Meat-Free Fridays: What in the World is TVP?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Each Friday during Lent, the dailySpark will feature a different meat-free main dish. Whether you observe Lent or not, we can all benefit from learning about alternate, affordable proteins.

It looks a bit like cereal, but it smells saltier and tastes more savory than sweet. It's a cheap, versatile and incredibly easy to use protein source that is sometimes hard to distinguish from ground meat. It's TVP. Textured Vegetable Protein. (TVP is in the front of the photo of soy products accompanying this article.)

Let's demystify this vegetarian protein, which can be used in everything from chili and meatballs to tacos and shepherd's pie.

What is TVP?
TVP, or textured vegetable protein, is a byproduct of soybean oil production. After the oil is extracted from soybeans, soy flour remains. All the fat from the soybean remains in the oil, so only the defatted flour remains.

The soy flour is then heated under pressure and then pressed through a revolving knife, which cuts the TVP. Most of the water evaporates because of the heat and pressure, leaving behind dehydrated flakes, granules and other bits, depending on the production process. TVP is mostly commonly seen in flake or granule form, but it can also be made into cutlets or other, larger shapes.

Once rehydrated, the TVP has a spongy and fibrous texture.

TVP is considered by many to be quite "processed," compared with other vegetarian protein that comes from "whole food" sources like beans or lentils. TVP is convenient when you want to make a vegetarian version of a dish but keep that "meat" texture.

TVP is useful for people who are new to vegetarian cooking and want to adapt favorite recipes or for people who want to lighten up favorite meat recipes. It also can be used with ground beef, turkey, or lamb to stretch a dish. TVP is often used in prisons, schools, and other institutions in place of or alongside meat because of its affordability.

A 10-ounce bag of TVP costs less than $3 and yields double that amount. In bulk bins, it goes for $2 or so a pound, which is much cheaper than an equal amount of ground beef.

1/4 cup flakes (dry, yields 1/2 c cooked)
80 calories
0 g fat
7 g carbs
4 g fiber
12 g protein
2 mg sodium

How Do You Use It?
TVP is often a "transition" food for vegetarians because it looks and feels so much like mince/ground meat. Swap it for meat in tacos, chili, soups, stews, meatloaf, meatballs, sloppy joes, spaghetti sauce, lasagna--pretty much any of your favorites. Season it as you would your meat, and you're good to go!
TVP can either be rehydrated before or during cooking. For tacos, for example, add twice as much water as TVP, add some seasonings and let it simmer until tender, about 10 minutes.

When making soup or chili, add the TVP straight to the pot and let it rehydrate while the rest of the ingredients cook.

Find TVP recipes here.

Have you ever eaten TVP? Would you? How do you cook it?

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METAFUKARI 9/17/2020
I only use TVP if I am making something with needed "Ground meat" its very good occasionally! Report
SPARKNB 5/24/2020
Way back in ancient times, when I was first a vegetarian, I had picked a good quantity super cheap & kept it in a big jar, but never had any idea on how to use it, and so never used it, & because of that & it looked 'weird', I think it got pitched into the trash during one of our moves. Now, during end of beginning of covid as things are slowly starting to re-open, I might pick some up at the local co-op (where I got mine those decades ago) as a great long-term emergency protein & meat extender. As a hypothyroid woman who stopped being strictly veg because soy—esp. processed soy—is problematic for me, probably won't incorporate TVP in my foods *too* often, but a good occasional change from need for quick veg protein from beans or tofu (tho I LOVE tempeh!). Report
NANASUEH 3/9/2020
thanks Report
MUSICNUT 12/5/2019
Thanks for the great article! :) Report
thanks for the information Report
After reading the comments seems we have wonderful chefs here on Spark. I have not tried it so I have no comment on the taste.
I am leery of Soy products for myself due to Cancer in the past, just my opinion.
I do enjoy many meat free meals.
I would have to do some more research on the product in correlation with my health before I would commit. Report
I use it in chili when quorn mince would be expensive and not tasted much. Report
I gave up sloppy joes and now have them back thanks to tvp. Amazon carries it if you can't find it in the grocery. Report
in this article in says to use twice the amount of water as TVP when making tacos.
Don't do that... Use equal amounts of water to TVP. When I make it for me & my room mate, I use 1 cup of TVP to one cup of boiling water and then mix it in with a can of diced tomatoes and seasonings.
Where can I get TVP? I looked in my local supermarkets to no avail. Can someone maybe message me where it might be found? Thanks in advance!!!! Report
I have used the small flakes and also cubes which were about 3/4 to 1 inch on a side. The cubes were dark brown, and I cooked them as if I were cooking stew.

I had to either reconstitute first in water or broth, or put extra liquid in the pot for the reconstituting.

So I use the crumbles (flakes) in any conglomeration recipe that calls for crumbled ground meat, whether beef or chicken or pork, especially if it had a flavorful sauce. Think barbecue sauce or teriyaki sauce or a thickened stock. The TVP takes on the flavors it is cooked in.

The cooking can be quickened by reconstituting/cooking with all ingredients in a pressure cooker.

The reconstituted flakes can also be used to "extend" a recipe to feed more guests that you hadn't planned on, say for a hamburger spaghetti sauce, sloppy joes, chili, etc. Just figure about 1/4 cup for each extra person, and add some extra sauce. Report
I add TVP to the water in canned tuna before adding chopped tomatoes, cukes, green onions and maybe a little yogurt, mayo or grated cheese. Serve on toast. Yum! Report
We use TVP like oatmeal - I love it with chocolate and peanut butter, or a splash of almond milk, vanilla extract and fruit. Report
Don't knock it unless you've tried it because like tofu, it takes on the flavour of whatever you are cooking. Since I am not a fan of ground beef, this is a great substitute and if you want a meaty taste, add about 1/2 tsp. marmite when rehydrating. When preparing spaghetti sauce (home made) add tvp and you won't know the difference from ground beef. Give it a try.
I remember this stuff when I was having to survive out of food pantry's. If your dirt poor and one step away from a cardboard box, don't say you will never eat it. Because you will at some point. I also remember some weight mgt control company using it. I want to say it was Nutrisystem but I won't swear to it. As far as Jack in the Box tacos, you can't tell the difference. I did not know that until I read this article. Report
For all the people saying "gross," don't knock it until you tried it. And for the people saying it's not cheaper, the different is because TVP is dehydrated. No water weight. For the equivalent volume of 1 lb of ground beef, you probably only need to rehydrate 1/4 lb of TVP.

