TVP may sound more like a medical condition than a food, but we’re here to inform you otherwise. With a not-so-savory full name — textured vegetable protein — you may be hesitant to cook with this meat alternative. Whether you’re a seasoned vegan or you’re just dipping your toes into the plant-based protein pond, read on to find out what TVP is and how it might benefit you.
What Is Textured Vegetable Protein?
Textured vegetable protein (TVP), sometimes called textured soy protein, is a low-cost protein source most often made from soybeans. (It can also be made from other plant sources like corn and wheat.) TVP is typically made by removing the carbohydrates and/or fats from soybeans in an effort to cut down on soy’s strong flavor.
Commercially, TVP is used as a meat extender, meaning it adds bulk to a given food while cutting cost. It can also be used as a meat replacement whether you’re vegetarian, vegan, or looking to add more plant-based protein to your repertoire.
You can find TVP in different forms including flakes and granules. You can also find prepared meals with TVP nuggets, balls, strips, and chunks. Many grocery stores carry TVP in their natural/organic foods section or you can order TVP online. Before you buy, make sure the label doesn’t include any artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.
What Are the Benefits of Textured Vegetable Protein?
1. It’s got a ton of protein
2. It’s low in fat
“Due to the low amount of saturated fat it can be a good alternative for those who are trying to minimize [saturated] fat,” says Mascha Davis, RDN, MPH, and founder of Nomadista Nutrition.
3. It has a long shelf life
From the date it’s packaged, TVP can typically last up to one year.
4. It’s relatively inexpensive
One 10-ounce bag of TVP — which houses roughly 11 servings — will typically run you less than $4. With such a long shelf life, you can buy TVP in bulk at a discounted price or wait for a great sale.
5. It’s a pretty solid meat sub
Lentil Bolognese and black bean tacos are great and all, but if you’re jonesing for a plant-based alternative that more closely resembles meat in taste and texture, TVP may be a better bet.
Textured Vegetable Protein Nutrition
As with plenty of other foods, it’s probably smart to eat TVP in moderation. “It is a processed food, so consuming too much might not be best,” Davis says. And while soy boasts some impressive health stats — especially its protein content — it has also come under fire for its potential to disrupt thyroid and reproductive hormones. That said, studies suggest the benefits of soy protein likely outweigh the potential drawbacks, making it a safe and healthy option.
What Does Textured Vegetable Protein Taste Like?
While you may see flavored options at your grocery store, textured vegetable protein is often sold plain. “Plain TVP doesn’t have much of a taste, and will take on the flavor of whatever it’s cooked with,” says Taylor Wolfram, MS, RDN, LDN, a private practice dietitian based in Chicago. When compared to different types of meat, one study found that TVP most resembled chicken in texture.
How Do You Cook Textured Vegetable Protein?
TVP is typically sold dry, fully cooked, and ready for you to rehydrate it at home. You can use it as a meat substitute in most any recipe that calls for ground chicken, turkey, or beef.
“Textured vegetable protein is very versatile,” Davis says. “You can use it as a ground meat substitute in vegan chili, Bolognese sauce, and tacos.”
If you’re new to TVP, Wolfram recommends sticking to recipes at first. But once you get a handle on the ideal ratios of TVP to liquid and how long it should cook, you can get creative with it.
Recipes Using Textured Vegetable Protein
Ready to get cooking? Try out these TVP recipes.
TVP Sloppy Joes
With this recipe from Hell Yeah It’s Vegan you can enjoy the sweet, tangy nostalgia of sloppy Joes without the ground beef.
5-Ingredient TVP Tacos
This recipe from Fresh Off the Grid is quick to prep and cook, and includes black beans for extra plant-based protein and fiber.
TVP Stuffed Peppers
Use this simple recipe hatched by Dietitian Debbie, which includes brown rice, black beans, and cheddar in the stuffing, to meal prep lunches for the week.