TVP. A.K.A. Textured Vegetable Protein. What is it? Why should you eat it? And how can you get your family to eat it?
Let me begin by saying that TVP isn’t for everyone. It’s a soy based product, so if you have soy allergies, this is not for you.
I grew up eating TVP and didn’t know it. Funny story… When I was first married and learning to cook (my hubby and I split tasks, and, if I cooked, I didn’t have to do the dishes), I decided to make meatloaf. It was one of my favorite childhood dishes. Growing up in a family with 11 children, we did not have meat as the main dish too often, so I LOVED the days my mom made meatloaf. She also made “meatloaf” hamburgers, which were to die for! I requested them on my birthday and everything.
So I made meatloaf, and it tasted fine, but it didn’t taste like my mom’s meatloaf. For lack of a better description, it tasted too “meaty.” I tried several recipes and eventually found one both my husband and I liked.
A few years ago, when talking about meatloaf tasting too “meaty,” my sister said, “You know Mom put TVP in it, right? It was at least half TVP.”
KACHOW! So that was it! And that’s probably why I don’t really love meat. What I thought was meat was not really meat. It was “meat.”
Oh well. TVP is cheaper than meat, and it’s easier to store. I can find it online for $10-15/can (a #10 can), which has between 60 and 166 servings per can! The chicken flavored TVP is just under 16 cents a serving for 7 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber!
Chicken breast has 8 grams of protein per ounce and is about 19 cents an ounce from Zaycon* when I buy 40 pounds at once. The average national price is $3.38/pound making it just over 21 cents per ounce. This may not sound like a large price difference, but it adds up. Plus there’s fiber in the TVP, and I’m always looking for ways to add more fiber to our diet. Easy to store, long shelf life, costs less than meat… I’m SOLD!
But, sadly, my husband and children were not. The first time I tried serving them TVP, let’s just say it was less than ideal. I think they ended up running to McDonald’s, because they considered dinner inedible. I’ll admit, it was not my finest moment, nor was it the best meal I’ve ever cooked, but I learned a lot from that experience.
Here are a few things I learned which have helped me successfully incorporate TVP into my meals without a major revolt from my family and friends.
1. Start slowly! If you are feeding a bunch of devoted meat eaters, don’t go all in and replace the meat entirely with TVP. While the texture of TVP is similar to meat and it tastes a lot like meat, most meat eaters can tell the difference immediately if it’s all their eating. Try cooking one of your regular recipes, but add a little bit of TVP. Remember, it expands, so 1/4 cup of dry TVP makes about 1/2 cup of reconstituted TVP. I would not add make more than 1/8-1/4 of your “meat” TVP if you’re trying to slip this into your family’s food. 🙂 I have gradually increased the amount of TVP in each dish over time, and now about half of my “meat” is TVP.
2. Season well if using unflavored TVP. I buy unflavored TVP from Sprouts. The first time I used it, I did not adjust the seasoning enough in the recipe. I added a bit of extra salt and pepper, but it was not nearly enough, resulting in a big THUMBS DOWN from my family. I’ve learned that I need to add a little extra salt, pepper, and other seasonings. I taste my dishes a bit more while cooking with TVP to ensure it tastes “right.”
3. Reconstitute the TVP before adding it to your dishes. TVP is a dry product which absorbs water while cooking. You can add it directly to many dishes and add extra liquid while cooking, but I found it was easier, in the beginning, to reconstitute the TVP before adding it to my recipes. I simply put some TVP in a container, pour warm water over it, and let it sit. Once it’s “fluffy,” I drain the excess water and add it to the dish I’m preparing.
4. Add the TVP while you’re browning your meat. I’ve had the most success adding TVP to recipes which call for ground meat. When I add it while browning the meat, the TVP takes on more of a meaty flavor. If I’m making spaghetti, I begin to brown the hamburger, then I add the reconstituted TVP when it’s almost done browning. I season accordingly, drain the fat, and continue making my sauce.
A couple of nights ago, I browned one pound of ground beef and added the equivalent amount of reconstituted TVP. I seasoned it, added the sauce, let it simmer, and served spaghetti sauce with TVP to my family. They each ate more than one serving and liked it. My husband even brought some to work the next day. Yeah me!
My son just walked over to my computer and said, “You put TVP in the spaghetti!” And I had to come clean. I told him. He didn’t seem thrilled, but he also admitted that he couldn’t tell. SCORE one for Mom!!
Now it’s your turn.
Would you like to save money by stretching your meat?
Have you tried TVP? If not, why not?
If so, what were your successes and failures?