Worried about eating vegetarian food in Osaka? Fear not. This one-day Osaka foodie itinerary takes you through some of the vegetarian highlights of Osaka’s fabulous culinary scene. It includes superlative egg sandwiches, fluffy okonomiyaki, exquisite Japanese sweets, and classic Osakan kushikatsu.
Vegetarian okonomiyaki at Mizuno. - image © Florentyna Leow
We’ve divided this itinerary into the following sections:
- Osaka Vegetarian Foodie Itinerary Notes
- Eating Osaka: A Preamble
- The Full Osaka Vegetarian Foodie Itinerary
- 9:00am Bread and pastries at PAINDUCE, Honmachi
- 10:30am Egg sandwiches and Swiss roll at Salon Mon Cher
- 1:00pm Kushikatsu in Shinsekai
- 3:30pm Daifuku mochi at Shizuku
- 6:00pm Okonomiyaki at Mizuno
- 8:00pm Zenzai in Hozenji Yokocho
Dojima roll cake and egg sandwich set at Salon Mon Cher - image © Florentyna Leow
Osaka Vegetarian Foodie Itinerary Notes
If you do wish to take photographs, ask first, and be discreet and respectful about it. If there’s a sign that says don’t take photographs, respect it!
Grazing and snacking at many different places is going to generate a lot of plastic waste. Circumvent the plastic wherever possible. Bring your own cutlery and handkerchief, and ask the shop staff not to give you any. Refuse the plastic bags that each and every snack will be put in. Forgo your straws and forget the lid on your takeaway latte. Even better - ask them to put it in a cup and have it in store. Every little bit helps.
We’ve put directions to each location in this itinerary AFTER the location to avoid cluttering things up.
Finally, we’ve put all of the places listed here, and the walking routes in each area, on a special map of this itinerary. Scroll down to the end of this itinerary to view the map.
Fukamushi sencha at Shizuku. - image © Florentyna Leow
Eating Osaka: A Preamble
The first thing anyone will tell you about Osaka is that it’s the city of kuidaore - eating until you fall over or run out of money, whichever comes first. That’s the motto of the city.. Like most of Japan, though, eating in Osaka can be a minefield for strict vegetarians. Dashi, the umami-packed skipjack bonito broth, is at the heart and soul of Japanese cuisine, and its presence in almost all savoury foods here has driven non-meat eaters to despair in past times. Virtually all of Osaka’s signature dishes - takoyaki, okonomiyaki, doteyaki, yakiniku, and so forth – proudly claim meat and seafood as part of their constituents. Even the most innocuous-looking vegetables have crossed paths with some ocean-dwelling creatures at some point.
So when you're vegetarian in Japan, you learn to occasionally let your boundaries slide a little, to allow for the presence of broth if not the meat or fish itself. This is to say nothing of having vegetarians and non-vegetarians dining together: the burden of compromise is made all the rougher when traveling in an unfamiliar place, when excellent vegetarian options aren't as abundant or accessible as you'd like.
Luckily, times are a-changin’, and it has become a little easier to find vegetarian options in this city. Omnivores don’t need to hog all the fun in Osaka! This itinerary takes you on a day of purely vegetarian eating in one of Japan’s culinary capitals. It even includes vegetarian versions of a few Osakan signature dishes - something that wouldn’t have been available at all as recently as 3 years ago. Yes, it's all vegetarian. But on another level, everything here is so good it almost doesn't matter whether you lead a plant-based existence or not. Call up your favourite eaters and hit the streets: it’s kuidaore time.
Spinach, black sesame, and cheese focaccia – or in Japanese, ほうれん草と黒ごま、チーズのフォカッチャ. - image © Florentyna Leow
The Full Osaka Vegetarian Foodie Itinerary
9:00am Bread and pastries at PAINDUCE, Honmachi
In Osaka, as in some of the larger Japanese cities, one can bumble around the most unprepossessing of neighbourhoods – seemingly all residential or office building hideousness – and stumble upon culinary gem after gem. Residential apartments sit above and below offices, nestle alongside cramped, cozy bars and unassuming-looking restaurants. You could be in the most uninteresting-looking grid of streets and happen upon a queue snaking out of a door, and behind that door could very well be the best meal of your life. In Japan as in life, venturing further afield will reap dividends in spades.
Head to Honmachi, and you’ll find the charming Painduce among the dull greys and off-whites of office blocks. Their breads and pastries are good enough to make you ponder, briefly, the possibility of spiriting the entire operation back to your home city.
