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Chipotle's first ever major menu addition is vegan tofu

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Chipotle stock logo (1020)
Chipotle stock logo (1020)

For the first time in its 20 year history, Chipotle is making a big change to its menu — by adding tofu. After a year-long testing period, the Mexican fast food chain will roll out Sofritas, the official name for the shredded organic tofu braised with poblanos, chipotle chiles, and spices, in its restaurants nationwide.

The decision wasn't made lightly — Chipotle's culinary manager Nate Appleman told Fast Company that they focused on making a product that tasted better than most other tofu out there, and preparing it with the best ingredients. The company partnered with soy producer Hodo Soy and worked with them to make their organic, GMO-free, soy-based protein into a tasty taco filling. Over the course of the year, Appleman perfected the recipe, experimenting with different Mexican flavors and eventually settling on a chili-based flavor that mimics chorizo.

"We came up with something that I think even if you're not a vegetarian or vegan, you could eat it and love it."

Right now, tofu-based menu items comprise about 3 percent of Chipotle sales, which isn't bad for minimal marketing and limited availability. The company hopes the meatless option will draw in new vegan and vegetarian customers, as well as customers who appreciate the company's environmental push. Chipotle has always been conscious of the world's dependence on meat, sometimes going to silly lengths to show people the horrors of factory farming. Appleman seems optimistic that the restaurant chain's tofu option could convert some of its meat-eating customers and cut meat sales. It's certainly possible, but that will take time — and some people will always go to Chipotle and just want to bite into a meat-filled burrito.