What Is Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP)?
While it may sound more like a science experiment than a pantry staple, textured vegetable protein (TVP) can help you create hearty meals with no meat in sight. Also sometimes labeled as "textured soy protein," this legume-based food is vegan-friendly and helps bulk up pastas, soups, sandwiches, and more.
What Is Textured Vegetable Protein?
Made from defatted soy flour, TVP is a meat substitute that's high in both protein and fiber, while having zero fat or cholesterol. After processing, the TVP is a dry, shelf-stable product that comes in a variety of shapes and flavors. It can be made into small granules (similar to ground beef) or large chunks (to mimic chopped chicken). Most TVP comes unflavored, but you can find some brands that will add spices to the product, such as taco filling flavoring or imitation beef flavoring.
Although it's popular in vegetarian and vegan cooking, many cooks choose to use TVP because it's quite budget-friendly. It can easily be incorporated into traditional meat dishes, such as bolognese or shepherd's pie, to stretch grocery budgets without sacrificing flavor. You may have even eaten TVP before and never even realized it, as many food companies use it in their products for cheaper production prices, such as Betty Crocker Bac-Os Bacon Flavor Bits and Hormel No Beans Chili.
What Does Textured Vegetable Protein Taste Like?
The beauty of TVP is that it has practically no flavor, meaning you can dress it up to taste however you'd like. It's commonly used as a mock meat, so it can be seasoned to resemble beef, bacon, chicken, sausage, and more. You can even find some pre-flavored varieties for sale if you're not interested in seasoning it yourself.
How Do You Cook with Textured Vegetable Protein?
Since TVP is dehydrated, it needs to be reconstituted in hot water or broth for around 10 minutes before it becomes palatable. For dishes that are already liquidly, like soups or pasta sauces, the dry TVP can simply be stirred in to rehydrate while it simmers.
The way you cook your TVP depends on which shape you purchased. For TVP granules, the texture is similar to ground beef. That makes it ideal for chili, sloppy joes, taco filling, and shepherd's pie. Larger pieces of TVP, often labeled as "chunks" or "slices," can be battered and fried to resemble chicken nuggets, thrown into stir-fries, and used to create a meaty stew.
Where Can I Buy Textured Vegetable Protein?
TVP can often be found at your local health food store, either in the baking aisle or in the bulk food bins. It can also be ordered online with a variety of shapes and flavors. Try some of these to get yourself started: