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Can I eat tofu (that tastes like meat) with dairy?

by Rabbi Shlomo Chein

  

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Question:

I understand there is a prohibition against eating poultry and dairy because people could confuse poultry for meat. This makes sense. But I had a Kosher meal yesterday with tofu. The tofu could have definitely be confused as meat. Why isn't there a prohibition against eating tofu with dairy?

Answer:

Fair question.

The difference is the nature of the "confusion". This law wasn’t instituted because our sages were concerned about people confusing taste (chicken does not taste like meat1); the concern was confusing the food-type.

Tofu can be made to taste like some meat products. However, tofu is essentially a completely different food-type than meat (legume vs. animal). So much so that tofu's claim to fame is that it is not meat; it is a vegetarian alternative to meat.

In people's mind the difference conceptually between tofu and meat is as clear as night and day, and the permissibility of one is no indication on the other.

Chicken, on the other hand, is similar in concept, Halacha, and life-form to meat. It is very much the same food-type. It is the flesh of a land creature that requires the same methods of slaughtering, inspection, and removal of blood that beef requires. It is sold together in butcher shops and at the deli section of your local supermarket.

Very few (if any) people make a "concrete" distinction between chicken/poultry and meat, and being allowed to eat one with dairy can easily lead to misunderstandings about the other. Which is why it was prohibited.

See also Are chicken and fish considered meat and not allowed with dairy?

Footnotes

  • 1. Furthermore, the Talmud actually speaks of permitted foods that taste similar to non-Kosher foods.

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RELATED CATEGORIES

Mitzvot » Kosher » Meat and Dairy

Kosher
Literally means "fit." Commonly used to describe foods which are permitted by Jewish dietary laws, but is also used to describe religious articles (such as a Torah scroll or Sukkah) which meet the requirements of Jewish law.
Halacha
Jewish Law. All halacha which is applicable today is found in the Code of Jewish Law.