You want tofu with that burrito?

Chipotle believes it can succeed with the Asian soybean substitute for meat and is offering it at selected restaurants.

By Bruce Kennedy Apr 15, 2013 3:18PM

Are Caption: File photo of Chipotle Mexican Grill in Beverly Hills, Calif. Credit: © GUS RUELAS/Newscom/RTR
American consumers ready for some tofu in their fast-food diet? That's what Denver-based Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG) is betting as it incorporates the vegetarian soybean curd into its menu at nearly 100 restaurants in Northern California.

Tofu, the low-fat, high-protein curd that's often used as a meat substitute, is a traditional part of many Asian dishes and can be found on the menus at Asian-based fast-food establishments such as Panda Express and Genghis Grill. But Chipotle is hoping its Sofritas, shredded tofu braised with chilis and spices, will attract a broader base of diners.

"We are changing the way people think about and eat fast food," Chipotle founder, chairman and co-CEO Steve Ells said back in January when the company was testing out its new product. "Sofritas is a very different menu item not just for Chipotle, but for any fast-food or fast-causal restaurant. It was really conceived with vegetarians and vegans in mind, but it's so delicious that we believe it will have a broad appeal on taste alone."

And Chipotle customers at the designated restaurants will be able to choose Sofritas for their burritos, tacos, salads and other entrees -- just like they would with chicken or beef.

According to the Nation's Restaurant News, this is Chipotle's second attempt at introducing a vegetable protein into its menu. The first try, a grain-based protein called Garden Blend, was later discontinued.

And considering that the U.S. is one of the world's largest producers of soybeans, maybe it's time more Americans stop turning up their noses at tofu. While Chipotle says it will use U.S.-produced tofu for its Sofritas, many American food companies end up purchasing tofu made from U.S. soybeans but produced in Asia.

"They can ship the soybeans to Japan, make the tofu, ship it back to the United States and still sell it cheaper than I can," Bill Quick at West Virginia-based Phoenix Organics recently told the Charleston Daily Mail about his suppliers. "They're all automated."

Hodo Soy of Oakland, Calif., will be making Chipotle's Sofritas. And Hodo founder, director and co-CEO Minh Tsai is zealous about his product -- which many foodies think could make the shift, like yogurt did, from exotic food to a mainstream part of the American diet.

"I think it's great because people still don’t know what to do with tofu," Tsai told Hyphen Magazine. "The tofu industry is not dissimilar to the latest artisan rage over chocolate, olive oil and bread. There’s room for both the big guys, who get the product and information out to a lot of people, and the little guys, who encourage the big guys to make better products."

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Apr 15, 2013 5:35PM
Sounds good to me! About time "faster" food restaurants are considering the health and welfare of Americans. I'm sure with Corporate America it has more to do with a market segment that they might be missing out on. But hey I'll welcome the option! And if you never had tofu it absorbs the taste of the ingredients/spices it's mix with.
Apr 15, 2013 6:22PM
It would definitely get me to eat there.  As a new Vegan, there are very few quick lunch places to eat.  We are a small market, but we are very loyal, and with the few choices out there, they will definitely get some added business.  I just wish they didn't limit it to California.
Apr 15, 2013 6:42PM

I see a lot of comments about Vegans and being liberal.  I can tell you first hand, I am conservative, vegan.  I take my health very seriously and I have personally seen the difference a plant based diet can do for a person.  Please refrain from making sweeping judgements about others.  I am not pushing you to become a vegan, this is my choice and its one that my family also makes as well.

Apr 15, 2013 6:44PM
It is actually very good.  I tasted it even though I don't like spicy food and the texture and flavor are amazing.  I have recommended it to all my friends not just vegan and vegetarian.
Apr 15, 2013 6:30PM

Well color me a super excited" hippie-vegan-liberal" mexi-american!!!!  Thank you, Chipotle, for the consideration of offering options to people like myself and others who want to try something different.  I'm looking forward to the sofritas; the description sounds delicious.


It's understandably a foreign concept, but I'm not knocking anyone's choice to stuff themselves with animal carcass, so let me enjoy chewing my cud or whatever it is the closed minded believe we eat.

Really my diet's pretty normal, I eat spaghetti, tacos, sandwiches, burritos, etc.  I just don't buy meat, eggs, or dairy.  Doesn't seem that fanatical to me....

Apr 15, 2013 6:59PM

Monsanto is trying to corner the Soybean market since they cant Patent Cows & Chickens, sure hope this is GMO free Soy.

Apr 15, 2013 6:57PM
thank you Chipotle.  I am mostly a VEGAN due to corrupt farming practices, and we deserve some fast food too! AND YOUR PRICES ARE AMAZING! so thank you!
Apr 15, 2013 7:24PM

Soy is a legume just as beans are, if beans are a very nutritive food so are soybeans.

Rich in high-quality protein, fiber, and pantothenic acid  excellent to reinforce our memory. 

Apr 16, 2013 10:14AM
Please bring it to the rest of the country.
Apr 16, 2013 10:54AM
Hodo Soy's website says, "Chipotle testing "Sofritas"...made with organic, non-GMO tofu." Yay! Can't wait to try!
Apr 15, 2013 7:33PM
Moe's in the Carolina's do an excellent, slightly overpriced tofu, rice, guacamole, salsa ect. This is nothing new.
Apr 16, 2013 7:33AM
Moe's have been offering  these for years,  but they use American soy beans! 
Apr 15, 2013 7:00PM

Ah..the beauty of diversity. 

It freshens up the spirit and encourages the flourishing of alternatives.

Tofu burritos with chipotle?  I'll say..!

Apr 16, 2013 12:18PM
GMO grains- Wheat, Corn, Soy, Rice is Illuminati population reduction by making the staples of our food supply the very poisons that are killing us.

Demand an American TOTAL BAN of ALL GMO grains and 'foods'.

Apr 16, 2013 12:15PM
Almost all soy consumed by Americans today is poisonous GMO soy.

GMO is poison. GMO is a human fertility killer. GMO is a cancer causing 'food'. GMO is a diabetes driver.

Other nations are banning GMO.

America should ban ALL GMO grains.
Soy, Corn, Rice, Wheat.

Apr 16, 2013 12:24PM
Human fertility KILLERS..

1. Roundup herbicide, made by Monsanto.

2. GMO grain. Soy, Corn, Wheat, Rice. Mostly made by Monsanto.

Dis you know that YOU have Roundup imbedded in your DNA. How does that make you feel.

If you need proof, ask your doctor for a toxicology exam and blood test.

Apr 18, 2013 1:27PM
why cant they do this in southern california? is it because the illegals love their refried beans and lard based tortillas? viva la gordos
Apr 15, 2013 7:42PM
Apr 15, 2013 7:13PM

OMG, when are you vegans going to learn that SOY is NOT good for you?  Do some research  on endocrine and hormonal disruption caused by eating soy products.  You do not want to be ingesting this crap.


The ironic thing about this whole soy is good propaganda that the left so worships, is that it is brought to you courtesy of the Big Ag Soybean Council.  But surely you all support those big ag tax subsidies.

Apr 15, 2013 6:03PM
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