables.
There is a 1 drink minimum with dinner so Cody enjoyed their homemade grapefruit soda, and I indulged in a pint of local beer.
Our meal started off with an amazingly cheesy cold salty tofu.
We were then served a small dish of greens, mashed root vegetables, pumpkin, and a beautiful warm sesame glass noodle dish.
After the tapas, we enjoyed bamboo steamers filled with lotus root, mushrooms, carrots, turnips, and broccoli. I swear, my steamed vegetables never taste this good.
The fried tofu balls and seitan were up next, and last but certainly not least, the yuba and mushroom rice bowl.
This was some of my favourite food. Every single dish was so authentically Japanese with good clean flavours.
We had the pleasure of watching the chef work his magic in a very small kitchen with very simple tools and appliances. We thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience.
Vegans Cafe is a little out of the way and in the middle of no where in Kyoto, but that’s because it used to be a local grilled meat restaurant, so it catered to the locals of the neighbourhood.
When the owner of Vegans Cafe
was still running a grilled meat restaurant he was looking online for a pet dog when he came across the horrors of the meat industry and the cruelty that the animals go through.
He was shocked and saddened and decided to go vegan along with the rest of his family and of course the next step was to turn his restaurant into a cruelty free place to eat!
Cody and I shared the margarita pizza and the incredible roast soy meat bowl.
All I have to say about the roast soy meat bowl is WOW.
With flavours and texture like this, there is no good reason to eat animals. They put a lot of effort in their dishes and it shows. The margarita pizza was equally delicious, and definitely one of the best pizzas we have had on our travels.
I always save room for dessert, so I tried the soft serve soy ice cream parfait. The ice-cream was creamy, and had the perfect balance of vanilla flavour.
The best way to get here is to get off at Inari, and Google maps the walking directions from there.
It’s about a 20 minute walk from Inari temple.
If you are not in close proximity to vegan or vegan friendly restaurants in Kyoto, or if you just feel like a snack or picking something up for your hotel room, there is always your friendly local 7/11 found everywhere in Japan.
When on the run and up at 7am to head to the next city, Cody and I would hit the closest 7/11 and pick up some snacks.
Ongiri is essentially rice shaped into balls and stuffed with a variety of things. If you are unsure of what they are stuffed with (many are stuffed with fish) you can opt for the plain ongiri wrapped in seaweed. They are lightly salted and surprisingly delicious.
You can also find pickled plum stuffed ONGIRI which we quite liked.
Look for うめ or 梅 (梅干 or 梅ぼし)
You can buy cooked soba and udon noodles in Japanese convenience stores. These noodles are usually vegan, but you might want to ask if they contain egg. You can show the employees this character (卵白).
The dipping sauce that comes with the noodles most likely contains fame kind of fish. You can replace the sauce with soy sauce. Soy sauce may be available at the convenience store counter, but it can be useful to carry your own with you. You can always buy individually packaged sesame dressing or soy sauce.
MUESLI COOKIE BARS
These went great with our bananas!
Salads are always a good option when you’re on the run. You can find good salads there. Don’t forget to grab a sesame dressing to go with it!
We first tried dried sweet potato at Sachiko’s house and loved it!
So we picked some more up for our long train rides. It is sweet, but not too sweet, sticky, and healthy. It’s a great snack for in between meals.
GROCERY STORE FINDS
Sachiko accompanied us one time to the grocery store in Utsunomiya, and we were pleasantly surprised to find how many items we came across that were vegan.
We picked everything up in the photo below at a grocery store in Kyoto.
A. Nato. A sticky fermented soy bean that is bitter in taste, but extremely good for you. It is quite nice with some steamed rice.
B. Packed veggies. There are plenty of bagged veggies to choose from at any grocery store. We mixed our veggies with steamed rice.
C. Tofu skin. We added the tofu skin to our packaged soup which we really didn’t enjoy at all. The flavour was too fishy for our liking.
D. Powdered seaweed soup. This was the soup we really didn’t enjoy with the tofu skin. It was terrible.
E. Raisin chestnut bread. This bread was so good, and hearty. Definitely look out for this at the grocery store!
F. Pickled veggies. We love all of japans pickled veggies. Another great addition to steamed rice.
G. Ongiri. One of our favourite snacks in Japan. These were different flavours. One mixed with beans, one with veggies, and one with salty seaweed. All delicious!
H. Canned fruit. Travelling long distances with bananas is not always a great idea as they get all bruised up and turn to mush. These canned fruits were nice for a sweet treat.
I. More veggies. A good mixture of protein to add to anything or it on it’s own.
J. Sesame tofu. Not a big fan of this tofu. I really wished I liked it, but the flavour was terrible.
K. Sushi. Delicious cucumber and pickled veggie sushi. The sad part was there was no wasabi in the package.
L. Crispy sticks. These were so good. We probably bought about 6 bags each while we were travelling. They are mixed with soy sauce and are made with flour.
The Japanese love their sweets so you should have no problem walking into a sweets or tea shop and asking for anmitsu.
Anmitsu is made with small cubes of agar jelly (algae), mixed with fruit, sweet syrup and azuki bean paste. We weren’t quite used to the texture of the agar jelly, but we warmed up to the dessert as a whole, especially served with hot green tea.
BLACK SESAME SOY ICECREAM
I LOVE this stuff! The flavour is incredibly flavourful yet light and delicate. I found sesame soy ice cream at many places that sold regular dairy ice cream. The cones aren’t vegan, so just ask for a bowl.
RED BEAN POPSICLES
We found these tasty treats at Watsons in Kyoto. A few years ago I would have probably turned them down, but hey, coffee and chocolate come from beans too!
These popsicles were a tad on the hard side, but they were delicious! Look out for them at any corner store.