What is Textured Vegetable Protein?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Textured vegetable protein or TVP is a soy product which is low in fat and high in fiber and protein. It is often used by vegetarians and vegans to up their protein intake and to mimic the texture of meat in a variety of dishes, and some emergency preparedness organizations recommend that people keep TVP around the house to have a readily available source of protein in a disaster. Textured vegetable protein also appears in many backpacking recipes because it is extremely lightweight and easy to prepare.

When making vegetarian chili, some cooks add texturized vegetable protein (TVP) that resembles meat.
When making vegetarian chili, some cooks add texturized vegetable protein (TVP) that resembles meat.

This food is made with defatted soy flour, which is a byproduct of the manufacturing process used to make soybean oil. The soy flour is mixed with water, cooked, extruded, and then dried. As it dries, the textured vegetable protein loses the bulk of its weight, turning into small flakes which resemble breakfast cereal, or perhaps dried vegetables. When stored in a cool, dry place out of the light, textured vegetable protein can keep for years, making it a highly shelf-stable staple.

Although soy is a high-quality source of dietary protein, the same volume of meat contains more of this crucial nutrient.
Although soy is a high-quality source of dietary protein, the same volume of meat contains more of this crucial nutrient.

To use textured vegetable protein, cooks need to rehydrate it, typically by soaking it in warm or boiling water. Just like tofu, textured vegetable protein has a very mild flavor, and it absorbs flavors readily, making it an excellent addition to a wide variety of dishes. The texture is slightly chewy and resilient, making it reminiscent of many meats. The quick cooking time of textured vegetable protein makes it popular with cooks in a hurry.

Many health food stores and large markets stock textured vegetable protein, sometimes in bulk form for people who want a great deal of it. It is also a common ingredient in many vegetarian mixes for things like chili, sloppy Joes, and hamburgers. You may also see it sold as texturized soy protein or textured soy protein; all of these names refer to the same end product.

There are a number of ways to use textured vegetable protein. TVP can be added to soups and stews to add protein and texture, for example, and it is a popular ingredient in vegetarian chili. It can also be used to make vegetarian patties, in which case it can be used plain or combined with grains for more fiber. It also makes a good filling for burritos and tacos. TVP can also be included in sauces like red sauce for pasta for a little extra texture, and to make up for missing meats, for people who find themselves reminiscent about ingredients like ground beef in their sauces.

There is considerable debate as to the possible adverse health effects of soy products.
There is considerable debate as to the possible adverse health effects of soy products.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

elizabeth23

There are some lame vegetarian protein sources out there. I don't like tofu, even mixed with other things, because the taste is sometimes strange. I also have trouble with large amounts of dairy. The nice thing about texturized vegetable protein is I like the consistency, it's nice and solid, and it goes well with lots of different things. There are even different recipes for making TVP depending on what you like.

accordion

I love textured vegetable protein. It really can be very versatile. Even if you do not like the taste or texture by itself, it can also be almost unnoticeable in things like soups, but still give the food so many nutrients.

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