Soy Products

This section is about soy products like tofu, yuba, tofu noodles, natto, okara, tempeh, and tofu pouches for inari zushi. We’ll also discuss sweet soy products like soy pudding and sweetened dessert tofu.

Information about soy milk can be found in the Soy, Almond, & Other Non-Dairy Milks section. Information about soy meat can be found in the Meat Substitutes section.

For those who do not live in Japan, products sold on Rakuten Ichiba can be shipped to other countries via Rakuten Global Express (English), Rakuten’s official overseas delivery service (click here for Rakuten Global Express in Japanese). Learn how to use Rakuten Global Express to shop at Rakuten Ichiba here (English). Those in Japan can purchase any product that is carried on Rakuten Ichiba directly, of course without using Rakuten Global Express, which is only for overseas shoppers. However, Rakuten Global Express cannot send refrigerated or frozen items-everything will be shipped at room temperature. 

TOFU

Tofu really is everywhere in Japan, and there are many different types available. They include:

– Thick deep fried tofu (厚揚げ – Atsuage)
– Deep fried tofu (油揚げ – Aburaage)
– Grilled tofu (焼き豆腐 – Yakidōfu)
– Fried tofu fritter (がんもどき / 雁擬き – Ganmodoki) (just check for egg and possibly fish)

Atsuage text    Aburaage_by_Chidorian text    Yakidofu text    Ganmodoki

There is also yuba, or tofu skin, which is similar to tofu, but is made without a coagulant. It can often be found in the tofu section of supermarkets.

Of course there is also regular firm tofu (木綿豆腐/もめんどうふ/momendōfu, meaning “cotton tofu”) and soft/silken tofu (絹ごし豆腐/絹漉し豆腐/きぬごし豆腐/きぬごしどうふ – kinugoshidōfu, meaning “silk tofu”).

Although it may be difficult to find, island tofu/島豆腐/shimadōfu from Okinawa has been reported to be firmer than regular firm tofu.

A type of egg tofu product exists, and is not vegan. It contains actual egg and is called 玉子 とうふ (tamago tofu), meaning egg tofu. It has a yellow color and the kanji for egg is in the name. 

While tofu is abundant in Japan, it can be difficult to identify tofu that is calcium set or calcium fortified. The product packaging usually has no nutritional information (such as calcium content) and may also contain very little information about the material used as a coagulant.

Some tofu products an have anti-foaming agent, グリセリン脂肪酸エステル/guriserin shibōsan esuteru/glycerin fatty acid ester from an unspecified source. Riken Vitamin, a Japanese company based in Tokyo, has an English-language website which states that “Glycerin fatty acid ester is made from glycerin and animal and plant oils/fats or their fatty acids.”

For tofu packaging that does contain more information, it can be useful to look for the following words:

Coagulant – 凝固剤 (Gyōko-zai)
Calcium sulphate – 硫酸カルシウム (Ryūsan karushiumu)
Calcium carbonate – 炭酸カルシウム (Tansan karushiumu)
Magnesium chloride – 塩化マグネシウム (Enka maguneshiumu)
Nigari/bittern – にがり (according to the English website of the Takai Tofu and Soymilk Company, “Magnesium chloride is the main component of Nigari. Nigari is liquid produced by removing salt from seawater and it is rich in magnesium and calcium.”)

We’ll show a few examples of tofus here, but there is a seeming endless amount of fresh tofu products out there, so see what you can find in your local store. 

Namaage is a thicker version of aburaage. 

Hinode Kokusan Kinu Namaage/日の出 絹なまあげ. Ingredients: Soybeans (domestic, not genetically modified), edible vegetable oil/coagulant (magnesium chloride).

IMG_20200219_235953 (2)

The same company also makes the following aburaage product. 

Hinode Old-Fashioned Aburaage/日の出 昔ながらのしっとり油あげ. Ingredients: Soybeans (Canada, not genetically modified), edible vegetable oil/coagulant (magnesium chloride).

IMG_20200219_235653 (2)    IMG_20200219_235703

Kikuta Namaage from Ebetsu Soybeans/江別の大豆でつくった生揚. Ingredients: Soybeans (from Ebetsu, Hokkaido), edible rapeseed oil/ coagulant for tofu (magnesium-chloride containing materials (nigari)).

Kikuta Namaage front of package    Kikuta Namaage ingredient list

Per their website, Tochio aburaage is deep-fried by hand in edible rapeseed oil in the countryside of Niigata.

