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TVP / TSP - tasty?

Looking at a few cheap-o recipe sites, some people use textured vegetable protein (TVP) aka textured soy protein (TSP).

It doesn't hit me as something that would be tasty. Wikipedia says ...

"TSP can replace ground beef in most recipes, completely or partly. It can also replace up to 33% tuna fish in tuna salad. It is high in protein and low in fat and sodium. It is also a good source of fiber and isoflavones."

A couple of years ago a request for info got a mainly negative response with one person saying you have to know how to cook it.

So is this stuff any good? Just how cheap is it?

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  1. When my teenaged daughter decided to become vegetarian a few years back (this lasted for four years), I played around with TVP. It takes on the flavours of whatever you soak it in. I made bolognese sauce, taco mixtures, shepherd's pie, etc., using TVP. It really is a good product, and doesn't really have much flavour on its own, so it's not off-putting.

    I've also used Yves Veggie Ground Round (Original flavour), but prefer the dried TVP. With the "ground round" stuff, you're getting salt and other ingredients that you have no control over. Using only TVP, you have complete control.

    To use TVP, rehydrate it according to package directions, or add it directly into a sauce you're making (just make the sauce is a little more watery to allow for absorption by the TVP). If you rehydrate it first, add it to the sauce during the last 10 minutes of cooking. If adding it dry into the sauce, cook just until it's the texture you're after.

    1. It's not cheap when you buy it from Whole Foods! It can be really good. My MIL makes koh-fu and it's delicious and I've had it at vegetarian restaurants and it's great. I've tried to make it myself but it's terrible. I use very little oil, though, and I'm wondering if that's the difference. When I use ground meat, I have replaced up to half with crumbled extra firm tofu. As long as there is a lot of flavor to the meat, you can't tell (like sloppy joes or spaghetti sauce).

      1. TVP is not expensive if you buy it at a local natural foods store. I agree with chowser - Whole Foods is not the place to get it.

        3 Replies
        1. re: FlavoursGal

          it's actually rather cheap if you purchast it from a natural foods store in my nick of the woods. i've used it similarly to flavoursgal, you just need to ensure that you have enough liquid to get a good consistency/non-crunchy texture out of it.

          i unfortunately can't give you a good description of it's flavour, but i made myself a massive shepherd's pie for a family thanksgiving one year and set it out for anyone curious. my uncle quite enjoyed it after querying me for a bit and had seconds.

          i never go for the big brand already hydrated, they just over salt things and use flavours i don't find particular appealing. the dried stuff comes in little rice crispies size bits, small cubes or flakes sometimes.

          1. re: pinstripeprincess

            How long can plain TVP be stored for in a sealed plastic container or bag? If you freeze it, what is its life span?

            I have made vegetarian chili with it. The cumbersome process I find with it is that after I let it absorb the hot water for five minutes or so, I need to drain it in a strainer basket, and unless I completely drain/strain it, when I put it in a chili mixture, the water that has not been completely drained, ruins the consistency of the chili with the unwanted extra water still hangin' around.

            I have found a preference for the preseasoned TVP in other products. Beats my seasoning and resulting texture from my treatment of the stuff.

            I still eat the stuff in vegetarian products, but I can appreciate the arguement for not eating the stuff, due to the arguement about it being highly processed. So, I eat it and put myself into a mindset that it's ok and better than some other food that would be a worse choice. In other words, I believe there are better foods to eat, but also far worse.

            1. re: FelafelBoy

              i've stored it for a couple of months without a problem, but i haven't really tested to see how long it would last. i'm not vege anymore.

              i would never suggest soaking it in hot water, mostly because you'll get very little flavour out of it. i would initially incorporate it into your chili dry with a little excess water/tomato sauce/other liquid until it reaches the consistency you want.

              the preseasoned stuff just doesn't appeal to me personally, but i can see the benefit of it. they're just usually not quite the flavours i'm looking for.

              the thing is, it all depends on why you're vegetarian. i know someone who does it for political/environmental reasons but he'll eat all this processed stuff often. doesn't quite make sense to me.

        2. The only way I could get myself to enjoy TVP was when I cooked it with a big mix of vegetables and curried the heck out of the whole thing. Then, it was really not bad at all over rice.

          1. I will occasionally substitute it for half the meat in something. Last week, I had half a pound of ground beef left and wanted to make chili, but needed more than the half pound. So I rehydrated TVP in some beef broth with chili seasonings and added it in as I cooked. No one can tell the difference.
            I don't know if I would use it for all the meat and expect it to be a reasonable 'fake' but it works well in saucy things like chili, spaghetti sauce, sloppy joes, taco meat etc. Basically, if anyone has made a casserole out of it, you can use some TVP in it. Or at least those have been the recipes I have had good luck with.
            And it is inexpensive at my health-food store, and since it is shelf stable for a LONG time, it is just a handy thing to have around just in case.

            1. It's disgusting, it's unhealthy, it's indigestible, and it's production is environmentally deleterious. It's the only food (though calling it food is a stretch) that I will never eat under any circumstances. Frankly, I don't see why anyone would eat it. It doesn't provide a single nutrient that can't be find elsewhere, even within a vegetarian or vegan diet.

              6 Replies
                1. re: laguera

                  That explains a lot...thanks Morton!

