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.
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.
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.