Chipotle Brings Spicy Tofu To Your Burrito

By Staff in Food on Oct 21, 2013 4:30PM

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Photo courtesy of Chipotle.

If you are vegan, lactose intolerant, gluten free, or have any dietary restrictions or food allergies, eating at a fast food restaurant probably isn’t an option for you. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, with all of the awesome cafes and lunch options around Chicago, but sometimes you just want to grab a quick bite. Chipotle has long offered gluten-free and vegetarian options, but with its newest menu item, sofritas, the burrito slinger is looking to bring tofu to your table.

We got a chance to sample the sofritas before they arrive in Chicago—they come to Chipotle locations today—and we think even meat eaters are going to be lining up to fill their burritos with this mix of shredded tofu, chipotle chilies and poblanos. This new item is the first to be advertised by Chipotle as vegan (depending on your toppings, of course). The tofu mixture reminded us a little bit of Trader Joe’s soyrizo, but with more juice and a spicier flavor. We had the sofritas on tacos with guacamole and cheese, but you can order it in any Chipotle creation—burritos, tacos, burrito bowls and salads.

Chipotle Research and Development Manager Lucas Barrowman said the introduction of tofu and sofritas to its menu has been slow—it’s the first new protein on the menu in 20 years. "We want to change the way people think about fast food," said Barrowman. There are no mystery ingredients in the sofritas. The tofu is 100 percent organic non-GMO from California artisan tofu producer, Hodo Soy. And for those extra conscious about where their food is coming from, Hodo Soy gets most of its soybeans from a Midwest farmers co-op, with farmers in Illinois and the greater Chicago area.

Restricted eaters may (rightly) worry about issues with food handling and cross-contamination issues in fast food kitchens. We got the chance to tour a Chipotle kitchen at a location where the sofritas will be offered, and we have no worries about cross-contamination. The tofu mixture is prepared elsewhere and shipped to the Chipotle restaurant. All pans, tongs and utensils are used once, straight out of the dishwasher, and there’s no mixing of ingredients. All condiments have their own serving utensil, and Chipotle workers will change their gloves if you ask them.

Barrowman said that half the battle in other cities where Chipotle has started serving sofritos has been to educate customers on tofu, but vegetarians, vegans and gluten-free eaters are no stranger to this protein. If the only tofu you’ve ever had had been the chalky white blocks in Chinese or Thai food, you’re in for a surprise.

Sofritos will be for sale in all Chicago Chipotle locations starting today. Skip your standard burrito order and give the spicy tofu a try.

By Jennifer A. Freeman