Anyway, I enjoy the stuff for a change of pace and I can even get my husband to eat it in things. My favorite is a veggie shepherd's pie, made w/TVP, fresh veggies and mashed potatoes on top. Yum, yum. If you cook it in a casserole like that, you probably won't even notice the difference. Report
I've tried it but am not a huge fan, the consistency is kind of spongy. If I was a vegetarian I would probably use it for some variety, but for now when I incorporate meat-free meals into my diet I prefer to use pulses and tofu. Good idea extending ground meats with it though, I might try that sometime. Report
I am a vegetarian who recently developed an allergy to seafood. I've considered TVP and some of the other options, but I am concerned about the soy. My mother had breast cancer and so did my paternal grandmother (both survived). Any ideas? Report
I first started using TVP for financial reasons. The way it is cheap is that you add lots of water to rehydrate it. Now i actually crave TVP sloppy joes sometimes, and my husband does too. With homemade rolls - i use my breadmaker for the dough - it makes a very special meal. I add diced raw vegetables to my sloppy joes - celery, onion, green pepper, cabbage, zucchini, etc. Report
TVP Sloppy Joes.... mmmm.... Report
The first I remember seeing TVP was in the ingredients list of Hamburger Helper - probably 40 years ago or more. I do use the pre-made veggie ground-round products, esp in chili or spaghetti sauce. Guess I need to try the do it yourself version! Report
I've never been able to stand TVP when I've run across it. And I've been avoiding processed foods so a big NO, that and I avoid non-traditional soy products. TVP is about as far from a whole food as you can get. If I want a meatless burger I will make one with various grains, cheese and veg. Report
I'm not a vegitarian but not exactly a big meat eater. This sounds like an interesting option that I would be willing to give a try.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Report
I'm a fan of the Morningstar Farm products- well, I just have the Vegan Grillers from time to time since adopting a vegan diet- and a most of them just use textured vegetable protein as a base. The thing I like best about TVP is that I can control the additives and cut down on my sodium .I just add garlic and Spike, or hot spices if it's for taco filling. It's really cheap, much cheaper than the fake "meat" stuff like Morningstar. Since it doubles in size when cooked, a pound of it goes a long way! Report
I've never tried it. Never even seen or heard of it before. I really would like to give it a try. I love finding new foods to make and after my family likes or dislikes them let them know what it is, diet or what Report
If you've ever ate Jack in the Box's 2 taco's for a buck tacos you've ate TVP. They don't have real beef in them. Brenda Report
I like TVP. I think it's very easy to cook with. I'm still having trouble figuring out what to do with tofu but I keep trying. Tempeh is another soy product I just love. It has a bit of a nutty flavor, a good texture, and tastes great in stir-fry. Report
I'll have to try this. I'm not a vegetarian, but I don't eat a huge amount of meat, either. My adventures in using tofu as a meat substitute have been, well, disappointing at best and disgusting at worst. Tofu has its place as a unique, non-meatlike ingredient, but as a sub for meat, it's just yucky. I'm hoping TVP is more palatable. Report
I had never heard of TVP and happened upon it at the grocery store. It was only about $2.00 or so, so I decided what the heck? I'll try it. There was a recipe on the back of the bag to make beans and use TVP in the recipe. I made the recipe and wow! I really liked it! TVP had the consistency of hamburger meat, it was quite interesting. I will definitely be incorporating this in my meal plans. Report
After reading this article yesterday, I went out to buy some TVP. I am always looking for ways to bulk up my meals but have less calories to keep me satisfied until my next meal. I added 1T. to my oatmeal and boy did that keep me full! I was pleasantly surprised! I suggest that you all give it a go. Report
first let me say I AM a meat eater, last week though in with my mix of bison burgers and sirloin burgers i tried salmon burgers, and 'meatless burgers'. Being surprised at just how good the meatless burger was i added it to my burger rotation. (made by morningstar). Then when i saw this article and read the comments,I thought "am i missing this too" so i googled to learn more, and found a website for "harmony house foods" they have sampler packs of TVP (in flavors?) , and freeze dried veggies. I spent under 20 bux including shipping and will have a potpourri of veggies and tvp to sample. i suggest anybody interested should hit their health food store, or let their fingers fly on their keyboards. You gotta love spark for bringing out the un-ordinary. I would never have known this was out there. Now i am anxiously waiting and looking up recipes for the ham, chicken, and beef TVP that will be here soon. Report
I am definately going to look for this and try it in tacos. Anything to make meals more healthy for the family! Report
I'm very curious about this, I will have to check my local grocer. I would definitely be interested in trying this in tacos as recommended by others. Report
I love using TVP in soups, stews and chili as well as adding it to salads for a little extra texture and protein!!! Report
I have never heard of it until running into this article today. Since I am leaning towards more vegetarian meals and am looking for ways to increase protien, this article is rather helpful. I'm willing to try anything once. Never dreamed I would ever like a veggie Burger, but Now I love em...Yummy! Report
The first time I tried TVP I couldn't stand it. Then I had a friend prepare it with vegtable bullion added when he boiled. For me it went from being ick to yummy. I cant get freash meat where I'm living so it has been great to use in place of meat in stir fries. Report
I agree that it *sounds* gross but it is palatible -- I have substituted it before and I agree with the comment about beano. I have never mixed it with meat though - I think that I would like to try that. I am sensitive to beef so perhaps the TVP will help with that.
I will check out the recipes I am always willing to try. Report
Ok, seriously. For anyone who is leaving messages that they hate TVP, either they also don't eat ground beef, or they have done something wrong with the TVP. It is indistinguishable from ground meets when cooked with seasoning. As for the sodium, even most health-conscious people salt their food. The 2mg in 1/4 cup is entirely negligible. Even my mom, who absolutely hates the taste and texture of tofu, would eat TVP without knowing it. Report
sounds gross. Report
I have a thyroid problem also I, like more info on mixing soy and thyroid together. I like the fiber content. Hate the thot of too much sodium. I would like to try it in soup I think. Report
This stuff is good, but use beano before eating it. Report
Never thought of TVP as a Lent kind of option. I"m a vegetarian, though, so it's a regular part of my diet. LOVE it! Report
No thank you it sounds gross.. I do not like that stuff and yes i have tried to eat it yuck.. Report
Grateful to know what that sawdust like component was to vegetarian meals: at least the article lets me know what to avoid. Thank-you. Report
You can find TVP in the bulk food section or in bags from companies like Bob's Red Mill in the "healthy food" section of regular supermarkets.
I saw a few questions about the nutrition tracker over the weekend. All of my nutrition info comes from the SparkPeople database. You can find TVP and any other food I mention in our database. If you are having trouble using the nutrition tracker, watch this video.
I love TVP and have used it for years- Makes great "mock chicken salad".. tastes like whatever you rehydrate it with. I buy organic at a local health food store. Report
I've read that soy is damaging to the thyroid, so no I wouldn't eat this. Report
Growing up we lived near a Seventh Day Adventist University and for a year or so my mother bought a HUGE box of TVP on which we subsisted. I liked it...we were such a "different" family in so many ways!

Don, Co-Leader of All Health Professionals & Laid Off But Staying Strong SparkTeams Report