Tochio Aburaage/とちお油揚げ. Ingredients:  Whole soybeans (Japan), vegetable oil/coagulant (magnesium chloride (bittern)).

IMG_20200219_235544 (2)    IMG_20200219_235600 (2)

You can also buy freeze dried tofu (高野豆腐/kōyadōfu) to add to dishes such as soup. The following product is a cubed version, but it’s also available in larger blocks.

Misuzu Dried Tofu/みすずカットこうや. Ingredients: Soybeans (non-genetically modified), coagulant, baking soda.

Online purchase link: Rakuten Ichiba

Photo from website.

Misuzu Dried Tofu    

TOFU NOODLES

Convenience stores like Family Mart sometimes have a pre-packaged noodle-shaped tofu with sesame sauce made by a company called Kibun. The amino acids in the product are confirmed vegan, however, the manufacturer could not confirm if the sugar used in the product was bone char processed or not. However, as of February 2021, that flavor is no longer listed on the manufacturer’s website and only versions that contain animal products remain.

Kibun Tofu Somen Style/紀文 とうふそうめん風 and Kibun Tofu Somen Style with Mentsuyu Sauce/紀文 とうふそうめん風麺つゆ付き both contain fish in the sauce, katsuo/かつお/skipjack tuna (bonito) and saba/さば/mackerel.

Kibun Tofu Somen Style    Kibun Tofu Somen Style with Mentsuyu Sauce

NATTO

Nattō (納豆), made from fermented soybeans, is definitely an acquired taste (and texture). Many people can’t bring themselves to eat it, but if you can that’s great as it is available almost everywhere in Japan, including supermarkets and convenience stores. Just be careful because the accompanying sauce often contains fish. Look for かつお節エキス/katsuobushi ekisu/dried bonito extract in particular.

In addition, the natto bacteria can be grown on either a matrix of plant matter or a matrix of animal matter, such as fish or gelatin. This would not be listed on the ingredient list as only the natto bacteria would remain in the final product. This brief, four-minute video in English by Vegan in Japan and Italy is a helpful introduction to the topic: Is Natto Vegan? Not as vegan as I thought.

The following Miyako Natto was confirmed in 2017 by Vegan in Japan and Italy to not contain a fish sauce packet and not use animal matter to grow the natto bacteria. The website recommends putting the paper packaging in the burnable garbage.

Miyako Natto/都納豆.

Uses 100% domestic large soybeans.

Photos from website.

miyako natto

OKARA/UNOHANA

Okara (soy pulp) and okara powder can be found in many Japanese supermarkets. Some small tofu shops will also sell okara, leftover from tofu-making, for a low price or even give it away for free. It can be used as a thickener in dishes like soups and stews, to make vegan burger patties, and in baked goods like cookies and cakes.

Okara is also occasionally referred to as うの花/unohana, after the white flowers of the Deutzia shrub.

TopValu Okara Powder/トップバリュ おからパウダー. Ingredients: Soybeans.

Photo from website. 

TopValu Okara Powder    

TEMPEH

Tempeh can be found in some supermarkets and in organic/natural stores. Below is an example of tempeh available in Japan.

Marushin Shokuhin Tempeh/マルシン食品テンペ. Ingredients: Soybeans (domestic, non-genetically modified), tempeh fungus, rice vinegar.

Tempeh    Tempeh ingredients

Pura Tempeh Co. is located in Hokkaido and delivers throughout the country. Facebook (English) Instagram (English)

Terra Foods is a vegan company that makes a variety of products that can be ordered online. They also operate a very popular vegan hamburger and hot dog food truck in Tokyo.  Check our Non-Dairy Margarine & Butter, Cheese, Cream & Yogurts; Vegan Cheese section for information about their “Just Like Cheese” product and our Meat Substitutes section for information about their “Just Like Sausage,” Just Like Chik’n Nuggets” and “Just Like Beef Seasoning.”

Their tempeh “Mighty Patty” needs refrigeration and can be shipped frozen or unfrozen.

Terra Foods Mighty Patty/Terra Foods マイティーパティ. Ingredients: Soybeans (grown in Miyagi) (not genetically modified), tempeh starter.

Online purchase link: Terra Foods online shop (some English provided)

Photo from website.

terra foods mighty patty

TOFU POUCHES FOR INARI ZUSHI

Another way of using tofu is in small fried tofu pouches meant to fill with vinegared rice to make inari zushi. While all major convenience stores that were asked used fish in small amounts, often not noted in the ingredient list, to flavor their inari zushi, there are inari zushi pouches meant for you to fill with vinegared rice at home that do not contain fish powder.

