Cooking is probably one of the single most useful and money saving skills anyone could ever learn. For the cost of one nice meal out, I can buy groceries for a week.

We also know from health class and our moms that protein is a key part of any meal nutritionally and has the added benefit of keeping us feeling fuller longer. But how are we supposed to fill our need for protein in a world of less eating meat and more saving money?

TVP (texturized vegetable protein) is a good option. I first heard about it from the Tightwad Gazette and when I saw a bag of it for $3 at my local discount store a few weeks ago, I thought it was finally time to give it a shot. I’m all about less expensive and nutritious protein sources that are good for the planet.

So the one thing weird about TVP is that it comes in flake form, which would be a bit off-putting or impractical in certain dishes (“My TVP burger is crumbling!”), it is quite fine in other dishes, at least to me.

Here are two I made that were actually good and prepared in under 30 minutes from start to finish.

TVP Steamed Dumplings
1/2 package won-ton wrappers
1 c. TVP (after it’s been rehydrated)
1 tbsp. five spice powder
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp soy sauce
1/4 onion, chopped cooked
4-6 shitake mushrooms
vegetable oil
dumpling sauce

1. Rehydrate TVP. Cook onions in a bit of vegetable oil, then set aside. Cook mushrooms in a bit of oil in the same pan, giving them lots of space to breathe. Set aside. Dice once cool.
2. Mix onion, mushrooms, 5 spice powder, rice vinegar and soy sauce in bowl. Add salt to taste.
3. Spoon a bit of mixture into won ton wrapper. Wet the sides and press closed.
4. Steam dumplings 3-5 minutes. Serve with dumpling sauce for dipping.
Additional ingredients you could add to the mix could be cabbage, water chestnuts, or bamboo shoots.

TVP Chili
1 packet chili seasoning (or chili powder, cumin, and cayenne pepper)
1 can black beans
1 can pinto beans
1 can diced tomatoes
1 small onion, diced
2 clove garlic, diced
2 c. TVP
vegetable oil
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Cook onion and garlic in a pan with a bit of vegetable oil.
2. Add seasoning, TVP, beans, tomatoes. Simmer 20 minutes.
3. Salt and pepper to taste and serve with cornbread.
Additional ingredients could include corn (frozen or canned), bell peppers, and tabasco sauce.

So your turn, have you attempted cooking with TVP? Share some of your favorite recipes if you have!

Some other cool links:
Foods That Cost Less Than $1/pound, from the AARP (Think I’m lame all you want, it’s a good article!)
The Tightwad Gazette book on Amazon (Amy’s a bit hardcore but will give you a lot of ideas I guarantee you haven’t thought of before)


1 Anna March 18, 2010

A life long vegetarian, I use TVP quite often in chillies, spag bol, shepherds pie, etc. You can find it in whole-food or organic stores here in France and it’s usually available as dried mince and dried medium and large chunks rather than flakes. The Vegetarian Society provides a lot of useful info on nutrition in a meat free diet. Such as this page on protein:

2 Kelly March 18, 2010

Anna- what’s it called in French?

3 Anna March 18, 2010

It’s called “Protein de Soja” and if you buy it somewhere like Biocoop or Satoriz I recommend looking for it in their selection of loose unpackaged products as it works out cheaper.

4 Emily March 18, 2010

Thanks for the recipes! We use rehydrated TVP in chili mostly, but we’re going to have to try the dumplings – they sound delightful!

5 Tina @ March 18, 2010

I’m intrigued! I’ve been contemplating TVP for a while, but been a little intimidated. Can I ask where you bought it? I would love to just pick up a trial amount in a local store rather than ordering bulk the first time.

Thanks for the info!
.-= Tina @´s last blog ..Money Incentive for Kids =-.

6 Kelly March 18, 2010

I've never cooked with TVP, mostly because I've never run across it before! But I have used frozen, then thawed and crumbled tofu in things like chili before- it makes a great substitution for beef.

7 Random Thoughts of a Jersey Mom March 19, 2010

I’ve never heard of that before. Thanks for the info; I’ll keep my eyes open for it.
.-= Random Thoughts of a Jersey Mom´s last blog ..I Like Cheap Wine =-.

8 MotherOfPearl March 19, 2010

I used to be able to get tvp at a local health food store. I used it for cutting the amount of ground beef in recipes. I don’t think anyone ever noticed when I used it that way. Unfortunately, the health food store moved across town so I haven’t been able to get any in a long time. Maybe I’ll try looking again.

9 Rachelle March 19, 2010

You can get it in the bulk section of a health-food store. I use it all the time, especially in chili, tacos and spaghetti sauce. My non-vegetarian spouse can't tell the difference when I substitute TVP for half the ground beef. The basic idea is to soak it in water for about 15 minutes, squeeze out the excess water with your hands, then add directly to the pot (for saucy recipes). If you want to use it in tacos or some other more dry uses, fry the TVP with onion & appropriate spices. You can also rehydrate in a flavourful broth instead of water.

10 Nicole March 19, 2010

I can’t believe that you’ve all got me even more psyched about TVP. Thanks for the comments! Yes, buying from the bulk section of a (health) food store seems like the least expensive route. On my Facebook page (where I posted this link), others have said that it adds a nice texture to pumpkin soup and one of my friends who hiked the Appalachian Trail said it was the cheapest, healthiest, lightest protein source he could have wanted for his hike. Great for gourmet cooks and campers, now that’s a crowd-pleasing food!

11 Kristie Speakman March 19, 2010

When I quit eating meat I got some TVP from I got a sampeling size of all of the types they have. The Beefish bits & tacoish bits are great, you really could not tell the difference if you did not know it was TVP. The hamish bits, and chickenish chunks have a odd texture, not bad but not chicken/ham. I enjoy being able to make things like chicking & dumpling that I have not made since I quit meat and they taste good,but just not like chicken. I have not yet tried the chickenish bits or beefish chunks but I fear that they will have the same downfall. In the future I would just buy a big jug or even a box of beefish bits (I have SOOOOO much free-after-coupon taco seasoning) because that is what we use most.
.-= Kristie Speakman´s last blog ..$7 for a tote bag & a year of Rolling Stone! =-.

Previous post:

Next post: