Textured Vegetable Protein is a wonderful plant-based ingredient to use in ground beef recipes. I’ll show you how. But what is it exactly? How to cook with it? Is it healthy, gluten-free, or vegan? What kind of easy TVP recipes should you try first? We have answers to every question you might have.
What is TVP?
It is a dehydrated ingredient that you can use in place of meat in vegan and vegetarian recipes. This product has helped thousands of people who wanted to change their diet to vegan or vegetarian but wanted to keep the texture of meat in their food. I personally think that it is the closest you can get in terms of texture to real ground meat.
Is it a soy product?
TVP is actually an abbreviation for Textured Vegetable Protein. However, you may come across the word Textured Soy Protein (TSP) or Soy Meat or Soybean Meat as well.
Brands and recipes use it interchangeably as the most commonly used vegetable is soy. However, I read that textured protein can be made of cottonseed, corn, wheat, peanut, pea, oats, and similar proteins as well. But the general understanding is that when you see TVP it is usually 100% soy-based.
This picture below shows soaked aka dehydrated TVP in a food processor. Look how similar the texture is to minced meat.
How is it manufactured?
I wanted to find an answer for myself too for the question “Is it healthy at all?”. My goal was to understand how it is manufactured to decide whether I want to use it or not in the kitchen. I don’t like the term processed ingredients as you always need a certain degree of processing to consume anything. So I wanted to know what degree is it processed. I have read a couple of “quite scientific” and detailed articles by FAO.org and ScienceDirect, but here is what I have learned:
- The word “textured” means that they change the physical texture of an ingredient to a meat “texture” to mimic visible fibers, chewiness, elasticity, tenderness, and juiciness of the meat.
- The base is usually flour. If you check the ingredients on the packaging, you will see that it says 100% (defatted) soy flour. It can also be protein isolate, but that is another level of processing, so I usually go with flour-based products.
- It is processed via steam texturization which is a kind of pressure cooking.
The manufacturing steps are as follows if you are interested:
- They mix soy flour with water into a thick paste.
- Then they push this paste through a grinder, which is actually a high-pressure cooker.
- The paste is rapidly heated, then the pressure is suddenly released to evaporate the water.
- Depending on the nozzle at the end the dehydrated paste is formed into curls, chunks, flakes, nuggets, grains, and strips.
Is it healthy?
So what do you think of TVP? Healthy is certainly a relative term and can mean different things to different people. When it comes to health and nutrition, I turn to Dr. Greger’s Nutritionfacts.org website. He has many articles about Soy, click and read on if you are interested in more info.
But one thing is indisputable, TVP is high in protein: ¼ cup (24g) contains 12g protein with zero gram of fat. Half of its weight is protein. The rest is mostly dietary fiber (4g) and carbohydrates (3g). No surprise there, seeing how it is manufactured.
Is it gluten-free or vegan?
As a textured protein can be made of soy, cottonseed, corn, wheat (never gluten-free), peanut, pea, oats (sometimes gluten-free), and similar proteins, my first instinct is to check the labels. If we are talking about TSP (textured soy protein) which they commonly call TVP, then yes it is usually gluten-free and vegan. As the main and only ingredient is soy.
Where to buy it?
You can find several brands producing TVP. What I look for in the packaging is a label saying “No GMO”. As I also need to eat gluten-free, I check whether it is also labeled as “gluten-free”. You can buy them in large stores or online. They sell them in different shapes (soy curls, chunks, nuggets, flakes or crumbles, and strips) and different vegetable bases.
- Bob Red Mill’s TVP (crumbles)* made of soy flour (GF, but according to their website it is not verified non-GMO)
- Anthony’s TVP (crumbles)* – made of soy flour (non-GMO and GF)
- Noble Plate’s TVP (crumbles)* made of pea protein (non-GMO and GF)
- Hooiser Hill Farm TVP (soya chunks)* – made of soy flour (GF, but they cannot guarantee non-GMO)
How to cook it?
The golden rule is soaking and squeezing.
It doesn’t matter if you use crumbles, chunks, or nuggets. You ALWAYS soak them first. You can use water, but because TVP tastes pretty neutral, soaking them in any broth will give them a deeper flavor. Vegans and vegetarians go with veggie broth, but anybody else can use beef, chicken, and other broth types as well.
Usually, 10-15 minutes in hot vegetable broth is enough to get them ready. Don’t forget to squeeze the water out before continuing with your chosen recipe. And talking about recipes. How to use it? Well, here comes one of our favorite main dish recipes with TVP vegan taco meat (see the below photo). You just add the soaked crumbles to the frying pan with your chosen seasoning and cook them until crispy and delicious.
TVP recipes you should try first
Whenever a recipe is calling for ground beef, minced meat, or crumbles, just think of TVP. We have 13 perfect dinner or lunch recipes for you to try first: meatballs, lasagna, moussaka, chili, curry, taco, goulash, and even sausage crumbles and bacon bits. It is hard to say which one is the best. So, grab a spoon and let’s dig in, shall we?
I say these are the meatiest vegan meatballs with Italian seasoning. It is chunky, not mushy with a crispy outer crust. Making them is super easy, just follow this Vegan TVP Meatballs recipe and bake them oil-free in the oven or in an air fryer. Add them to your spaghetti and coat it with a generous amount of Vegan Marinara Sauce. Or turn it into TVP meatloaf.
Big Mac Burger
Have you come across veggie burger recipes? Did you find them mushy or did they fall apart? We guarantee you that this Vegan TVP Burger patty will be moist and juicy, but not mushy. You will be able to flatten it as thin as you want, it will hold together. You can pan-fry it or grill it or bake it in the oven, and it will be crispy from the outside but chewy inside.
If you need vegan minced beef for your lasagna, you should try TVP. Even meat-eaters will not able to tell the difference. Look at this gorgeous Vegan Cabbage Lasagna. We used cabbage leaves instead of pasta (but you can switch it back if you want). Prepared some bolognese ragú and a creamy spinach alfredo sauce (a leafy green twist to our Vegan Cashew Alfredo Sauce). It was delicious!
We show you 3 different vegan minced meat alternatives for our Vegan Moussaka recipe: 1) a walnut-cauliflower mince like in our Vegan Spaghetti Bolognese, 2) a lentil bolognese ragú like in our Vegan Lasagna) and 3) TVP ground beef in chunky marinara sauce (pictured below). If you want the meatiest alternative, choose number 3.
It is perfect for chili recipes vegan or vegetarian. Just soak, squeeze, and add to your favorite recipe. We have this absolutely rich, flavorful, and delicious Vegan Bean Chili recipe. Hint: there is even chocolate in there. 🙂 We love using millet as a plant-based and gluten-free ground meat, but it would be perfect with TVP as well.
If you haven’t tried white chili before, you should. This gorgeous Vegan White Chili by My Quiet Kitchen is meaty, thick, and creamy with a bit of kick from fresh jalapeños. Protein-packed, rich, and delicious what else would you want from chili?
You can’t really say no to a thick and spicy curry, can you? Red lentils and TVP are the main ingredients seasoned to perfection. Serve this Easy Vegan Red Lentil Curry by My Quiet Kitchen with naan bread and rice and have yourself a delicious dinner in 30 minutes. Or you can try also our Chickpea Mushroom Curry with TVP as well.
Do you have a recipe for tacos night? This spicy Vegan TVP Taco Meat is burst with flavors. The meaty texture is exactly what you need to fill your tacos, burritos, salad bowls, tamales, or add them on top of nachos. Not to mention you can make it super quick just grab your favorite taco seasoning.
If you don’t have a tortilla, just make this Vegan TVP Taco Soup in 20 minutes. It has all the ingredients you would add to tacos like meatless crumbles, beans, corn, bell pepper, avocado, and sour cream. Light but fiery at the same time.
Mexican rice casserole
If you love Tex-Mex recipes as much as we do, you’ll be so pleased after trying this Vegan Mexican Rice Casserole. We cooked the TVP crumbles in an extra spicy tomato-based sauce. Then added black beans, corn, and bell peppers. Finally, we baked it with shredded cheese on top. Utterly delicious!
Try this Vegan American Goulash by Zardy Plants which is more of a pasta dish than a stew. But it is definitely a hearty, cozy comfort food for cold days. TVP will add the perfect meat-like crumbles and some extra protein to fill you up.
Check out this gorgeous Penne Pasta with Kale & TVP Sausage Crumbles by No Sweat Vegan. You can make homemade Italian sausage crumbles in 20 minutes with the right combination of spices and herbs. Adding a rainbow of veggies and these spicy crumbles will turn a simple pasta dish into a dinner feast.
You have no idea how easy it is to make Vegan Bacon Bits by Vegan Blueberry if you have TVP at home. With the right combination of spices, you will need like 10 minutes. Then you can add them to your favorite meals like mac and cheese, nachos, or even frittata. You can use it as a topping for your favorite creamy vegan soup.
Have you heard of Bánh Tráng Nướng? It is popular Vietnamese street food. Thin rice paper sheets topped with ground pork and spring onions mixed in an eggy mixture. Then this Vietnamese Rice Paper Pizza is fried until crispy and the bottom turns golden brown. How to make it vegan? We used TVP to make a delicious vegan ground pork alternative marinated in a soy sauce maple syrup-based marinade.