Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP): What It Is, How to Make It And How To Use It Without The YUCK Factor

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There is a ton of controversy surrounding soy and then even move concerning Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP).  The purpose of this post is to give you information so that you can make the best decisions for your family.

We are a vegetarian family so we do eat TVP from time to time and we do eat non-GMO soy (tofu mostly). I’ve been a vegetarian for many years, even before I had an organized food storage. So when I first discovered TVP would store at room temperature for an extended period of time I was encouraged to do more research and experimenting with it. Homemade TVP can be used in place of any beef, chicken or pork in many recipes. It’s really a great option for people who want a healthier option than commercially produced “meat” and can’t afford the higher price of grass fed/free range meat products. It also has a shelf-life of at least a year and it’s easy to make at home.

The truth is you can’t make your own TVP.

Making TVP is a commercial process that cannot be “homemade”. That really should be a red flag for most people and certainly was for me. TVP is made from soy protein isolates. The process includes an alkaline solution to remove fiber and an acid wash. Yeah, like I said it’s really not possible (or a good idea) to try that at home.

As far as nutrition goes, TVP is not the most nutritious food but I don’t feel like it’s the worst. I teach my kids about food choices and I tell them there are more than just good and bad choices. There are great choices, good choices, “ok” choices, not so good choices and really bad choices. I know that’s a lot of categories but nutrition is complicated especially when you’re a child. If I can get them to make most of their choices in the great category then I figure we’re on the right path. TVP is an “ok” choice. It’s better than a lot of other choices, it’s low in fat, it’s higher in fiber than most other protein choices and it is inline with our vegetarian philosophy.

Of course one of the biggest things that I don’t like about TVP is that it is impossible for me to make, so it really doesn’t fit into our self-reliant lifestyle. I’m really not one to settle for  “it’s not possible” and set out to find a way to make it (or something very close) at home.  In the process I discovered how to make my own homemade version much healthier.

Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP): What It Is, How to Make It And How To Use It Without The YUCK Factor:

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Start with non-GMO Tofu. It’s best to use firm tofu for both crumble and bite size homemade TVP. You want it to hold up because you are going to put it through a few processes. I just happened to have this medium tofu so I used it to make crumbled homemade TVP.

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Press your tofu. Pressing tofu takes the excess water out. There a lot of different ways to do this including using a tofu press. I placed the tofu between two cutting boards and then put some weight on the top to remove the water. First I laid the bottom cutting board down. Second, I placed a large piece of cheesecloth down. Third, I placed the tofu in the cheesecloth.

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Finally, I placed another cutting board on top and then something heavy on top of the top cutting board.

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 Here is a side view.

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This is a shot of the tofu after I had it in the press for about an hour. You can see how much water came out onto the cheesecloth.

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In order to get that TVP texture you need to freeze your tofu before you place it into the dehydrator. The freezing process changes the structure of the cell walls and therefore changes the texture of the tofu. This homemade TVP is really called dried frozen tofu and first started showing up around 1,500 ago in Northern China. So it’s not a product of our fast-food, highly commercialized food industry. I wrapped the tofu in parchment paper.

 Placed it in a plastic bag, then placed it in the freezer.

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 Here is what the tofu looks like after it’s been frozen and defrosted.

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Crumble it and place it on your dehydrator trays.

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 Load your trays.

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To make bite-sized homemade TVP pieces, cut your firm tofu into bite-sized pieces after you have pressed the water out of it.

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 Then place on a cookie sheet to freeze.

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I didn’t have room for a ton of cookie sheets in my freezer so I layered all the pieces, placing a piece of parchment paper between each layer.

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I wanted to show you the difference between the frozen pieces and the pieces that are not quite frozen. The darker pieces on the bottom are frozen but the pieces on top are not finished freezing.

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 These pieces are all frozen.

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Load your trays. You don’t have to wait for the tofu bites to defrost. You can place them directly into the dehydrator, just be sure to check for excess condensation.

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You can dehydrate both the crumbles and the bit sized homemade TVP at the same time on the same setting – 125F°.

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This is what the dried frozen tofu tofu looks like.

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This is what the bites look like dehydrated.

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 Here is a close up of the dehydrated frozen tofu bites.

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I wanted to show the difference between the manufactured TVP and my homemade TVP. It’s not exactly the same but it’s close.

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Like I said earlier, I was a vegetarian before I was a focused pepper, and had never really heard of flavored TVP. After all, TVP is pretty easy to flavor, but I was intrigued when I saw that Honeyville sells several varieties.

Note: One thing I learned after becoming vegetarian is that “meat” doesn’t really get it’s flavor from “meat”. It’s the spices you use in any given dish that give that dish it’s flavor. That’s why people smoke, marinate, and smother “meat”.

