Tofu & Soy Products

This section is about soy products like tofu, yuba, tofu noodles, tofu rice, 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). They will combine your Rakuten Ichiba (Japanese) order with orders from other shopping websites, including those that do not ship overseas, and send everything to you. They do not send refrigerated or frozen items- if you order them, they will be sent to you unrefrigerated. Sign-up is free. Learn how to use the service 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.

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 – Ganmo/ganmodoki (“mock goose”) (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

These Topvalu Tofu Noodles (Aeon house brand) don’t come with any sauce, but you could add soy sauce or another sauce yourself. The photo was taken in a branch of MyBasket in April 2021. 

•  TopValu Tofu Noodles/トップバリュ とうふ麺. Ingredients: Low-fat soymilk (includes soybeans), soybeans/gelling agent (sodium alginate), emulsifier, coagulant.

Tofu noodles

TOFU RICE

Two of the items in Asahico’s Toffu Protein line are certified vegan by VegeProject Japan. They are both tofu rice (like a tofu version of cauliflower rice, where the ingredient is chipped small to imitate a rice grain). Two of the meat substitute items in the series are not certified but don’t show any clearly identifiable animal ingredients from the ingredient lists, leaving it unclear if animal products are actually included. Check our Meat Substitutes section for information on those two products. 

Here are the certified vegan products. Photos taken April 2021 in a branch of Life supermarket. 

This first version actually does contain black rice in addition to tofu rice. 

Asahico Toffu Protein Tofu Rice with Black Rice/Asahico Toffu Protein 豆腐のごはん黒米入り. Ingredients: Black rice (domestically produced), whole soybeans (not genetically modified)/coagulant (magnesium chloride (nigari)), anti-foaming agent (glycerin fatty acid ester). 

Product contains soybeans. 

Asahico toffu protein tofu rice with black rice    Asahico toffu protein tofu rice with black rice ingredient list

Asahico Toffu Protein Tofu Rice with Pearl Barley/Asahico Toffu Protein 豆腐のごはんもち麦入り. Ingredients: Whole soybeans (from America, not genetically modified), barley (pearl barley), salt/coagulant (magnesium chloride (nigari)), anti-foaming agent (glycerin fatty acid ester). 

Product contains soybeans. 

Asahico Toffu Protein Tofu Rice with Pearl Barley    Asahico Toffu Protein Tofu Rice with Pearl Barley back of package

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 as a rule, the accompanying sauce 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 Vegan Cheese section for information about their “Just Like Cheese” product and our Meat Substitutes section for information about their “Just Like Sausage” and “Just Like Chik’n Nuggets.”

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 products such as vegan cheese (check our Vegan Cheese section for details), 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

Sagamiya’s previous Nomu Tofu (not pictured here) and Beyond Tofu To-Go and current (as of April 2021) Beyond Tofu Latte and Beyond Tofu Latte Mocha are not vegan as they contain honey/はちみつ. However, the front of the cups of the Beyond Tofu To-Go, Latte, and Latte Mocha previously said “100% Plant-Based Foods” even though the products contain honey, and now this wording seems to be removed (and the To-Go version says “honey attached” in Japanese), which represents an improvement in labeling. 

Beyond Tofu To-Go    Beyond Tofu Latte    Beyond Tofu Latte Mocha    

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 with Caramel Sauce/さとの雪 感豆富 大豆のプリン カラメルソース入り. Ingredients: Soymilk (includes soybeans) (domestically produced), tofu cream (edible vegetable oil, soybean powder), caramel sauce, sugar, rare sugar-containing syrup, rice powder, salt/trehalose, thickener (processed starch, thickening polysaccharides), coagulant (crude seawater magnesium chloride (nigari)), sodium citrate, flavoring, emulsifier.

Product contains soybeans.

Photo from website.

Sato No Yuki Kandofu Soybean Pudding with Caramel Sauce    

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 (includes soybeans) (domestically produced), adzuki amanatto, sugar, rare-sugar containing syrup, houjicha, rice flour, salt/trehalose, thickener (processed starch), coagulant (crude seawater magnesium chloride (nigari)),  sodium citrate, cocoa pigment.

Product contains soybeans. 

 Photo from website.   

Sato No Yuki Kandofu Soybean Pudding, Houjicha Adzuki

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 (includes soybeans) (domestically produced), adzuki amanatto, sugar, rare sugar-containing syrup, matcha, rice flour, salt/trehalose, thickener (processed starch), coagulant (crude seawater magnesium chloride (nigari)), sodium citrate, gardenia pigment.

Product contains soybeans.

Photo from website.

Sato No Yuki Kandofu Soybean Pudding, Matcha Adzuki    

One soy pudding that is not vegan is the TopValu Vegetive Pudding made with Soy Milk. The first ingredient is eggs (keiran/鶏卵/hen’s eggs). 

TopValu Vegetive Pudding made with Soymilk

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)

These sweetened pudding-like tofu products were found at Lawson convenience store in June 2021. 

• Chewy Tofu/ぷにもちっTOFU. Ingredients: Tofu cream (domestically produced), high-fructose corn syrup, salt/processed starch, coagulant. 

Product contains soybeans. 

Chewy Tofu    Chewy Tofu ingredient panel

• Chewy Tofu, Cocoa/ぷにもちっTOFU ココア. Ingredients: Tofu cream (domestically produced), high-fructose corn syrup, cocoa powder, salt/processed starch, coagulant, flavoring. 

Product contains soybeans. 

Chewy Tofu, Cocoa Flavor    Chewy Tofu, Cocoa Flavor ingredient panel

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)

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