See more about convenience store inari zushi in our Convenience Stores section of the blog.

• Misuzu O-Inari San (16 pc)/みすずおいなりさん. Ingredients: Fried tofu (soybeans, non-genetically modified), vegetable oil, sugar, reduced starch syrup, soy sauce, salt, brewed vinegar, yeast extract, processed starch powder, tofu coagulant. (Product contains wheat flour)

This flavored tofu pouch for making inari zushi at home is confirmed not to contain fish or animal ingredients in the finished product. However, it does use bone-char processed sugar. The bones that are used in the processing come from cows.

Online purchase link: Rakuten Ichiba

Photo from website.

misuzu o inari san

Here are a few examples of nonvegan tofu products that contain animal products. 

These Asahico Tofu Bars in Citrus Peel & Japanese Pepper Paste and Japanese Dashi flavors are not vegan, because they contain skipjack tuna (bonito) fish extract, katsuobushi ekisu/かつお節エキス.

Asahiko Tofu Bar Citrus Peel and Japanese Pepper Paste    Asahiko Tofu Bar Citrus Peel and Japanese Pepper Paste back of package

Asahiko Tofu Bar Japanese Dashi    Asahiko Tofu Bar Japanese Dashi back of package

Although Sagamiya makes some vegan products, they also make some products that have animal ingredients like honey, etc. This Sagamiya Beyond Tofu Bar protein product has honey/hachimitsu/はちみつ, so is not vegan. 

Sagamiya Beyond Tofu Bar    Sagamiya Beyond Tofu Bar back of package

SWEETENED TOFU PRODUCTS

SOY PUDDING

These Meito pudding bases can be made with either warmed adjusted or unadjusted soymilk.

Meito Chocolate Soy Pudding Base/名糖 豆乳チョコプリンの素. Ingredients: Sugar (domestically produced), glucose, cocoa powder, salt/flavoring, gelling agent (carrageenan), sweetener (aspartame/L-phenylalanine compound, acesulfame K), colorant (Monascus purpureus).

Contains none of the 7 specified allergens.

Online purchase link: Rakuten Ichiba

Photo from website.

Meito Chocolate Pudding Base

Meito Soy Pudding Base/名糖 豆乳プリンの素. Ingredients: Sugar (manufactured domestically), glucose, salt/flavoring, gelling agent (carrageenan), colorant (gardenia), sweetener (aspartame / L-phenylalanine compound, acesulfame K).

Contains none of the 7 specified allergens.

Online purchase link: Rakuten Ichiba

Photo from website.

Meito Pudding Base

Upscale stores may occasionally carry Provamel soy pudding. The products below were found in a Bio C’ Bon supermarket.

Provamel Soya with Chocolate Dessert/プロヴァメル オーガニック 豆乳デザート チョコレート 125g×4個 (English-language link). Ingredients: Water, raw cane sugar*, hulled soya beans (6.2%)*, fat reduced cocoa (3.3%), maize starch*, tapioca starch*, wheat starch*, sea salt.

* = organically grown/produced.

Online purchase link: Rakuten Ichiba

 Provamel dessert    Provamel dessert back of package

The old packaging is shown below. As of February 2021, this version is still available to purchase online. 

Provamel Dessert Soya Chocolate/プロヴァメルオガーニック豆乳デザートチョコレット味. Ingredients: Water, raw cane sugar*, hulled soya beans (6.2%)*, fat reduced cocoa (3.3%), maize starch*, tapioca starch*, wheat starch*, sea salt.

* = organically grown/produced.

Online purchase link: Amazon Japan

20200229_192349 (2)

Sato no Yuki has a range of flavors of soymilk puddings. Some flavors have amanatto, which are sugared, non-fermented beans.

Sato No Yuki Kandofu Soybean Pudding, Adzuki Beans/さとの雪 感豆富 大豆のプリン 重ね小豆. Ingredients: Soymilk (including soybeans: not genetically modified), adzuki bean amanatto, sugar, syrup containing rare sugar, adzuki powder, soybean flour, salt/coagulant (crude seawater magnesium chloride (nigari)), thickener (processed starch), sodium citrate, coloring agents (caramel, gardenia), flavoring.

Photo from website. 