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So here is the bad thing about flavored TVP (at least this flavored TVP from Honeyville and most other flavored TVP), it has trans fat. That’s the really bad kind of fat that you should avoid. The trans fat helps give this can of flavored TVP a shelf life of 5 years or more, but it makes flavored TVP go into the “not so good” food choice category. It’s better to eat than Twinkies but not as good as unflavored TVP and definitely not as good as my homemade TVP.

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 Here is a shot of the other can. They both have trans fat.

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This is the beef flavored TVP from Honeyville. I wanted to show you that the chunks are bigger.

Note: I buy a lot of things from Honeyville and recommend them for other items. They even have an unflavored TVP product that is in my “ok” food choice category.

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This is what the taco flavored TVP looks like from Honeyville. This TVP is more crumbles than chunks.

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Store your homemade TVP in an airtight container. I love Mason jars for this. You can use this handy jar attachment to vacuum pack your TVP with the FoodSaver.  This is the one for wide mouth jars.

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They have one for regular mouth jars too.

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Label your jars and put away.

  • Peggy Walters says:

    If vacuum sealing your tofu how long should it stay good? I’m interested in several years…?

  • Beth says:

    Although I am still a meat-eater, most of the time I just eat veggies, mainly because I just really like veggies, I am a vegeholic. I tried frozen Boca brand TVP and made tacos and absolutely loved them. In fact, when my hubs came home from work, I fed him a completely vegetarian Mexican meal with tacos and refried beans. I, and he, could not believe that he had just eaten a meatless taco and couldn’t tell the difference. I am literally in the middle of preparing your homemade version, just getting ready to put the tofu in the dehydrator. I cannot wait to try it.

  • Beth says:

    Instead of placing this in jars after dehydrating, can I just place it in a baggie and store in the freezer for use later? Thanks.

  • Dallas Y. says:

    Hi Jennifer! Is there a way I can mix it with spices before I dehydrate it? Or is it better to just add spices when your ready to cook it? Also, can I freeze the TVP after its come out of the dehydrator? Or does it have to be jarred? Thank you for all of your information! I find it very useful and am looking forward to making this!

    • Jennifer Osuch says:

      I would not dehydrate with the spices. I would wait until you’re ready to cook. There are some spices (especially salt–not a spice but still could be in a spice mix) that might interfere with dehydrating.

  • John says:

    Hi Jennifer, Really like your website. I’ve come up with a homemade TVP recipe that works really well & wanted to share. I make my own soy milk and am stuck with lots of okara (soy pulp), which is close to what they use to make TVE in the factory. Here’s my take on it. Best, John

    1 batch of well-drained Okara (probably about 2 cups)
    optional seasonings:
    1/4 tsp garlic powder
    1/4 tsp onion powder
    1 TBS dark soy sauce

    Mix everything together well. Then, using a ricer (or a food mill fitted with the large hole plate; ricer works best) press the okara onto a cookie sheet lined with silpat or parchment paper. Make sure the TVP is evenly spread over the sheet, with only a little overlap. Bake at 300F (I use convection, probably 325F for standard oven) for 90 minutes, or until totally dry and slightly toasty. I use a fork to gently turn about mid-way through. They taste great, seasoned or not, and kind of nutty like soy nuts. I don’t reconstitute before using, and I try not to over stir, or they might fall apart. I break them up and keep them in a mason jar in my fridge. Super healthy, non-GMO, and lots of quality protein. Good luck!

  • Kathy says:

    What a brilliant way to make your own and avoid the GMO stuff out there!

  • DavetteB says:

    The Title says ” … How to use it … ”
    As a devout carnivore (not knocking your choice, just isn’t a choice for me), I was looking at this article for how to use it, other than guessing from the picture in the cans, taco filling. I might even have a bag in my house, but the bag doesn’t have any instructions. Do you hydrate it first? Marinate it like real meat? If you put it in tomato sauce to make ‘meat’ sauce will that hydrate it enough? We like garlic and onions in our house, is that enough to make it not taste like soy? And where do you find non-gmo soy or tofu? Where I am in AK we have have Fred Meyer/Kroger, Carr/Safeway, Walmart, and one health food store.

