Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP)

Textured Vegetable Protein, or TVP for short, is a high-protein soy ingredient commonly found in some of your favorite foods.

Published: August 2015
Last Update: September 2022

Reading Time: 11 minutes

It's a protein powerhouse

Despite its popularity, many people don't know much about this soy product. This guide hopes to change that.

First, it'll cover the basics and answer questions like: What is Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP)? How is it made? Does it taste like anything?

Secondly, we'll discuss its nutrition and whether it can be part of a healthy diet.

Next, it's time to go shopping. There's a handy shopping guide to help point you in the right direction. Plus, there's helpful storage information for once you're home.

Finally, you'll find cooking basics and many vegan TVP recipes to try.

Let's get started.

A brown bowl of uncooked textured vegetable protein sitting on a blue napkin

Uncooked textured vegetable protein / Source

1. Basics

If you're new to textured vegetable protein, start here.

How does textured vegetable protein (TVP) taste?

By itself, TVP has virtually no flavor at all.

Textured Vegetable Protein absorbs flavorings extraordinarily well and has a fibrous, spongy texture similar to animal meat. This toothy texture makes it an excellent choice for people looking for alternatives to the familiar foods of their pre-vegan days.

Doctor holding heart with bandage

Evidence-based information from professionals / Source

2. Textured vegetable protein nutrition information

Evidence-based nutrition information from licensed dietitians.

Unlike other whole soy foods like tempeh and minimally processed soy foods like tofu, textured vegetable protein is a processed soy product.

You might think, “Eating a bunch of processed soy food doesn’t sound all that healthy to me.” And you’d be correct, but only because no healthy eating plan should consist of a bunch of processed foods, soy, or otherwise.

Please don’t listen to me; I’m not a dietitian.

For accurate, evidence-based information, I turned to experts on vegan nutrition.

Here’s what they had to say.

Nutrition information

To determine if textured vegetable protein (TVP) is healthy, I turned to Anya Todd MS, RD, LD.

According to Todd, the nutrients in soy foods can vary among different preparations. She admits that while the nutrition in textured vegetable protein isn’t as praise-worthy as a whole soy food like tempeh, TVP can still be a part of a healthy vegan diet.

“Bottom line, soy is perfectly fine in moderation. When looking at soy though, ideally we should be eating soy as minimally as possible, but even processed soy can have the occasional place in a vegan diet.” (1)

Todd isn’t alone in her thoughts on textured vegetable protein either.

Experts agree

Author and vegan dietitian Virginia Messina, MPH, RD, concurs.

Healthy vegan diets should be based mostly on whole plant foods. But the all or nothing approach that bans processed foods and added fats isn’t necessary for good health.”

Messina believes vegan diets need to be realistic, which means making allowances for foods that help people go and stay vegan, like TVP.

Finally, remember that soy products are not the only plant-based protein options. Legumes, seitan, nuts, and seeds are also excellent protein sources.

Soy isoflavones

Soybeans contain phytoestrogens called isoflavones.

Some people claim that these soy isoflavones act like the female sex hormone estrogen in the body and can potentially increase the risk of cancers — especially breast cancer — and reduce testosterone levels in men.

But concerns about adverse effects are not supported by the clinical literature available at the time of this writing.

Soy is one of the most researched foods — nearly 2,000 soy-related papers published annually — and based on the health benefits in these studies and the benefits noted in clinical trials, soy is not only safe to eat but also beneficial when consumed in moderation. (2, 3)

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs)

Some people will avoid textured vegetable protein (TVP) because they are afraid to consume GMOs.

genetically modified organism (GMO) is any organism whose genetic material has been manipulated in a lab using genetic engineering techniques. Scientists alter genes using DNA from different living organisms like bacteria or viruses to get specific traits such as resistance to disease or tolerance of herbicides or pesticides. (4)

Soybeans are the second-largest crop grown in the US after corn and are also one of the top genetically modified crops.

These numbers are significant because even if you’re not eating soy foods directly — if you’re eating animals — you’re most likely still consuming soy. Currently, 85 percent of all GMO soybeans end up in animal feed for farmed animals, where it eventually ends up on your plate.

Buying GMOs

There are criticisms about the practice surrounding bioengineering and the production of genetically modified organisms. In more than 60 countries worldwide, there are significant restrictions or outright bans on their manufacture and sale.

Here in the US, the government has approved using bioengineered crops. (4)

When buying TVP, unless the product has a specific GMO-free label, then there’s a good chance it’s genetically modified.

Finding non-GMO textured vegetable protein is easy for those looking to avoid GMO soy. Look for the information on the label when purchasing.

The bulk section of the grocery store

Bulk section at a grocery store / Source

3. Shopping guide

Here’s what you need to know before you head to the store.

Finding textured vegetable protein (TVP) in stores

Finding textured vegetable protein in stores isn’t complicated, but placement can vary widely by store.

First things first, head over to the bulk section of the store. Scan the labels for textured vegetable protein (TVP) and textured soy protein; they’re the same. Nine times out of ten, you’ll find it here.

If you don’t spot it, head to the dried goods section. Sometimes you’ll spot it near the dry soup mixes. Look for a pale-colored dry crumble or nuggets.

And if you still can’t find it after that, ask someone who works at the store for help.

What's the difference between TVP and TSP?

Textured vegetable protein (TVP) and textured soy protein (TSP) can be used interchangeably.

The only difference between the two is TVP is the registered trademark of Archer Daniels Midland Company.

How to store textured vegetable protein (TVP)

When stored in an air-tight container, unflavored and dehydrated TVP has a shelf life of at least one year.

However, it will spoil within several days after being hydrated so keep it in the fridge. 

4. Vegan textured vegetable protein (TVP) recipes

Get ready to get cooking. Here are vegan TVP recipes for inspiration.

Recipes to try

  1. High-Protein Vegan Burgers
    Full of Plants
  1. Vegan Soy Chorizo
    Yup, It's Vegan!
  1. Garden Veggie Sloppy Joes
    Healthy. Happy. Life.
  1. TVP Vegan Larb (Laotian Salad)
    Vegan Vegan Val
  1. Vegan Schnitzel
    Elephantastic Vegan
  1. Vegetarian Chili
    Stingy Vegan
  1. Vegan Egg Roll in a Bowl
    Vegan Blueberry
  1. Vegan Sausage Crumbles
    The Hidden Veggies
  1. Vegan Spaghetti Bolognese
    Elephantastic Vegan
  1. TVP Tacos
    Dora's Table
  1. Vegan Tamales
    Vegan Blueberry
  1. Serbian White Bean Soup
    Ve Eat Cook Bake

Truth in advertising

I am committed to providing accurate information to the vegan community. Meticulously researched, the topic explored in this guide contains the information available at the time of publishing.

I don’t just say it; I source it too.

Please contact me if you find incorrect data.

Article Sources

  1. Todd, A. (2018) Personal Interview. http://www.anyatodd.com/
  2. Messina, M., & Messina, V. (2010). The Role of Soy in Vegetarian Diets. Nutrients,v2(8), 855–888. Retrieved from http://doi.org/10.3390/nu2080855
  3. Norris, J. (2100). Soy: What’s the Harm? VeganHealth.org. Retrieved from http://www.veganhealth.org/articles/soy_wth
  4. Learn About GMOs. Non-GMO ProjectRetrieved from https://www.nongmoproject.org/gmo-facts/

Photo Credits

TVP photos: Shutterstock
Healthcare Professional holding red bandaged heart: Thinkstock
Co-Op photo: L. Emerson
Recipe photos via recipe creators and used with permission.