The ability of a biocatalyst to tolerate furan inhibitors present in hemicellulose hydrolysates is important for the production of renewable chemicals. This study shows EMFR9, a furfural-tolerant mutant of ethanologenic E. coli LY180, has also acquired tolerance to 5-hydroxymethyl furfural (5-HMF). The mechanism of action of 5-HMF and furfural appear similar. Furan tolerance results primarily from lower expression of yqhD and dkgA, two furan reductases with a low Km for NADPH. Furan tolerance was also increased by adding plasmids encoding a NADPH/NADH transhydrogenase (pntAB). Together, these results support the hypothesis that the NADPH-dependent reduction of furans by YqhD and DkgA inhibits growth by competing with biosynthesis for this limiting cofactor.