You’re at a bakery, so a jolt of sugar to the senses might be just the ticket for an early morning. Plenty of options to be found here here: flaky, buttery pain au chocolat and croissants, tea-flavoured melon bread, whole-wheat buns filled with black sesame paste, slices of raspberry tart, craggy sugar-dusted hunks of French toast made with baguettes.
‘Adult’ chocolate cream bread, or 大人のチョコクリームパン. - image © Florentyna Leow
Not having much of a sweet tooth to begin with, I found the ‘adult’ chocolate cream bread a great approximation of having straight black coffee to begin your day. In fact, black coffee and chocolate cream bread make fantastic bedfellows. This demure cocoa nib-infused bread pouch, filled with a creamy bitter chocolate paste, resembles a dark Cornish pasty with its pinched edges of sugar-free bread dough. Thankfully, sugar-free here is not a signal of virtue but of sophistication. If you have a North American or British palate for sugar, this is probably not for you. But if, like me, you are the kind of person who avoids chocolate bars below 70% cacao, you are the exact target demographic for this bread.
A slice of galette bressane, or ガレットブレザンヌ. - image © Florentyna Leow
If chocolate isn’t your thing – who are you? – the galette bressane is a fantastic sweet to try instead. The galette bressane is a singularly uncommon sweet pastry hailing from the Bresse region of France. Who knew one might find slices of this in an Osaka bakery on this side of the planet? A buttery brioche base threatens to overflow with baked custard cream, its faintly-caramelised surface finished with a mirror-like glaze. In appearance like a tart but in practice like a cream-filled bread, the galette bressane straddles the line between tart and cream bun, brioche and danish.
Painduce does a gorgeous rendition of this under-appreciated pastry. Sour cream lends the slightest tang to the velvety, vanilla bean-infused custard cream, saving it from being too cloying. The brioche soaks up the filling but never becomes too soft, for the edges are rolled in crunchy brown sugar crystals. Everything remains not too sweet, which is the highest compliment one can pay a pastry on this side of the planet.
I also love that this is sturdy enough to eat out of hand. Tarts can be messy, necessitating a fork or spoon. You need no such niceties with galette bressane. Wolf it down as soon as possible. Or if you can wait, the staff recommend it both hot and cold: either sticking it briefly in a toaster oven for a warm, oozy custard experience, or fridge-cold, dense, ice cream custard-like mouthfuls.
An array of breads in Painduce. - image © Florentyna Leow
What of savoury options? If you can’t read Japanese or ask after the ingredients, seeking out savoury breads can be a bit of a minefield in many Japanese bakeries for vegetarians. Even Painduce’s innocuous-looking cheese curry bun, while phenomenal, contains meat powder for an extra jolt of umami. But their spinach, black sesame, and cheese focaccia (pictured earlier) isn’t just vegetarian-friendly, it is possibly the one item I would trek here over and over again just to eat.
It looks for all the world like a buttery scone, but bite and it is most distinctly a bread. It may be one of my favourite things to eat in Osaka – not a statement lightly made. Why do restaurants not routinely serve bread like this to start with? Why hasn’t black sesame become a standard focaccia fold-in? The spinach rippling through is almost crispy enough that it tastes like seaweed. And you know the corner of a pan of lasagna that has the highest ratio of melted, broiled cheese on pasta, all crust and no chewy goo? This is the bread equivalent – a triangle covered in that exact golden-brown lacy cheese crust guaranteed to induce shudders of nostalgia and happiness.
There is a cafe area attached to the bakery, but Painduce is also a 10-minute stroll or so away from Utsubokoen Park, home to a pleasant grove of cherry trees and spacious tree-lined avenue. Few things beckon more to the traveling soul than eating pastries outdoors on a sunny morning. Pick up breakfast and be on your merry way.
The exterior of Painduce. - image © Florentyna Leow
Directions: Take Exit 2 of Honmachi Station and find your way above ground. Exit the building. Walk north (Daily Yamazaki should be on the opposite side of the road) and then take the next left turning. Take the second right turning. You’ll have walked past a restaurant called Vegeble Kitchen. Walk straight for two blocks. You’ll find Painduce on the corner to your right.
The egg sandwich and Swiss roll set at Mon Cher. - image © Florentyna Leow
10:30am Egg sandwiches and Swiss roll at Salon Mon Cher
Mon Cher is the kind of place that seems to tick all the boxes for a salon, one that includes afternoon tea, menus written in florid cursive script, hushed conversation, clinking bone china teacups, and silver cake stands overflowing with dainty confections and dinky little sandwiches. The furniture is upholstered and the curtains have tassels. It is strangely Japanese in its aspirations towards European-ness, albeit with a certain 80s bent. Mon Cher also tends to attract a certain class of Japanese women, rather like the local equivalent of Ladies Who Lunch. You probably know the sort I mean. One almost feels compelled to dress a little more nicely just to enter. You won’t need to, of course – you’re just here for cake and an egg sandwich.
