TVP - A Healthy Meat Substitute

by Deborah Taylor-Hough

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What if I told you I'd found a food you can use like meat that's not only dirt cheap, but also healthier than many other food items on the market? You'd probably think I also had some swamp land in Florida to sell you cheap.

Well, TVP (texturized vegetable protein) is the "wonder" food in question. TVP is basically an inexpensive, relatively tasteless meat substitute which can be added to many dishes you're probably already fixing for your regular family meals.

TVP's texture is similar to that of ground meat, it's very low in fat and has no cholesterol. Since Textured Vegetable Protein is nearly tasteless, it absorbs the flavor of whatever you're cooking. I've found TVP tends to work best in fairly spicy dishes rather than bland recipes. We use TVP in spaghetti sauce, chili, soups, Sloppy Joes, skillet meals and tacos. For skeptical family members, you can even try sneaking TVP into your recipes mixed half-and-half with ground beef or turkey. The first time I snuck it into spaghetti sauce, my family commented on how good the meal was . . . and no one suspected that the meat-like granules in the sauce weren't ground beef or sausage.

TVP comes in dry form (several different shapes/sizes: flakes, chunks, granules) and there are now also several flavored varieties. Since it comes dry, TVP needs to be reconstituted before using. To reconstitute, simply pour one cup boiling water over one cup dry TVP, letting it sit in a bowl until the TVP absorbs all the water (this just takes a couple minutes). If I'm adding TVP to something with a high water content such as spaghetti sauce or soup, I don't bother rehydrating it first since it will absorb the flavorful liquid from the sauce/soup.

I purchase TVP in the bulk food bins at my local health food co-op, but I've also seen it carried in several major grocery store chains. Just call around and find the stores in your local area that carry it.

Deborah Taylor-Hough is the author of the bestselling Frozen Assets: Cook for a Day, Eat for a Month and A Simple Choice: a practical guide for saving your time, money and sanity. She also edits the Simple Times email newsletter. To subscribe, visit Debi online at:

Copyright Deborah Taylor-Hough

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