Finding egg and dairy-free desserts in Tokyo can be challenging, especially if you’re craving treats that aren’t devoid of any ounce of creaminess or sugary goodness.
Just because a dessert is vegan doesn’t mean it has to be less satisfying (or sugar high-inducing) than non-vegan options. The preconception that vegan food equals health food is slowly dissipating, and several of the shops below will tempt even the skeptical into trying plant-based desserts.
Whether you are a longtime vegan, are allergic to eggs or dairy products, or are just curious about finding plant-based versions of your indulgent favorites, these five vegan-friendly dessert shops, chosen for their quality and satisfying indulgence, are sure to hit the spot.
What dairy-free person hasn’t looked at someone eating a giant ice cream sundae or luscious-looking cone and felt a pang of envy? Have no fear, if it is towering vegan ice cream concoctions you are after, Wired Bonbon more than delivers.
Tucked away on the sixth floor of Lumine Shinjuku, the airy, pastel-colored shop invites you in for a bit of sheer decadence. While it does have a lineup of other vegan desserts, the vegan parfaits are the main draw. The Cream de Cream range (from ¥1,080) all come layered in tall glasses, with flavors ranging from Japanese-inspired Matcha Azuki and Mont Blanc to the more sundae-like Berry Banana and Chocolate Mocha Banana. The Apple Caramel is my personal recommendation — it’s like a slice of apple pie a la mode in a glass.
For those looking for an even more Instagrammable option, check out the Bonbon de Cream parfaits, made with almond milk soft serve and swathed in a cloud of cotton candy.
Lumine Shinjuku 1 6F, Shinjuku 1-1-5, Shinjuku-ku 160-0023; 03-6304-5755; bit.ly/wiredbonbon
The Little Bakery Tokyo
Recently rehoused in a shop across the street from its previous location in Jingumae, the Good Town Doughnuts brand has gained (and maintained) a cult following for its giant, colorful doughnuts. Most flavors are available in both vegan and non-vegan varieties, with a lineup of seasonal flavors that keep sweets lovers on their toes.
Popular choices (all around ¥450) are a smiley-faced doughnut filled with a sweet and tart mango cream; the Uji matcha, for those who want a bit of Japanese inspiration to their treat; and, of course, classic chocolate-dipped or cinnamon sugar rings to suit the purists. The Sicilian lemon (¥440) with its sunny flavor and bright tartness remains a firm personal favorite.
If (blasphemous as it might be) doughnuts are not your thing, then the bakery’s vegan cinnamon rolls may tempt you instead, with their perfectly moist dough and well-balanced swirl of smooth white icing.
Jingumae 6-13-6, Shibuya-ku 150-0001; 03-6450-5707; bit.ly/thelittlebakery
Universal Bakes and Cafe
Until recently, vegans and those with egg or dairy allergies who wanted to try some of Japan’s most famous sweet breads were out of luck, as most anpan (red bean bun), melonpan (“melon bread”) and other native snack breads almost invariably contained something of animal origin. Universal Bakes and Cafe, located in a residential area near Setagaya-Daita Station, has come to the rescue.
Owned by the same proprietor as Alaska Zwei, a popular vegan cafe in the Nakameguro area, the bakes here range from local favorites to breads that wouldn’t look out of place at a French bakery. The anpan (¥280 before tax) is nicely balanced and not overly sweet, while the melonpan (¥300 before tax) has just a touch of salt to bring out the cookie crust.
Be sure to pick up some croissants, pain au chocolat or chocolate cornets if they are on sale when you visit — they are perhaps the best vegan versions available in Tokyo.
Not a fan of sweet bread? Universal’s Japanese-style gratin breads are wonderfully retro, and the French-style loaves, especially the olive-studded ficelle, make for a perfect weekend brunch accompaniment.
Daita 5-9-1, Setagaya-ku 155-0033; 03-6335-4972; saikolo.jp
Hal Okada Vegan Sweets Lab
This little takeout-only shop is the latest endeavor of Haruo Okada, the talented patissier behind the aforementioned vegan desserts at Wired Bonbon and notable chains Futaba Fruits Parlor and Alfred Tea Room.
Down a little side street just a short walk from Hiroo Station, Okada considers this his “laboratory,” where he can continue to pursue his research into reaching the full potential of sweet flavors using plant-based ingredients.
The offerings are currently limited to a strawberry shortcake (¥680 for a slice), chocolate cake (¥650 for a slice) and Mont Blanc cake (¥780 for a slice), with the occasional experiment also showing up in the small display case. Okada’s training and dedication to the craft is apparent in each bite, as the cakes strike a balance between creaminess, sweetness and heft, no easy feat with vegan desserts. You can either pre-order via the website and pick up the cakes, or stop by to see what is available. Note that the shop only accepts credit card payments on site.
Hiroo 5-4-18, Shibuya-ku 150-0012; halokada.com
While there are several contenders for Tokyo’s best vegan pancakes, in the end Jiyugaoka-based Shiro Cafe wins the prize for its truly exemplary pancakes.
Located inside a branch of Shiro, a skincare and makeup brand, the cafe’s standard menu options (Caramel & Banana and Maple & Cream; from ¥1,210) are simple, without relying on scatterings of expensive fruit or ice cream to add substance to the pancakes. Each stack of three hits the right balance between being fluffy and chewy, closer in texture to American-style pancakes than the Japanese-style souffle variety.
The seasonal options usually have an extra twist, such as the bright, show-stealing stack of green tea and yuzu citrus-flavored pancakes that was served in summer 2019. The current offering is a marvel of chocolate pancakes layered with both caramel and pumpkin cream and topped with a half caramelized baked apple: Y-U-M.
Azuruti B1F/1F, Jiyugaoka 2-9-14, Meguro-ku 152-0035; 03-5701-9146; bit.ly/shirocafe
Also located in Jiyugaoka, top-rated vegan restaurant Saido (Jiyugaoka 2-15-10, Meguro-ku 152-0035; 03-5726-9500; saido.tokyo/en) did not make this list because (ironically) its regular dishes are so good that it is worth booking the whole lunch or dinner course, rather than just dessert. The aptly named “pan cake,” with its shot of dark syrup, and playful blueberry cheesecake (served in a plant pot) are both sublime.
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