CaptionXXX - image © Florentyna Leow
This egg sandwich is a far cry from your everyday plastic-wrapped convenience store fare, as decent as that might be. (Tip: the Family Mart egg sandwiches are objectively tastier than their Lawson or 7-11 counterparts.) No, this is a entirely different beast altogether, one that ranks highly among all the egg sandwiches I have eaten in a lifetime here.
Thin slices of mayonnaise-slathered white bread are but a vehicle for the quivering slab of omelette within. Where other egg sandwiches might be more straightforwardly eggy, Mon Cher’s version is particularly tender and silky, given an extra-luxe boost with cream. It might be easier to eat this with a fork and knife, but why would you? Pick it up with your hands and eat while the entire affair is hot and jiggly, slippery and threatening to slide off the bread.
Digging into a slice of Swiss roll. - image © Florentyna Leow
Then there is the signature Dojima Swiss roll, or “roll cake” as it’s known in Japan. Swiss rolls are so commonplace, but make it with care and it becomes a work of art. Apply a little pressure to that featherlight sponge cake, and the pillowy cream spills, oozes, overflows. Herein lies the sheer pleasure of texture even before eating it. Like the best cream fillings it is a paradox, rich and cloud-like, dissipating as soon as it hits the heat of your tongue. You will want a strong, black coffee with all of this to bring you back to earth.
Outside Mon Cher. - image © Florentyna Leow
Directions: Return to Honmachi Station. Take the Midosuji Subway Line one stop to Shinsaibashi Station. Take Exit 13 and walk westwards along Nagahori-dori Street until you see Dojima Roll Honten Mon Cher on your left, Alternatively, you could walk along the underground passage and find Exit 16. The shop is just outside.
Kushikatsu skewers at Yaekatsu. - image © Florentyna Leow
1:00pm Kushikatsu in Shinsekai
Shinsekai might be gentrifying rapidly these days, but fortunately for us, still retains some of its old-world gritty charm. This is thanks in part to the concentration of long-standing kushikatsu restaurants, these cheap and cheerful, fluorescent-lit bastions of fun and uncomplicated eating.
Shishito pepper kushikatsu, pre-dip. - image © Florentyna Leow
Kushikatsu ranks pretty highly among the great Osaka konamono (flour-based foods), and at least one meal during your visit here should consist of this. It isn’t highbrow food by any stretch of the imagination: they’re deep-fried, battered skewers of pretty much anything imaginable, perfect for washing down copious flagons of booze. Yes, even at lunch. As long as you don’t mind that everything is fried in the same oil, kushikatsu is an excellent vegetarian option. It’s an especially useful genre of food when you’re travelling with non-vegetarians: everyone leaves happy.
Shiitake mushroom kushikatsu. - image © Florentyna Leow
In terms of where in Shinsekai to go for lunch, I like Yaekatsu and Tengu. Both are in Jan Jan Arcade, with good cost-performance ratios. Everything is no-nonsense, no-fuss. Service is efficient and the skewers are great. All the vegetarian options are worth eating. Slices of kabocha turn creamy when tumbled around in hot oil for a while. Juicy chunks of aubergine are sure winners, as are molten cherry tomatoes. Follow with cubes of melting camembert cheese, shiitake mushrooms, asparagus, shishito peppers, lotus root, potatoes – all coated in gorgeously crisp breadcrumb batter. Whoever said forgoing meat had to be boring?
Directions: Head back to Shinsaibashi Station. Take the Midosuji Subway Line and ride it 3 stops to Doubutsuen-mae Station. Take Exit 1. Walk straight and turn left, walking under the train tracks. Enter the shopping arcade and walk a little along until you find Yaekatsu, and along the way, Tengu. You could also try any of the other kushikatsu places in the area. Shinsekai is a fairly compact district, so take the opportunity to stroll around the area before leaving.
Daifuku mochi and tea at Shizuku. - image © Florentyna Leow
3:30pm Daifuku mochi at Shizuku
Much like Painduce mentioned above, modern teahouse Shizuku is not where you might expect to find it. Located on the ground floor of a thoroughly undistinguished looking building, the grey and white concrete interior gives the teahouse the feel of a sleek cocktail bar – or Brutalist monstrosity, depending on your perspective. I’m not really here for the decor, though: it’s their mochi that’s calling my name. I never tire of walking in and looking at the mochi laid out like an array of jewels.
