When searching for dehydrated or freeze-dried foods for our preps, I kept running into Textured Vegetable Protein, or TVP. It is a dried soy product designed to act as a vegetarian meat substitute. Most of us have eaten TVP and not realized it. Many “bacon bits” are actually flavored TVP.
The stuff I saw was either beef or chicken flavored, or plain. I noticed that my grocery store was selling the plain stuff in the bulk section, so I picked up a couple of pounds to test out.
TVP is very healthy food. If I’m doing my math right, it has about half the protein as an equal portion (by weight after re-hydration) but three times the value per gram, as chicken breast.
Oh, and you Boomers out there looking to drop a couple of pounds, it has ZERO calories.
1 1/4 cups of dried TVP combined with 1 1/4 cups of boiling water will roughly give you a pound of TVP “meat”.
The TVP costs approximately $2.50 a pound, dry. The 1 1/4 cups of dry TVP weighs approximately 4 ounces (or a quarter pound). To get a pound of TVP “meat” costs $0.63 ($2.50/4). You get 60 grams of protein in that pound (12 grams per quarter cup dry, times 5, one-quarter cup portions), at a cost of about a penny per gram.
Raw, boneless chicken breast costs approximately $3 per pound. You get 108 grams of protein in that pound (27 grams per quarter pound portion), at about three pennies per gram.
So, TVP is about three times as protein-rich on a penny-for-penny basis when compared to chicken breast.
That being said, it appears to be a good value, but if it tastes like cardboard, who cares? It has to be something you’ll eat and use to actually have value.
Here’s what the stuff looks like before being re-hydrated –
It’s kind of a dry, crunchy breakfast cereal texture. You add equal volumes of boiling water, cover it and let it sit for 10 minutes before using. It puffs up in volume by about 75%. A cup and a quarter of the stuff puffed up to about 2 and a quarter cups of “meat”.
The smell and taste of the re-hydrated stuff was OK. I can’t tell you what it was like, but it wasn’t unpleasant. Perhaps along the lines of cooked, unflavored chicken breast – pretty non-descript.
I took the re-hydrated TVP, added one egg, a tablespoon of flour and a teaspoon of beef bullion and made up a “burger” patty. I wanted to see what the stuff tasted like with just a bit of seasoning.
It browned up pretty well, though it was a little “crumbly” in texture –
Not bad in taste, but nothing to write home about.
Most of the 100% vegetarian recipes I had viewed were heavy on the spices and herbs. I took the remaining “meat” and added a bunch of Mexican-food spices – cumin, red pepper flakes, a bit of chile powder, onion powder, salt and pepper.
I decided to pan fry it to resemble diced meat for tacos or burritos –
It was much tastier than the patty, although the texture would not fool anyone into thinking it was ground beef or chicken. It looked, smelled and tasted very good.
The vast majority of recipes I found for TVP used them as a meat extender. The recipes called for anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 addition of TVP. I decided to make up some Italian sausage using 2 pounds of pork and 1 pound (re-hydrated weight) of TVP.
I added a tablespoon each of fennel seed, dehydrated diced garlic, dehydrated diced onion, and dehydrated parsley, two teaspoons of salt, plus a teaspoon each of red pepper flakes, black pepper and onion powder.
I made up a patty to check for flavor –
It was moist, tender and friggin’ delicious! The only “give-away” was that the crust was a bit more crunchy than a normal sausage patty.
Emboldened by my success, I made up a couple dozen meatballs for dinner –
They were absolutely indistinguishable from “regular” meatballs.
Since I added the TVP, I didn’t add any bread crumbs to the normal recipe. They were incredibly moist and flavorful.
Most importantly, they got Two-Thumbs-Up from my family.
TVP will absolutely, positively be added to our preps. It’s a great high protein, low weight, low cost addition.
I also definitely see it being added to our regular food menus in things like sausage or anything that needs ground meat such as tacos, meat sauces, lasagna and the like. It will simply be used as an extender of real meat, but probably not be used by itself.
TVP – It’s not just for bacon bits anymore!