With strong Buddhist traditions and local specialties like tofu and Kyo-yasai (Kyoto vegetables), Kyoto has some excellent vegetarian restaurants. Here is essential information on vegetarian dining in Kyoto and a list of great vegetarian restaurants in Kyoto.
temple dinner © _foam
Kyoto is the home of most of Japan’s main Buddhist sects (which are, in theory at least, vegetarian). Kyoto is also famed for its tofu and its distinctive locally grown vegetables (known as Kyo-yasai). Thus, Kyoto is a pretty good place for vegetarians.
However, there is one important thing to note: If you do not eat fish or fish products, your choices will be limited. That is because a lot of Japanese cooking is based on dashi (broth made with bonito flakes). Fortunately, many high-end places can usually prepare a broth made only from kombu (kelp) if you request in advance via a hotel concierge or private tour operator.
In addition, vegans and pescatarians can eat shojin ryori (traditional Buddhist temple cuisine) without any problem and these meals are likely to be among the most elaborate and interesting vegetarian meals you’ve ever had. See my separate page on Vegan Kyoto for more info and a list of recommended Kyoto vegan restaurants.
The following is a list of some of my favorite vegetarian restaurants in Kyoto. Where gluten-free and vegan dishes are available, I note that as well.
This cramped little restaurant in the middle of downtown Kyoto is the go-to choice for many of Kyoto’s vegetarians. They do occasionally serve meat in some of their dishes, but there’s always a full vegetarian choice available for the day’s lunch or dinner set. Vegan dishes are also available. The food is generally locally sourced and organic. It’s highly recommended.
Tosuiro will open your mind to the full potential of tofu. Here, they elevate tofu cuisine to an art form. Even non-vegetarians will find the food here to be delicious. The set meals involve a flight of varied and filling tofu dishes. Highly recommended! Note that the broth used here contains bonito flakes (ie, fish). If you want to avoid all animal products, you will have to skip the dishes that contain broth.
This downtown tofu and yuba specialist serves delectable set meals at a very reasonable price. The fare is filling and nutritious.
- Falafel Garden
A great vegetarian restaurant in northern Kyoto, Falafel Garden specializes in the eponymous falafel, but there’s plenty more on the menu to keep things interesting.
- Shokudo Terasu
Vegetarian ramen?! It sounds like a contradiction in terms, since ramen almost automatically implies a meat-based soup. But, this fantastic eatery in Southern Higashiyama (within walking distance of downtown), serves a delicious ramen with a soy milk-based soup. Note that the broth used here contains bonito flakes (ie, fish). If you want to avoid all animal products, you will have to skip the dishes that contain broth.
- Mumokuteki Café
This popular vegetarian eatery in the middle of downtown serves a wide variety of vegan and vegetarian dishes. The bilingual menu lists all the information you need to know to choose a dish. The lunch sets are filling and are a good value.
Just down the hill from Ginkaku-ji Temple, Omen is one of our favorite restaurants in Kyoto. They serve some of Kyoto’s best udon noodles. The noodle broth has bonito flakes in it, but several of their a la carte dishes are pure veg.
Tosca is a friendly restaurant that serves healthy and delicious Japanese-style vegetarian and vegan food. It’s within walking distance of Ginkaku-ji and other sights in Northern Higashiyama.
Kerala is one of the best Indian restaurants in Kyoto, and its downtown location make it the perfect place to fuel up while doing some shopping.
- Yudofu Sagano
Yodofu Sagano is a great place to try that great Arashiyama Buddhist specialty: yudo (chunks of tofu simmered in broth).
Inside the grounds of Tenryu-ji Temple, Shigetsu is a great place to try traditional Japanese Buddhist cuisines, also known as shojin-ryori.
Yoshuji is the nicest place to eat in Kurama, full stop. You can choose from sets of Buddhist vegetarian cuisine or simpler bowls of noodles.
A short walk east of downtown, Choice is a haven for vegan and gluten-intolerant diners. They serve a wide and varied menu of tasty dishes, including excellent lunch sets. There’s a full English menu.
For information on gluten-free dining in Kyoto, see our Gluten-Free Kyoto page.
Kyoto Vacation Checklist
- Check Kyoto accommodation availability on Booking.com - usually you can reserve a room with no upfront payment. Pay when you check out. Free cancellations too.
- See my comprehensive Packing List For Japan
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- If you're visiting more than one city, get your Japan Rail Pass
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