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:
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.
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.
Finally, I placed another cutting board on top and then something heavy on top of the top cutting board.
Here is a side view.
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.
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.
Here is what the tofu looks like after it’s been frozen and defrosted.
Crumble it and place it on your dehydrator trays.
Load your trays.
To make bite-sized homemade TVP pieces, cut your firm tofu into bite-sized pieces after you have pressed the water out of it.
Then place on a cookie sheet to freeze.
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.
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.
These pieces are all frozen.
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.
You can dehydrate both the crumbles and the bit sized homemade TVP at the same time on the same setting – 125F°.
This is what the dried frozen tofu tofu looks like.
This is what the bites look like dehydrated.
Here is a close up of the dehydrated frozen tofu bites.
I wanted to show the difference between the manufactured TVP and my homemade TVP. It’s not exactly the same but it’s close.
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”.
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.
Here is a shot of the other can. They both have trans fat.
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.
This is what the taco flavored TVP looks like from Honeyville. This TVP is more crumbles than chunks.
They have one for regular mouth jars too.
Label your jars and put away.