Cooking With Textured Vegetable Protein

This meat substitution looks and taste like ground beef

Vegan Chili sin carne
Vegan Chili. Cathérine / Getty Images

If you are a vegetarian or just looking to eat less meat, there are a lot of options available, from substituting certain vegetables for meat, adding grains and legumes to your diet, or using meat alternatives. Textured vegetable protein, also known as TVP, textured soy protein, or meatless crumbles, looks similar to ground meat. It has the same crumbly texture and is a very versatile option for cooking.

TVP is a manmade product that was invented by an agricultural processing company in the 1960s. It is made from a by-product of extracting soybean oil and can contain between 50 to 70 percent soy protein. It is created by extruding the soy protein, which results in a material with a texture similar to meat. It can be formed in a variety of shapes, including chunks, flakes, nuggets, and strips. In its dehydrated form, textured vegetable protein is very lightweight. It is often used in emergency preparedness kits or in camping meals. When you cook with TVP, you don't have to worry about cross-contamination in your kitchen or expiration dates on the meat.

Types of TVP

Textured vegetable protein is available in a two different forms—crumbles that are sold either dry or seasoned. The dry variety comes in a sealed container and must be rehydrated prior to use. It can be boiled like pasta or simply cooked into the recipe. Seasoned TVP will come with seasonings already added. For example "beef flavored" TVP will taste and look similar to ground beef.

TVP can be found in many natural food stores or larger grocery stores. It's best to taste a few varieties of TVP and decide what brand and form you like best. Some people find that TVP can be a little sweet, so keep that in mind as you use it.

Cooking With TVP

When cooking with TVP, a great place to start is your favorite recipes that use ground meat and replace the beef with the meatless crumbles. This is an easy swap that will have a lot of health (and environmental benefits); if the recipe has ground meat, just replace the same amount with textured vegetable protein.

You can also choose vegetarian recipes that feature textured vegetable protein in place of typical ground meat, like in tacos, burgers, "meat" loaf, and chili.