Sato No Yuki Kandofu Soybean Pudding, Adzuki Beans

The Black Tea flavor was released on March 8, 2020, but we were not able to locate it on the company’s website during a review in February 2021, so this flavor may have been discontinued. 

Sato No Yuki Kandofu Soybean Pudding, Black Tea/さとの雪 感豆富 大豆のプリン 和紅茶. Ingredients: Soymilk (including soybeans: not genetically modified), sugar, syrup containing rare sugar, black tea, soybean powder, salt/coagulant (crude seawater magnesium chloride (nigari)), thickener (modified starch), trisodium citrate, Monascus purpureus pigment.

Photo from website.

Sato No Yuki Kantofu Soybean Pudding, Japanese black tea

Per the PR Times, the following flavor uses 100% wasanbon sugar. This is a sugar made using traditional methods. NHK World has a brief, 2 minute video in English detailing the process of how to make it called The Sweetest Reward. The process appears to have nothing to do with bone char processing or filtering. 

Sato No Yuki Kandofu Soybean Pudding/さとの雪 感豆富 大豆のプリン. Ingredients: Soymilk (including soybeans: not genetically modified), wasanbon sugar, soy powder, salt/coagulant (crude seawater magnesium chloride (nigari)), thickener (processed starch), sodium citrate.

sato no yuki plain pudding front of package    sato no yuki plain pudding back of package.jpg

Sato No Yuki Kandofu Soybean Pudding, Houjicha Adzuki/さとの雪 感豆富 大豆のプリンほうじ茶小豆. Ingredients: Soymilk (including soybeans: not genetically modified), adzuki amanatto, starch syrup, sugar, houjicha, wasanbon sugar, soy powder, salt/coagulant (crude seawater magnesium chloride (nigari)), thickener (processed starch), sodium citrate, cocoa pigment.

sato no yuki houjicha front of package    sato no yuji houjicha back of package

Sato No Yuki Kandofu Soybean Pudding, Matcha Adzuki/さとの雪 感豆富 大豆のプリン抹茶小豆. Ingredients: Soymilk (including soybeans: not genetically modified), adzuki amanatto, starch syrup, sugar, matcha, wasanbon sugar, soy powder, salt/coagulant (crude seawater magnesium chloride (nigari)), thickener (processed starch), sodium citrate, gardenia pigment.

sato no yuki matcha pudding front of package    sato no yuki matcha pudding back of package

SWEETENED DESSERT TOFU

The entire Sweets Tofu series can be viewed on the Asahico website. As of a review of the website in February 2021, all four flavors (custard, almond tofu, caramel sauce, and berry berry berry sauce) have glycerin fatty acid esters of unknown origin. Other than that, none of the ingredient lists show any ingredients which appear to possibly be of animal origin. 

Asahico Sweets Tofu, Caramel Sauce/​スイーツとうふ カラメル(ソース付き)Ingredients: Tofu (Whole soybeans (not genetically modified), sugar, vegetable oil, salt), sauce (high-fructose corn syrup, sugar). Additives: Tofu (coagulating agent (magnesium chloride (nigari)), defoaming agent (glycerin fatty acid esters), flavoring, carotene pigment, stabilizer (xanthan gum).

Product contains soybeans.

20191010_194008 (2)    20191010_194018 (2)

This plain sweetened tofu may be good eaten with fruit- the image on the front of the package suggests pairing it with strawberries. Contains inulin for intestinal support. Recommended for breakfast and dessert. 

Machida Shokuhin Intestinal Support Tofu Sweets, Plain/町田食品 腸活とうふスイーツ プレーンタイプ. Ingredients: Soybeans (America, Canada), craft oligosaccaride syrup, inulin, salt/coagulant (magnesium chloride (nigari)), yellow safflower pigment.

Tofu Sweets    Tofu Sweets (back of package)

Sagamiya, the maker of Beyond Tofu, makes various flavored tofus. They generally appear to be available on the market for a short time, before disappearing to make way for another product. The following photos were taken in a Maruetsu supermaket in March 2020.

Sagamiya P.P.L. (Plant Protein Lab) Tofu, Cocoa/相模屋P.P.LTOFUココア風味. Ingredients: Tofu cream, processed starch, cocoa powder, dried okara, oligosaccharides, salt/coagulant (calcium chloride (nigari)), flavor, cacao pigment.

sagamiya ppl tofu    sagamiya ppl tofu ingredients    

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