TVP—The Vegetarian’s Best Friend

As you may have noticed, none of the recipes featured on this website include meat. That’s because, *surprise!*, I’m a vegetarian. As it turns out, vegetarian and vegan diets are more popular now than ever before. Increased transparency and process visibility in industrial agriculture has driven millions of people away from animal product consumption, and a growing concern for environmental impact is only fueling the fire. I’ve been a vegetarian for a while, now—ten years this autumn. I’ve picked up some tips and tricks along the way, and today I’m here to share one of my favorites: textured vegetable protein.

I know—that sounds gross. Textured vegetable protein is a defatted soy flour product—a byproduct of extracting soybean oil. It’s often used as a meat substitute or as a meat extender. It cooks quickly, costs next to nothing, and has a protein content comparable to some meats. Plus, vegetarians and vegans have rebranded the product “TVP”—doesn’t that just sound cooler?

TVP has been around since the 1960s, but it’s been a staple in American vegetarian cuisine since the late 1980s. Our current food systems are unsustainable, and personal research on the topic spurred on my vegetarianism. My favorite part about buying, using, and consuming TVP is the fact that it’s a byproduct. It’s usually made from high protein soy flour or concentrate, which forms when soybean oil is extracted from the plant. Soybean oil is already a popular fat in many cuisines, so prior to consumption, TVP was often discarded or added to animal feed. It comes in various shapes (chunks, flakes, nuggets, grains, and strips) to fit pretty much anything you want to cook.

If you’re a vegetarian or vegan struggling to come up with new dinner ideas, TVP is going to be your new best friend. I use it in everything—from soups and stews to tacos and pastas. It’s insanely easy to cook, too. Just add one part TVP to one part boiling water, stir, and let sit for ten minutes. That’s seriously all you need to do. I really like using TVP chunks as a replacement for ground beef, but you can experiment to see what you like. If you want a quick and easy weeknight dinner recipe, stay tuned for my TVP tacos.

As mentioned, TVP is also very, very affordable. Like, $2.50 for a four-cup bag. I generally use two cups at once when I make TVP recipes, but it always yields an insane amount of leftovers. If anything, the cost is low enough for you to get a bag and do some experiment. You have nothing to lose—maybe your daily latte, if you spend that money here instead—and you might end up really enjoying the ingredient. Enjoy!