Quite possibly the ultimate comfort food in Japan today, ramen shops are everywhere you look.
But are any of them vegan? Surprisingly, yes!
Japan is said to have approximately 26,500 ramen shops nationwide, of which about 2,600 are in Tokyo. And while vegan ramen in Tokyo, and Japan in general, is still not very common, as the demand from inbound travelers and the domestic vegan community grows, we have begun to see more vegan options at ramen shops here.
It’s really encouraging to see famous ramen chains such as Ippudo launch vegan ramen on their menu, even if it is for a limited time only. I can only hope they bring it back because it was delicious.
But in the meantime, I’m going to share some of my favorite ramen shops around Tokyo that actually have vegan ramen on their regular menus, so you can enjoy it year-round!
Soranoiro Nippon (Tokyo Station)
I have to say it, this is hands down the best shoyu (shōyu, soy sauce) based vegan ramen in Tokyo.
Soranoiro is a pioneer in including vegan ramen on the standard menu, which they did in 2014. The owner shares that at first, no one showed any interest and many days there were zero orders, but as more international travelers came to Japan, orders for vegan ramen began to increase. He is a big believer in a flexitarian diet and has options such as Veggie Ramen and Gluten-free Ramen on the menu to accommodate other dietary needs.
Whilst they currently have a couple of vegan options, my recommendation is the Vegan Shoyu. The soup is very subtle but the vegetable flavors surprisingly capture the essence of shoyu ramen, which the chewy thin noodles, veggie toppings and the tiniest kick of pepper only add to. If you’re looking to try authentic chintan (clear soup) ramen, you’ll definitely want to stop by Soranoiro.
Even in Laforet shopping mall, the heart of Harajuku fashion, you can find vegan ramen.
Chipoon may look like an ice cream parlor from the ’50s with its pink flamingo decor, but it is in fact a plant-based ramen shop that focuses on maximizing the natural umami flavor of vegetables, and not just finding vegan substitutes.
The menu is produced by Chef Hidetoshi Nishioka from Renge Equriosity in Ginza, and while it may not be a big menu, both the ヴィーガンヌードル/Vegan Ramen with Seasonal Veggies and the ベジタブルタンタンヌードル/Sichuan Style Vegan Spicy Ramen are a delight.
I recommend the Vegan Ramen with Seasonal Veggies on a hot summer day, the shio (salt) based soup is light and the lemon flavor makes it all the more refreshing. The use of lemon also allows them to cut back on salt, so if you’re watching your sodium intake, this is definitely for you.
PS: Chipoon is a shortened word born from Chinese Spoon, which is called renge in Japanese. If you look closely at the flamingos, you’ll notice that their beaks are actually Chinese spoons!
T’s Restaurant and T’s Tan Tan (Jiyugaoka/Yaesu/Ueno/Ikebukuro)
T’s Restaurant, a fully vegan restaurant in Jiyugaoka, opened its doors in 2009 with the goal of making delicious plant-based meals and providing dining out options for vegans. Since then, they have expanded and opened T’s Tan Tan, a tantanmen specialty shop located inside train stations – Tokyo station, Ueno station and Ikebukuro station.
Tantanmen is a spicy noodle soup originating from the Sichuan Province of China and T’s most popular tantanmen come in 3 different flavors – 金胡麻/Golden Sesame, 黒胡麻/Black Sesame, and 白胡麻/White Sesame. You can also try unique dishes such as ‘Tantanmen with Tomato Sauce, Coriander and Vegan Cheese’. Or, for those who prefer lower calories, there are a couple of tantanmen on the menu with konnyaku (konjac potato) noodles.
You’d be surprised how crowded T’s Tan Tan gets during meal hours; I had no idea there were so many people who choose to eat vegan. But whichever location you go to, remember that they have Meatless Mondays and offer 100 yen off all noodle dishes!
PS: Also one of the few ramen shops with a ticket vending machine that accepts credit cards and other non-cash options.
Tokyo Noodle Stand (Harajuku)
If you like thick creamy soup, this Ultimate Vegan Ramen at Tokyo Noodle Stand is for you. And yes, I know you’re wondering…that is in fact the official name of this ramen!
Broccoli and beans are not typical toppings for your everyday ramen, but it surprisingly works. And the soup? It would do absolutely fine on its own…a delicious soy base mixed with kombu (seaweed) broth, sesame, various spices and pineapple juice. But with the addition of the thick chewy noodles, living up to its name, it makes for a wonderful hearty bowl of ramen.
Afuri (various locations around Tokyo)
Afuri established their first Tokyo ramen shop in 2003, and since then they have quickly become one of the largest chains, with more than 20 locations, both domestic and international.
You could say that Afuri introduced vegan ramen to the general public when they released their Rainbow Vegan Ramen in 2014. Even non-vegans were flocking to Afuri to give it a try.
This colorful bowl of ramen has a shio (salt) based soup made from fried tomato, onions, carrots, celery, mushrooms and other vegan goodness. The light flavor of the soup allows you to enjoy the pure flavor of the veggie toppings, which I love.
If any ramen could be considered healthy, this bowl would be it!
Technically not in Tokyo, but Chigasaki is just as much a part of Tokyo as Tokyo Disney Resort is (in my mind). If you are a summer beach person, or just visiting the Kamakura area, you will want to stop by this recently opened ramen shop, Cinq.
On their menu, amongst regular ramen, you will find ビーガン醤油/Vegan Shoyu (soy sauce base) and ビーガン白湯/Vegan Paitan (white soup base). All ingredients are additive-free and produced domestically, focusing on using as much local Kanagawa produce as possible.
While both are delicious, my personal favorite is the Vegan Paitan. When I asked the friendly owner what he uses in the soup, he stated that it’s a secret and in the same exact breath went on to share that the soup includes soy, kombu, and various other vegetables. He is quite the character.
With veggie toppings that change daily and the thick paitan soup mixed with マー油/māyu (burnt black garlic oil), your mouth will thank you for the flavors you enjoy through this bowl of ramen.
Which vegan ramen in Tokyo would you want to try?
Looking for more vegan eats in Tokyo? Check out this list of 6 Amazing Vegan Restaurants in Tokyo to Try.
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Kaori is a Japanese salary woman by day, a passionate jump roper by night. She is originally from Okinawa but grew up in Michigan, Sapporo and Hiroshima.
A vegetarian who is currently based in Tokyo, she loves to spend time outdoors under the sun and take photos of everyday life in this big city.