Friday, March 23, 2018

Our Vegan Meal Plan in Japan - 25 Easy Healthy Family Friendly Recipes

I thought it would be fun to share our meal plan from when we lived in Nagoya, Japan. Not only is this a relatively simple vegan family meal plan, it is healthy, and can potentially, give or take an ingredient here and there, be made anywhere in the world. For anyone vegan, moving, living, or traveling in Nagoya this post will also help you with finding some of the vegan food that is available there.

I was reasonably sure I was going to have a problem with food as a vegan family so I loaded up a few boxes of some staple items from the US but was eventually able to find or make enough food that we liked. We got into a fairly regular rotation of meals for parents and a 5 and 2 year old. I feel like we ate healthy and we came back to the states much healthier than when we turned up in Japan.

Notes on vegan groceries in Nagoya, Japan 

I had a really hard time finding groceries in my neighborhood. There were no big grocery stores. Costco exists but it was far from us and since we didn't have a car it was completely impractical. There was a small grocery store, FEEL, that I would get peanut butter, salsa, marinara sauce, bread, Oreo cookies, juice, wine, and fruit and veggies, I think that was it.

My husband would hit Supermarket at Nagoya Station which had vegan chocolates, olives, pickles, and other international foods, soy yogurt, and specialty items.

I was extremely lucky to have moved just a few blocks from, Pupu Kitchen, one of the only natural and organic food stores in our city that carried vegan foods like non-dairy butter, seitan, sausages, a wide variety of ready to heat and eat Japanese curries and snacks.

We would go to a Halal store at Osu Kannon for frozen tortillas, bulk beans, dates, and falafel and occasionally headed out to Karuna, this little vegetarian/vegan shop a good 10 subway stops away from home, for frozen vegan and vegetarian meat substitutes. They had an amazing soy based cheese, chick'n nuggets, yogurt, nutritional yeast, ice cream etc.

Last but not least, we would frequent Kitsch et Bio which happened to be across the street from my son's preschool was a great place to pick up 2 bags full of groceries that I would put in the basket, on my back while riding with 2 kids on my bike through the city. What a fun time we had! They carried lots of organic fruits and veggies, canned beans, tortillas, tortilla chips, marinara sauces, and international foods.

Cooking in Japan

Our apartment had a very tiny open kitchen. I had my blender, waffle iron, and food processor sent to Japan. Necessities! There was a small refrigerator, NO OVEN in our apartment, but we had a broiler (which apparently is totally normal over there) a stove, and a toaster oven so it became a lot of simple dishes. We also rented an Airbnb in Kyoto that only had a microwave to cook with where we got very creative!

Staples we brought to Japan from the US:

(*The following product links may be affiliate links so I may receive a commission if you make a purchase)

 Better than Bouillon - organic vegetable flavor - to make vegetable broth (I found vegetable consomme packets in Japan to sub but we love this brand!)
Almond butter - I didn't find any in Japan that didn't have added sugar. I could make some but we sent over a bunch which was great because I could make Almond milk with it. Almond milk, especially organic, is very expensive.
Nutritional Yeast (was harder to find but I did eventually find it at the in a specialty store so definitely a good thing to travel with if you are moving there or even visiting and doing the Airbnb thing like we did)
Tapioca Starch - I found potato starch which seemed to work for what I needed it for
Butter flavored Nutiva Coconut Oil - This is the secret ingredient in my vegan mac n cheese!
Nutiva Chocolate Spread - like Nutella but vegan

I brought a lot of foods from the US initially and we used ALL of it. We eventually found subs for a lot of the foods in Japan but some of it was harder to find than others.

Notes on Vegan Travel in Japan

We recommend booking Airbnb as opposed to hotels if you are traveling to Japan as a vegan so you can cook for yourself while visiting. We had an easy time eating at some of the hotel buffets but other than that food can be tricky. We ate bananas, bread, and peanut butter and chips for most of the time we were in Osaka over the New Year holiday (just another note that everything shuts down for 3 days ;) Airbnb makes things a lot easier and you can stay in some really cool places. Of course HappyCow app always helps to find vegan food anywhere you go.


