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Food Guide

Vegan Traditional Japanese Snacks & Sweets + Where To Find Them

Discover these traditional Japanese sweets and snacks that you can have an a vegan
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Japan has an impressive range of snacks and street food. However, you may be worried that it's impossible to enjoy any of them as a vegan.

You may be surprised of how many vegan treats you can have!

In this post, you will learn which snacks are usually vegan (and what ingredients to avoid) and what they look like. However, even with these insights, you'll need to be careful as there are many variations, so please check the ingredients every time.

Dango (団子) & Mochi (もち)

Tri-colour dango found in the food level of department stores

Mochi (餠 or もち) and dango (団子) are some of the most common snacks you can find in Japan.

It's commonly found in most supermarkets and convenience stores. Mochi and dango are sometimes vegan, but look out for milk (乳) or egg (卵) in the ingredients.

Dango usually has sauce or sweet red bean paste on top, and sometimes you'll also see a yellow powder, which is a soybean powder called kinako (きなこ​​), on top.

Dango with brown sugar syrup and soybean powder

Daifuku (大福)

Black bean daifuku

This is what most tourists think of as ‘mochi’. Traditionally it has sweet red bean paste as filling, but you may also find daifuku with fruits inside.

Although it’s found in most convenience stores and supermarket, many of them contain milk (乳) or egg (卵). Interestingly, I find that the daifuku found in department stores to be more often vegan, especially those from traditional sweets shops. The one in the photo is a black bean daifuku from Sentaro inside Isetan Department Store in Kyoto station.

Warabimochi (蕨餅 or わらび餅)

3 flavours of warabimochi - brown sugar, matcha and kinako (soybean powder)

Warabimochi is a chewy jelly covered in soybean powder and sometimes brown sugar syrup. It’s found in most department stores food level and sometimes in supermarket as well. It’s usually vegan and traditionally made without any animal ingredients.

Daigakuimo (大学芋)

A candied sweet potato with a crunchy shell and soft sweet potato inside. This snack is not well-known to tourists, but it’s one of my favourite snacks in Japan.

It's sometimes found in the food level of department stores or supermarkets. I bought mine at 大学芋くりよりや in the Hanshin department store near Osaka Station (be careful as the plain flavour is vegan and the salted one is not).

When you see it in Japan, look out for honey in the ingredients (はちみつ or 蜂蜜) as it often contains it.

Yōkan (羊羹)

It’s a sweet, thick bean jelly that’s found in many food stores. It’s made with red bean paste, agar and sugar, and it’s almost always vegan. The options in convenience stores and supermarkets are usually pretty cheap at under 100 yen; Department stores carry higher-end options that’s sometimes over 200 yen each. There are slight variations of flavours, for example, in the photo, the second-one from the left is a chestnut flavour and the right-most one is a green tea flavour.

The more expensive yokan selection that you would see in a department store

Monaka (最中 or もなか)

Traditional monaka found in a food stall inside department stores

This lessen-known dessert is made with sweet red bean filling sandwiched between two wafers. Some monaka has mochi inside with the red bean paste. The traditional red bean and/or mochi version is almost always vegan.

You'll find them in many supermarkets and the food level of department stores. There are sometimes more non-traditional filling like chocolate or ice cream. Those are likely not vegan.

Monaka that you can find in Japan supermarkets

Taiyaki (たい焼き)

Vegan taiyaki from Taiyaki Hiiragi in Tokyo

Taiyaki is a fish-shaped cake with sweet red bean filling. This famous street food is usually not vegan because the shell is traditionally made with egg.

Luckily, Luckily Taiyaki Hiiragi in Tokyo and Hakata Hiiragi Taiyaki in Fukuoka make vegan version of this fun Japanese treat.

More Traditional Japanese Sweets For Vegans

There's even more traditional Japanese sweets you can have as a vegan that I didn't have time to cover in this guide. If you are interested, consider getting The Vegan Foodie Guide To Japan. It covers 13 snacks including the ones you've seen in this guide, alongside 132+ vegan friendly restaurants in Japan.

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