Preparing & Cooking Textured Vegetable Protein

Textured Vegetable Protein, or TVP, is something of a wonder food.

The perfect combination of incredibly versatile, inexpensive, and an A+ nutritional profile. Made from dried, de-fatted soy flour, TVP is a complete protein and provides a hefty amount of your daily nutrients.  For more info please check out our entire guide to TVP nutrition.

But the real fun and allure of TVP comes with the cooking. For the same reason that a blank canvas is exciting, TVP is exciting – it is an entirely blank slate, full of potential and ready to take on whatever you’re feeling at that moment.

Want to go spicy? TVP can do that.

Want a warm, sweet, filling breakfast? TVP can do that too.

What sounds a little like plastic piping is actually a high-protein vehicle for any flavor you’re craving.

Like any ingredient, TVP requires some, though minimal, preparation before you can begin using it in recipes. First, let’s look at how to prepare your TVP.

How to Rehydrate Textured Vegetable Protein

TVP is a dried product and comes in various sizes of granules that need to be soaked in some liquid before use.

Just like preparing tofu, TVP doesn’t have much flavor on its own, so incorporating flavor at every step of the process will result in a tastier final product.

The instructions on the back of your bag of TVP will tell you to rehydrate 1 cup of TVP in about a cup of hot water, and I’m here to tell you to toss those instructions aside – you can do better!

If we imagine our TVP granules like tiny sponges, why would we fill those pockets with water when we can fill them with flavor?

Rehydrating the TVP granules in something tasty will allow flavor to permeate the actual granules themselves, which will result in a tastier end product. Think of it as a marinade, but for little granules instead of one big slab of tofu or tempeh.

The rehydrating liquid you should use depends on what type of recipe you’ll be using.

  • For a savory recipe with TVP - soak 1 cup of dry TVP granules in 7/8 cup of hot vegetable broth for about 5 minutes, or until all the broth has been absorbed.
  • For a sweet application - use the same ratio of TVP to liquid, but use your favorite plant-based milk instead of broth.

Hypothetically, you could use any liquid here – fruit juice, water with soy sauce, any flavoring you have on hand – but I’ve found that vegetable broth or plant-based milk yields the best results for the applications I use.

Once your TVP granules are soft and have expanded, you’re ready to use them in your favorite recipe! Remember that rehydrated TVP doesn’t keep well, so only soak the granules right before you’re ready to use them.

Rehydrating – Step by Step

Step 1. Measure out 1 cup dry TVP.

Step 2. Heat 7/8 cup vegetable broth until boiling.

Step 3. Add vegetable broth to dry TVP.

Rehydrating TVP - Step 3

Step 4. Allow to soak for about 5 minutes, until TVP has expanded and looks “fluffy”.  You’re ready to use it in your recipe!

Rehydrating TVP - Step 4

Cooking With TVP - Beef Crumbles

I most often use TVP as a replacement for ground beef in a variety of recipes. My standard base recipe for beef crumbles is to combine 2 cups of dry TVP granules with a scant 2 cups very hot vegetable broth in a small bowl.

Once the granules are rehydrated, and all the liquid has been absorbed, put a tablespoon or so of oil in a skillet and add the rehydrated TVP, along with 6-7 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon garlic powder, salt, pepper, and a drop or two of liquid smoke (optional, but recommended).

Fry the TVP over low-medium heat until the granules have browned slightly and it resembles ground beef.

Stir occasionally so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of your pan. This makes an amount of TVP that is equivalent to one pound of ground beef.

Use immediately, or cool the crumbles completely and store them in the fridge or freezer as-is so you’ll always have a batch on hand.

The beefy crumbles are delicious as they are, but you can also dress them up in lots of ways to resemble any dish where you’d traditionally use ground beef.

Sloppy Joe Filling

Sloppy Joes

Detailed Recipe Here: http://hellyeahitsvegan.com/vegan-sloppy-joes/

  1. Finely chop ½ a large onion, 1 large green bell pepper, and 2 cloves of garlic.
  2. Combine in a skillet and cook until translucent.
  3. Add 1 batch of Beefy Crumbles, ¾ cup ketchup, 1 tablespoon mustard, 1 teaspoon of chili powder, and a little sprinkle of hot sauce (optional) and cook just long enough to heat through.
  4. Serve on soft Kaiser rolls.

Taco Filling

TVP Tacos

Detailed Recipe Here: http://www.nomeatathlete.com/the-tvp-taco-experiment/

  1. Heat 1-2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet and add 1 batch Beefy Crumbles, ¼ cup water, and a packet of your favorite taco seasoning (I’m partial to the Trader Joe’s brand, but you can use your favorite – watch out for milk products!).
  2. If you have Lizano sauce on hand, that adds a nice tang, but if not, it’s not necessary.
  3. Cook until everything is heated through and the water and taco seasoning have thickened slightly.
  4. Serve with hard or soft taco shells, chopped veggies, salsa, shredded Daiya cheese (if you’re into that), and fresh limes.