    Thanks

    • Jennifer Osuch says:

      Hi DavetteB,

      You might try going here for more ideas. You can re-hydrate TVP first and you can mix it with spices to flavor it. You can put it in tomato sauce without re-hydrating it. It depends on how thick your sauce is. Unforutantly, I can’t speak to onions and garlic being enough to cover up the soy taste. Most tofu is rather bland and takes on the flavor of other foods it’s cooked with, but it may still taste like soy to you. You’d just have to try it. Whole Foods carries non GMO tofu

  • Marjie says:

    Jennifer, how long did you have these in the dehydrator? It looks yummy to me because I know how it tastes when prepared

    • Jennifer Osuch says:

      Hi Marjie,
      I dehydrated them for about 8 hours. I turned the dehydrator on before I went to bed and then got up and the TVP was done.

  • Brian says:

    I’m not knocking this particular blog. This is just me thinking out loud. In my opinion this isn’t really all that viable for “homesteading” or “Long term food storage”. What I mean by that is the vast majority of people who do this sort of thing are “preppers” for the most part. Now if we run into a SHTF scenario, then you will no longer be able to make this recipe. As you won’t be able to obtain the tofu anymore. But if all you’re doing is making this stuff for camping and hiking then this is fine.

    I hope that made sense and didn’t sound rude.

    • Jennifer Osuch says:

      Hi Brain,

      I’m so sorry you don’t fine this information useful. Actually, if you think about it logically it is very useful. Tofu is made from soybeans, a relatively easy crop to grow and a great source of protein. I would bet that in a SHTF scenario this would be one crop that people would not waste any time planting because most edible wildlife and livestock would be gone. Knowing how to preserve this great bean to be easily made into a “meal on the go” would be worth it’s weight in gold. I admit that this logic might be even more clear if I posted about how to make your own soy milk and then how to make your own tofu out of said soy milk. I’ll need to get on that……:) Meanwhile practicing this recipe would save you some money (a blog topic) because this is way more economical to prepare than meat. Also this recipe for those who cannot afford grass fed beef is a healthier (health is a blog topic) option than meat you can buy in the store. Also this method is a DIY (a blog topic) recipe because you can buy TVP in #10 cans.

  • beverlee says:

    How long of a shelf life do you think your TVP would have? I was debating getting the Honeyville buy as you pointed out, it is not the healthiest product. I have been trying to stick to the adage, buy what you eat, eat what you store and I definitely would not eat that if I had a choice. But very interested in making the TVP. I am also a vegetarian and am looking for other things to store besides beans.

    • Jennifer Osuch says:

      Hi Beverlee,

      I would comfortable storing it at least a year under the correct conditions.

    • Mitzi says:

      I found a bulk bag of unflavored uncooked tvp from honeyville and ordered that. Figured I should try flavoring it myself. There’s several reviews of the flavored stuff that it is too salty.

  • Melissa says:

    I have never had tofu. My husband thinks it’s a sin to not have meat with his dinner. I would love to try a little experiment on my family and replace the beef for crumbles for our taco meat and see if anyone notices the difference. I want to eat healthy but unfortunately I get a lot of flack from my family because they want their meat and potatoes. Thanks for sharing this post. Very interesting 🙂

    • Helen says:

      My favourite game is to serve vegan meals to meat eater and see if they like them and are satisfied from them. If I can make a full and happy meat eater I win! Haha. Don’t tell him there’s no meat and just slip other thing in. I also like tricking people with tofu scramble. I don’t tell them until after they eat it and like it 😀

      I want to give this a try but don’t have a dehydrator….

    • AF says:

      Hi, Melissa! I once made a vegan meal for my extended family. There was only *one* person who remarked, “I think the meat you used went bad. It doesn’t taste right.” Of course, this is the same person who sits in restaurants, can rattle off the spices she tastes in a dish, and then perfectly recreate that dish at home. Nobody else could tell, however.

    • Dave says:

      I don’t replace meat but I augment it with TVP. I am a meat eater on SS and a limited budget, so one of my purchase each month is a chub of ground beef which I make chili, taco meat, spaghetti sauce, as well as hamburgers with. The first three also get what amounts to 2 to 1 meat to TVP ratio to extend the meat. I will probably try meatloaf to see how it works later on.

  • Mike the Gardener says:

    The look on the kid’s face is priceless. I would have the same look as well if someone handed the jar to me. But now that we have a recipe to make it better, we’ll have to give it a go 🙂

    • Jennifer Osuch says:

      Hi Mike,
      Yes, that is my face making child….:) Glad to hear you might give it a try. Let me know how it goes.

      • Tiffany says:

        My kids would surely make that face too. As a vegetarian with todays market and all of its new processed choices, I am so happy to see someone tackle this. Think you can tackle NUTRITIONAL YEAST? I know its processed from a specific strain. I am very self sustaining. If I can’t make it, I don’t buy it. BUT I do run across somethings like this that taste good as say fake burger and have no clue what they are made of or how to recreate it at home in a safe and healthy way.

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