A pair of daifuku mochi – chocolate and black bean. - image © Florentyna Leow
Shizuku’s mochi are a far cry from your run-of-the-mill supermarket rice cakes. These are posh little confections worth the time taken to visit this neck of the woods. For a fine version of kuromame mochi – mochi filled with black bean paste – try the kuromochi or black mochi. I usually find the traditional versions rather stodgy and overly sweet. This is an observation I make of most wagashi. Not so here: the rough and chunky filling isn’t light, but neither is it cloying or heavy. With charcoal kneaded into the elastic skin, it is beautiful to behold too, almost like onyx or jet black titanium. If you have never tried kuromochi before, this may ruin you for all other renditions.
A half-bitten dark chocolate daifuku mochi. - image © Florentyna Leow
As with the best desserts, you cannot stop at just one. So take two. Chocolate fiends will love the vegan chocolate mochi. With a ganache that’s 80% cacao, it is not for the faint of palate: a lightly sweet mochi skin encases a ganache that begins with a pronounced bitterness, then mellowing straightaway into a clean, smooth finish. The nutty undertones come from almond milk, and because it contains no cream, there isn’t any dairy fat lingering on your tongue afterwards. It feels like the culinary equivalent of stepping into a cold waterfall – refreshing, almost energising.
Pouring the tea. - image © Florentyna Leow
A pot of fukamushi sencha (deep-steamed tea), with its deep umami depth, is a fitting accompaniment. (Yes, tea has umami!) Or if you’re so inclined, a bowl of whipped green tea.
Directions: Return to Doubutsuen-mae Station. Board the Midosuji Line train and ride it to Shinsaibashi Station. Alight and take Exit 3. Once you’re above ground, walk west for about 500 meters along Nagahori-dori Street. You’ll know you’re going the right way when you pass Hair Salon iBaco, capsule hotel a-STYLE, and a Lawson’s on your right. You’ll reach a fairly nondescript looking street on your right, with a dark grey building on the right and a building called Grand Square on the left. Turn right into this street. Walk straight for about 200 meters, passing a pizza restaurant on your right. Shizuku is on the corner of the building block ahead.
Mayonnaise-slathered gluten-free okonomiyaki. - image © Florentyna Leow
6:00pm Okonomiyaki at Mizuno
Okonomiyaki is the quintessential Osakan soul food – a cross between a frittata and a pancake consisting of masses of shredded cabbage glued together with a grated mountain yam (yamaimo), wheat flour, egg, and broth batter, plus toppings. Drizzled with lashings of tangy brown sauce and a scattering of fragrant green seaweed, okonomiyaki is comfort food at its best.
You’d think that a food that’s mostly cabbage would be the ideal vegetarian option, but it is in fact a veritable minefield for non-meat eaters. This is true of most restaurants in Japan, not just okonomiyaki joints. It is an unfortunate reality that the strict vegetarian will have to be extra vigilant when seeking out eating options, especially when you want to eat Japanese food rather than Western substitutes or salads. Virtually every topping available at most okonomiyaki places is either meat or seafood. The batter typically contains fish broth, and most places finish it with a shower of katsuobushi fish flakes. What’s a vegetarian to do?
Pouring batter onto the mushrooms. - image © Florentyna Leow
Thankfully, long-running okonomiyaki stalwart Mizuno is here to help. It’s virtually the only okonomiyaki specialist to offer two entirely vegetarian options, i.e. no meat or fish, and no fish stock in the batter. The difference betwixt the two lies mainly in the batter. One is an okonomiyaki with mushrooms and scallions, held together with a wheat flour and yamaimo batter. The other is gluten-free, omitting the wheat flour. You might have to remind the staff not to put fish flakes on top – sometimes they just forget!
Slathering mayonnaise on top. - image © Florentyna Leow
As with any okonomiyaki restaurant, half the fun is sitting at the counter to watch them cook. For the gluten-free yamaimo (mountain yam) batter version, mushrooms sizzle and soften in cubes of butter, before a batter of vigorously-whipped egg, cabbage, and mountain yam is poured on, covered, and left to steam-grill. Under a cover some kind of alchemy occurs, giving the okonomiyaki an almost cake-like texture – perhaps even an omelette – but with a beguilingly crusty bottom. Maillard reactions on hot plates bring out the flavours like little else; they even throw in a hint of pickled red ginger in the batter to perk it up a little. To complete the picture, liberal dollops of sweet brown sauce and mayonnaise are painted on.