We almost always had DAILY Smoothies - spinach, kale, pineapple, melon, banana, and sometimes apple, carrots, cucumber or when in season strawberries, mango, or stone fruit). My husband would either chug one or take one in a little jar to go.
  1. Toast with avocado, pb, butter, or almond butter (either bakery type or whole wheat "hotel" bread which is similar to classic Wonder Bread but thick slices that I carefully sliced in half to make 2.
  2. Chocolate balls - (Dates were found in the halal store)
  3. Slow stove cooked or "scrambled" tofu seasoned with salt pepper spices
  4. Oatmeal with nutbutter, fruit, granola, nuts, dried fruit, coconut, chocolate bits, jelly...
  5. Banana nice cream with nutbutter, chocolate, fruit more of above
  6. Pancakes with fruit, nutbutter, butter, syrup.
  7. Waffles with fruit, nutbutter, butter, syrup.
  8. Homestyle fried potatoes with red peppers and onions.
  9. Breakfast burritos with potatos, tofu, beans, veggies, salsa
  10. Banana Crepes
  11. Chia Pudding

  1. Buddha bowls, with any combo of legumes (black, pinto, chickpea, lentil) quinoa, pasta, rice, noodles, fresh cut veggies, fresh cut fruit, pickles and either our Peanut Dressing, Tzatziki, Hummus, Tahini Dip, and/or salt pepper, and hot sauce
  2. Burrito or wrap with any of the above items mixed and matched.

  1. Pasta with our easy homemade vegan Parmesan (nutritional yeast, nuts, salt), and vegan sausage or lentils and broccoli, carrot, asparagus, seasonal veggies
  2. Burritos or tacos with - black or pinto beans, lettuce, stir fried peppers and onions, salsa (tortilla recipe) and optional vegan nacho cheese recipe
  3. Noodles or rice with stir fried veggies and tofu
  4. Stir fried (leftover cold) rice with veggies, pineapple, cashews, soy sauce or aminos
  5. Pizza - we did easy pizzas with homemade vegan mozzarella cheese and prepared marinara sauce. We would add fresh pineapple, black olives, vegan sausage, etc. You can also top a pasta bake or lasagna with this cheese!
  6. Fried rice with veggies and tofu
  7. Homemade potato carrot vegan mac and cheese plain or made with broccoli
  8. Homemade vegan fettucini alfredo with cooked veggies (*will share our recipe soon!*)
  9. Lentils and quinoa cooked separately in veggie bouillon with steamed sweet potatoes and broccoli. 
  10. Falafel (we bought frozen from Halal store and we still need a good homemade recipe!) with tortillas or other bread, homemade vegan tofu tzatziki sauce, and any combo of these, (use vegan consomme packets (bouillon)) in rice, quinoa, chickpeas, lentils, or hummus, tahini sauce, stir fried bell peppers and onions, sliced cucumber, tomato, onion, etc...
  11. Thai coconut curry (coconut milk and red or green curry paste) with chick peas, and various veggies and rice
  12. "Fun" Dinners - Sliced potatoes to make french fries in the toaster oven and whatever vegan meat in rolls to make sliders, sloppy joes made with taco sauce, or salsa and bean chili, chik'n nuggets, whatever heat and eat vegan prepared you can find!

Finally, a grocery list:
Black beans or pinto
Garbonzo beans
Rolled oats
Tapioca starch
White flour
Wheat flour
Pasta for Italian food
Pasta for mac n cheese
Asian style noodles
2 loaves bread (or bread and bagels or english muffins)
Tofu x 4 blocks
Peanut Butter
Almond butter
Vegan butter
Soy Sauce
Hot Sauce
Marinara Sauce
Nutritional Yeast
Vegan Butter
Red, Yellow, Green Peppers
Other seasonal fruit
Better than Bouillon or other vegetable broth

Hope you enjoyed all of the meal ideas and recipes we used while we lived in Japan!

Feel free to drop comments and questions below :)

Want someone else to cook for you once in a while?
Try this:

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