Monday, June 13, 2011

TVP - Textured Vegetable Protein

If you've done much research on any of the long term, freeze dried, canned storage foods besides Mountain House that are being heavily marketed then you probably already know what TVP is. Otherwise, you'd have to be a pretty hard core health nut/vegan to know what it is. For those of you who don't know what it is it's a high protein meat substitute made from soybeans.

Soybean oil is separated from the soybean flour. Then the soybean flour is superheated and shot through a nozzle to create the desired size "nugget". When the "nuggets" cool they're completely dry, can store for years and, by adding some boiling water, you have a product that's the equivalent of ground beef. Is it a replacement for real meat? I don't think so. Is it a viable alternative when real meat isn't available? Yes it is.

Like I mentioned before, if you're buying a long term, canned storage food solution that isn't produced by Mountain House then it's probably made with TVP rather than real meat. Obviously, as evidenced by the severe shortage that Mountain House is experiencing right now, it's not as easy to make long term storage food out of meat as it is to make it from TVP. I'm not aware of anyone else who's experiencing severe backups in their filling of orders. Maybe it's because people would rather wait for the real thing rather than settling on a lesser product. More likely, the companies using TVP as their "meat substitute" just have very little problems getting the product that they need to fill all of their orders. Then again, maybe the government is just buying all of the Mountain House and letting us little people buy as much TVP as we want.

To be honest, I don't really care about the long term, freeze dried, canned storage items. I have a can of this and a can of that that I've acquired over the years but the bulk of my food storage consists of some bulk basics (beans, rice, sugar, wheat, etc) and the extra stuff that I buy every time I go grocery shopping (canned food, boxes of pasta, etc). After playing with TVP I've added it to my "extra stuff list".

Here's why I like TVP. The flavor is best described as neutral. If you cook up a batch with nothing but water then it will have no flavor. In my opinion that's a good trait. Because every little TVP nugget is like a sponge it soaks up flavor wonderfully. It picks up the flavor of whatever you reconstitute it in. Different stocks and spices can make it extremely versatile. Reconstitute it in chicken stock? It's like ground chicken. Use beef stock? It tastes like ground beef. Use something like hotsauce or wine? Now you've got some applications.

So what's bad about it? It does have a bit of a "fake" flavor no matter what you do to it. I think that the texture has a lot to do with it. While it's close to the texture of cooked meat it's not quite spot on. It's almost artificially chewy and rubbery. Just cook it like rice. It will pick up whatever flavor you cook it with.

I like it. Some people don't. It's a good substitute when the real deal isn't available. It's easy to prepare and it's very versatile. It's also really cheap. If you can find it in a store then you'll probably find Bob's Red Mill brand (which is pretty expensive compared to other brands). A bag of that is a few bucks. It reconstitutes to the equivalent of a few pounds of meat. Once reconstituted it's also a lot cheaper than real meat. I've tried several recipes and have yet to be horribly disappointed. It's not a replacement for the real deal but if it's all you've got you'll be extremely happy that you've got it handy. If you're local store doesn't sell it then you can always buy it in bulk on Amazon or from other online sources. I encourage you to play around with it if you haven't already. You'll probably add it to your list of "bulk necessities" pretty fast.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Diana from Canada, here. Glad to see info about TVP. I also have been storing it. I plan to use it in soups. Here it is $3.89 for a 500gram bag, which is approx. one pound. I get the minced kind, it will go a long way. I get it from Lifestyles Market, a health food store. I also get dehydrated veggie flakes and mixed dried beans. With a bouillon cube it will make for good survival soup.

Some Guy said...

I think you've nailed it - another way to conceptualize TVP is as a product that EXTENDS meat, i.e. if you make chili, do 50/50 or whatever ratio you want with TVP, it'll spread out the flavor nicely and be that much better than just with bouillon.

I can buy stuff direct from Bob's Red Mill - their plant is 2 miles from my house - it's much cheaper from them that way.

Suzanne said...

I got into soy products of all sorts, particularly TVP... and after 6 months of eating this stuff for "all the right reasons" it took close to 2 years to get my health back on track.
Soy is seriously bad for you. It will put your thyroid flat on its back and make you tired and fat. You will experience the emergence of skin tags because of the aluminum content.
It will jack with every single hormone in your body... and I'm serious about that. It aggravated my menstrual periods, making them last close to 2 weeks, super-heavy and stinky, with PMS ruling the other two weeks of the month.
Soybean oil in your food will block nutritional uptake in the body.
You want something high protein? Look into ancient grains like teff, quinoa, millet, amaranth, and by all means, look at chia seeds.

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