Sprinkling green seaweed powder on the vegetarian okonomiyaki. - image © Florentyna Leow
In a similar fashion, the straightforward vegetarian version begins with the same mushrooms, but has plenty of chopped scallions stirred in, along with crunchy onions and cubes of konnyaku jelly. It is a satisfying dish – less soft and pillowy than its yamaimo cousin, with a little more structural integrity. Both are worth ordering in a single meal if you are deeply hungry. I find the yamaimo version a tad more flavourful, and to my mind just slightly superior to the mixed wheat flour and yamaimo version. Given the higher price tag, Mizuno probably knows it too.
Outside Mizuno. - image © Florentyna Leow
Directions: Walk back the way you came to Shinsaibashi Station. Board the Midosuji Line train and ride it to Namba Station. Alight and take Exit 14. When above ground. walk straight eastwards, away from the large road behind you. You’ll reach Hozenji Yokocho Alley – head inside and keep walking until you reach the covered shopping arcade. Turn left. Mizuno is one block ahead on your right, before you reach Dotonbori. It’s opposite a kissaten called American アメリカン.
Two bowls of zenzai at Meoto Zenzai. - image © Florentyna Leow
8:00pm Zenzai in Hozenji Yokocho
How does one cap a full day of eating in Osaka? There are many ways to do it – late night drinks, cake, ice cream, a bowl of ramen thick and fatty enough to feel like concrete in your belly. But you could also consider a more old-fashioned nightcap that’s gentler on the digestion – zenzai, or red bean soup.
To the uninitiated, or to those who didn’t grow up with Asian desserts, cold red bean soup might sound like the least appetising dessert possible. Trust me, I understand – I’ve had a lifelong ambivalence surrounding red beans for the last two decades of my life despite repeated exposure. Zenzai is usually served hot, and mostly I found it tooth-achingly sugary. But at Meoto Zenzai, not only is the soup decidedly less sweet than your average zenzai, the cold soup has a lightness that hot versions lack. Each order comes in two bowls – yes, that’s for one person – referencing ‘meoto’ or ‘husband and wife.’ Heteronormativity aside, it might seem like a lot, but it’s not.
A shiratama mochi floating in the soup. - image © Florentyna Leow
Make no mistake: eating zenzai demands that you enjoy a range of textures. Whole red beans make the soup interesting, while the shiratama mochi (balls of rice cake) are beautifully slippery and chewy. Alternate sips with nibbles of the squares of salted kelp alongside as a palate cleanser, to balance out the sweetness and prevent the whole enterprise from being too cloying. If you love sweet-salty combinations, you’ll love this dessert.
Outside Meoto Zenzai. - image © Florentyna Leow
Directions: Exit Mizuno and turn left, walking down the shopping arcade. Take the second right turning, which takes you into Hozenji Yokocho Alley. Walk until you reach the end. You should see the mossy Fudo-Myoo statue on your left. Meoto Zenzai is the corner shop just beyond the statue on your left.
Osaka Vegetarian Foodie Itinerary Map
The Osaka Vegetarian Foodie Itinerary map shows the location of each of the places mentioned - you can view a full size version too.
About the author: Florentyna Leow is a writer and photographer based in Tokyo. When she's not eating or roaming the streets for food, she can be found with a book and pen in hand. Her work has appeared in Lucky Peach, Roads & Kingdoms, and Kyoto Journal. Her newsletter can be found here and her photographs can be found at @furochan_eats, @doorwaysofasia, and @lovemeleafme on Instagram.
Where Are These Places Located?See these places on the Inside Osaka Google map:
- Open the Osaka map
- You will see the list of places on the left hand side. (Click the 3-line icon in the top left corner if not). Scroll down or use the map search (the magnifying glass icon) to find the place you want.
- Click the name of the place in the list. Its location pin will be highlighted on the map.
- Map pins are color coded - BLUE: Hotels / Ryokan / Guesthouses | VIOLET: Ryokan | PINK: Places to Eat | GREEN: Shops | YELLOW: Things to See and Do
- If you're using the map on your phone, open the map and then search for the name of the place. The map will then zoom in on its location.
Osaka Vacation Checklist
- For all the essentials in a brief overview, see my First Time In Osaka guide
- Check Osaka accommodation availability and pricing on Booking.com – usually you can reserve a room with no upfront payment. Pay when you check out. Free cancellations too
- Need tips on where to stay? See my one page guide Where To Stay In Osaka
- You can buy a Japan SIM card online for collection on arrival at Osaka's Kansai International Airport. Or rent an unlimited data pocket wifi router
- View my comprehensive Packing List For Japan
- Compare flight prices and timings to find the best Japan flight deals
- If you're visiting more than one city, you might save money with a Japan Rail Pass – see if it's worth it for you
- Get a prepaid Icoca card to make travelling around Osaka easy – here's how
- World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while traveling and claim online from anywhere in the world