Cooking With Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP)

Soy Protein Meat Substitute

TVP or TSP, textured vegetable protein

Westend61 / Getty Images

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.

Where to Find TVP

TVP can be found in the bulk foods section of many natural foods stores, such as Whole Foods 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. TVP has a long shelf life and can be kept unrefrigerated in your pantry.

TVP is a registered trademark of agricultural giant Archer Daniels Midland, which created the product in the 1960s. TVP is virtually interchangeable with TSP, which stands for textured soy protein, and is sometimes also called soy meat. In the U.K., it may be called soya chunks.

Cooking With TVP

Because it is a dehydrated product, TVP needs to be reconstituted in hot water for about 10 minutes or more in the cooking process before being eaten. Most recipes will include this step. It's quick cooking and can add a great source of cheap and low-fat protein to many dishes. For more-liquid dishes such as soups, stews, and pasta sauces, you can add 1/2 cup of dry TVP and it will rehydrate during simmering.

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 a 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.

Nutrition Information for TVP

A 1/4 cup serving of TVP has 80 calories, 0 grams fat, 7 grams carbohydrate (4 grams fiber, 3 grams sugars), and 12 grams protein. It is a good source of iron, with 15 percent of your daily value in 1/4 cup.

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, be sure to check the packaging as some flavored TVP has oil added.

The protein in TVP is a complete protein, with all of the amino acids you need. This is an advantage for a vegetarian or vegan diet where many foods have incomplete protein.

While TVP made from soybeans is naturally gluten-free, you should check the packaging to ensure it is labeled as gluten-free. There could be cross-contamination with gluten if a facility also processes wheat.