Gardener’s Pie

Shepherd Pie

Detailed Recipe Here: http://vegetarian.about.com/od/maindishentreerecipes/r/vegshepherdspie.htm

The ultimate cold weather comfort food!

  1. In a large frying pan, heat a tablespoon of oil and add a chopped onion, 2 cloves of garlic, and about a cup of your favorite frozen veggies like peas, carrots, and green beans.
  2. Cook until soft, and add 1 batch Beefy Crumbles, fresh thyme, a tablespoon of tomato paste, and a little cornstarch mixed with water, salt, and pepper.  
  3. Add to the bottom of a baking dish and cover it with your favorite vegan mashed potato or mashed sweet potato recipe.
  4. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes, until the top is golden brown.
  5. Eat and be comforted!

Cooking With TVP - Variations

While TVP makes a great ground beef replacement, with just a few tweaks, you can season it to fit other needs that lend themselves beautifully to recipes.

Sausage Crumbles

Sausage Crumbles

Detailed Recipe Here: http://www.food.com/recipe/t-v-p-sausage-crumbles-vegetarian-vegan-gluten-free-412473

  1. To the base Beefy Crumble recipe, add 1 tablespoon fennel seed, 1 teaspoon dried basil, 1 teaspoon of oregano, ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes, 2 minced cloves of garlic, and 1 tablespoon of ketchup before cooking.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and cook until crumbles are golden.
  3. This makes an awesome pizza topping!

Bacon Bits

Bacon Bits

Detailed Recipe Here: http://www.sprint2thetable.com/2013/04/strange-but-good-vegan-bacon/

Is there anything more American than Bacon Bits? For these toppers for salads and spuds, simply add a little more liquid smoke and some red food coloring if you really wanna get fun. Cook until crispy and add to basically everything for a crunchy, salty, smoky topping. Coincidentally, this is also amazing on pizza.

Chick-less Nuggets

Chickless Nuggets

Detailed Recipe Here: http://www.sprint2thetable.com/2012/08/chick-less-nuggets/

I’m a firm believer that no one is ever too old for nuggets!

  1. Rehydrate 1 cup TVP in 7/8 cup veggie broth and pulse in a food processor until broken up – you still want pieces, not a smooth puree.
  2. Add 2 tablespoons of chickpea flour and 1 flax egg (1 tablespoon ground flax in 3 tablespoons hot water) or a vegan egg replacer. Add spices like paprika, red pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder, and mix well to combine.
  3. Drop 2-tablespoon “nuggets” of batter onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 500 degrees Fahrenheit for about 10 minutes, or until golden brown.
  4. Flip and bake for an additional 5 minutes, then allow cooling before serving with ketchup or your favorite dipping sauce

TVP Salad

TVP Salad

Detailed Recipe Here: http://www.twocityvegans.com/2015/10/vegan-chicken-salad/

Use Chick-less Salad as a topper for salad, or stuff into a sandwich or pita.

  1. Rehydrate 1 cup TVP in 7/8 cup hot vegetable broth and allow to cool slightly.
  2. Add to a bowl and dollop in a few tablespoons of vegan mayonnaise, chopped celery, halved grapes, salt, and pepper.
  3. Mix well and enjoy.

“Oatmeal”

Vegan Oatmeal

Detailed Recipe Here: http://www.sprint2thetable.com/2012/10/maple-tvp-protein-oatmeal/

I love regular rolled oats, but using TVP is a nice change from the standard, and gives you a high-protein boost. I make a big batch because it keeps in the fridge for nearly a week and freezes well, which makes it perfect for busy weekday mornings when you don’t have time to cook a hearty breakfast.

  1. In a large pot, combine 2 cups dry TVP granules with 1 quart of your favorite non-dairy milk (I usually use almond milk, but coconut milk is delicious too!).
  2. Add a tablespoon of cinnamon, 1 ½ tablespoons of vanilla extract, and sweetener to taste, and simmer for 30-40 minutes until done.
  3. Top with dried fruit, chopped nuts, peanut butter, or any of your favorite oatmeal toppings for a hearty, nutritious breakfast on the go.

The Most Hard-Working Food

With so many options and applications, TVP is an inexpensive way to get more protein and nutrients into a vegan – and non-vegan diet.

In addition to all the great vegan recipes you can make with TVP, it’s also a great tool to use to transition to veganism.

Not ready to cut meat out completely?

Use rehydrated TVP to “cut” your meat consumption, using half meat and half TVP, then gradually increasing the amount of TVP. This is helpful for families with young children, who might not appreciate suddenly cutting meat out from their diet.

By slowly introducing food like TVP into familiar foods, like chili, bacon bits, or sausage crumbles, it can be a great, slow way to dip a toe into veganism without having the sudden change come as such a shock.

When it comes down to it, you can use TVP in just about any recipe where you would normally use ground meat – the slightly springy texture and neutral taste means with the right seasoning blend, you can dress it up to play exactly the role you need in your favorite recipe.

Not to mention, it’s a healthy way to reach your daily recommended amount of protein without the cholesterol and fat of meat.

With all these options, and essentially a blank canvas for flavor, TVP is truly one of the most hard-working foods in your repertoire.

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