What Is Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP)?

Buying, Cooking, and Recipes

TVP in a bowl with chopsticks

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Agricultural giant Archer Daniels Midland created Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) in the 1960s and still holds the trademark on the product today. The generic name is textured soy protein, and it's found in most processed soy meat substitutes such as soy sausage, soy burgers, and soy chicken strips.

What Is Textured Vegetable Protein?

TVP is a high-fiber, high-protein meat substitute made from soy flour. It has no fat or cholesterol. TVP is available in a variety of flavored and unflavored varieties, as well as different sizes—from large chunks to small flakes. Because it is cheap and widely available, it is popular among people cooking on a budget. It is also used in vegetarian and vegan recipes.

How to Cook Textured Vegetable Protein

Because it is a dehydrated product, TVP needs to be reconstituted in hot water or broth for about 10 minutes or more in the cooking process before it becomes palatable. Most recipes include this step. It cooks quickly and can add a great source of cheap and low-fat protein to many dishes. For liquidy dishes such as soups, stews, and pasta sauces, you can add 1/2 cup of dry TVP and let it rehydrate while it simmers.

Since TVP has a similar texture to ground meat when cooked, it works well in dishes such as vegetarian casseroles, soups, stew, and chili. TVP absorbs spices and flavorings well, much like tofu, so it is an extremely versatile vegan and vegetarian grocery staple.

TVP flakes, which are smaller than TVP chunks, are preferred for some dishes. For example, TVP veggie burgers have better consistency with the flakes. You can decide which size you like as a substitute for ground beef in recipes for TVP Sloppy Joes, or vegetarian shepherd's pie. Sauté rehydrated TVP with diced tomatoes, diced onion, and chili powder for an easy taco filling.

What Does It Taste Like?

On its own, TVP has almost no flavor. It's often used as mock meat and can be purchased already seasoned to resemble the flavor of beef, bacon, ham, chicken, and sausage. It's also available unseasoned.

Textured Vegetable Protein Recipes

Textured Vegetable Protein absorbs the flavor of whatever sauce you cook it in, making it a versatile way to add heft and health to a number of traditionally meat-based dishes.

Where to Buy Textured Vegetable Protein

TVP can be found in the bulk foods section of most natural foods stores and community co-ops. Also look for it in the flour and baking aisle of your grocery store, including offerings from Bob's Red Mill. Additionally, you can purchase it online.

Storage

TVP has a long shelf life; kept dry in an airtight container, unflavored products last indefinitely. Flavored varieties can be kept in a sealed container in your pantry for up to a year. Leftovers of dishes made with TVP should be refrigerated in an airtight container and consumed within three or four days.

Nutrition and Benefits

A 1/4 cup of TVP (measured from the package, before being reconstituted) contains 80 calories, 0 grams of fat, 7 grams of carbohydrates (4 grams of fiber and 3 grams of sugars), and 12 grams of protein. It is also a good source of iron, delivering 15 percent of the recommended daily value.

TVP is a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine of the essential amino acids the human body needs to function. This is an advantage for a vegetarian or vegan diet, as fewer plant-based foods qualify as a complete protein.

TVP has no fat, as the fat in the soybean flour or soybean concentrate is removed during production. This makes it a good choice to replace or extend meat, especially ground beef, which can be a high source of fat and cholesterol. However, check the packaging as some flavored TVP contains added oil.

It's also important to note that TVP is a processed food, and flavored varieties may contain a significant amount of sodium and other preservatives.

While TVP made from soybeans is naturally gluten-free, look at the packaging to ensure it was processed in a gluten-free facility as cross-contamination can occur otherwise.