                2. re: Morton the Mousse

                  Definitely disgusting, but do you have cites for the other stuff? I've never given the stuff much thought since I wouldn't eat it.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Anecdotally, I used to live in a vegetarian coop and there was some mighty strong GI distress any time the cooks served TVP.

                    The best source for information is The Whole Soy Story by Kaayla Daniel. It's a controversial book, and there's been a lot of hostility directed at it (particularly by vegetarians and representative of the soy industry). Though I agree that her methodology could be more thorough, that doesn't change the fact that she provides some powerful information.

                    The Chron did a piece on Daniel's work about two months back: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article...
                    It discusses TVP (what I like to call highly processed soy sludge) in the third paragraph of the "History of the Wonder Bean" section. It's a good start, though not nearly as detailed as Daniel's work.

                    My attitude about TVP is the same as my attitude about GMOs: If humans don't have a well documented history of eating a food, I don't want to have anything to do with it. Some will argue that nobody has conclusively proven that highly processed soy (or GMOs) is unhealthy. I say, the burden of proof lies with the producer to demonstrate that this new "food" substance is not unhealthy. Of course, the real irony is that some of the most passionate opponents of GMOs eat processed soy daily.

                    And yes, I recognize that Asia has a long history of eating soy. But, this soy was often fermented, in the form of tempeh or miso, and it was usually consumed in small quantities.

                    1. re: Morton the Mousse

                      Thanks so much for this post, Morton. I had no idea! I'd heard some rumblings about the "myth of soy" recently, but hadn't done any investigation since my daughter is no longer a vegetarian, and I stay away from soy products since my diagnosis of breast cancer almost 5 years ago.

                      1. re: Morton the Mousse

                        This is interesting. I never thought about how it is processed. My MIL is chinese and she uses it often in dishes, in addition to meat. I always thought it was an old chinese thing.

                  2. It works very well in chili, especially if you have juicy toppings like salsa.

                    1. TVP is heavily processed food. It does not resemble a soybean in any way. A Cheeto is probably less processed.
                      Why will the same people who comsume this knock HFCS which is the same thing done with corn - except that the end product of corn is sugar, not protein?
                      Soy milk is not milk. It is a white beverage that has been heavily processed. No one would touch dairy that had been heated and manipulated in that fashion.
                      I think in the end, the closer our food is to its natural state the healthier it is.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: MakingSense

                        You can make tofu or soy milk at home from soybeans, both are about as natural as anything else from a home kitchen.

                        1. re: MakingSense

                          My mom makes soy milk all the time. It's a lot closer to its natural state than cow's milk you'd buy from a store. Of course, breast milk is the most natural state of milk for humans...

                          1. re: chowser

                            But even homemade soy milk needs to be cooked before consumption. Traditionally, the Chinese cook their soy milk several times, for flavor as well as food safety.

                            That's right, I said traditionally. What MakingSense is comparing to HFCS, Asians have been drinking for centuries. Just because mass manufacturers have turned it into something that might be less than healthy is no reason to vilify the food itself.

                            And people do in fact "touch dairy that had been heated and manipulated in that fasion." We call "those people" Europeans and we call "that fashion" ultra-pasteurization, which is what they do to milk so they can keep them in shelf stable paper cartons--yes, like we do with soy milk here.

                            1. re: Pei

                              Yes, it cooked but unless you're part of the raw foods movement, most of us heat food at some point. I think my mom's soy milk is much closer to natural foods than cheese, yogurt or milk, unless you're milking the cow and drinking it fresh.

                              1. re: chowser

                                Oh, I was definitely agreeing with you, I just wanted to make sure people understood that homemade soy milk has to be heated. It's not an appropriate raw food.

                          2. re: MakingSense

                            re: the soy milk comment: the comedian Lewis Black has a little bit he does about that, he says there's no such thing as soy milk; it's "soy juice", but they don't call it "soy juice", because noone can say "soy juice" without gagging :-)

                            LOL. But in soy "milk"s defense, I like it, I use vanilla flavored soy milk in my oatmeal and it's pretty good, for something that's healthy.

                          3. That may be true but it's not realistic. Otherwise, produce sections would have bins of fresh soybeans and magazines and newspaper food sections would be full of advice on how to make your own tofu and soy milk.
                            People buy these products already mass-produced in highly processed form and have been encouraged to do so by marketing campaigns paid for by soybean producers who want to sell more than edemame and cattle feed.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: MakingSense

                              You make that stuff with dried soybeans, not fresh.

                              Supermarkets do stock soybeans, usually in the bulk section. Homemade soy milk is popular enough that there are a bunch of soy-milk-maker appliances on the market. Making your own tofu doesn't make as much sense as high-quality artisanal tofu is widely available.

                              Also, frozen raw soybeans in the pod are readily available, but I think people buy them mostly to boil in salt water and serve as snacks, Japanese-style.

                              1. re: MakingSense

                                "Otherwise, produce sections would have bins of fresh soybeans and magazines and newspaper food sections would be full of advice on how to make your own tofu and soy milk."

                                They are, just not in this country. Robert is right--there are dozens of soy milk machines on the market, and edamame fresh and frozen is sold a lot more in Asia than it is here. here it's a fad. There it's a part of life.

                                Besides, there are plenty of things that are good for you. Do you see them filling all the produce bins, and/or is everyone clamoring to make them at home?