So…you may be asking, “What is TVP?”
Well, my answer is this: The greatest creation for saving money since the piggy bank!
…Or at least it’s up there. Anyhoo, my recipes sometimes suggest using TVP instead of ground meat, so here’s the skinny on Texturized Vegetable Protein (TVP). Derived from soybeans, TVP is a water-soluable dry ingredient sold both packaged or in bulk at many grocery stores. I confess, I have not seen it at my local discount stores, which is why I mention it only as an *option* to substitute or cut ground meat with, but in my opinion it is one of those pantry staples that will save you enough money on its own merits that it might be worth picking up if you happen to find yourself at a regular supermarket from time to time. I try to stick with the mission statement of this blog to only use ingredients I could buy at a discount store, but dammit, this is my blog, and my rules, so…nananana boo-boo.
So how do you prepare TVP?
So glad you asked! In my experience, there are several different tips and tricks you can use to passing TVP off as the “real thing” (AKA…meat) in various recipes, depending on the role meat plays in said recipe. To begin with, you will always begin by adding water or broth to the dehydrated TVP to reconstitute it to a ground-beef like, wet-but-crumbly state. I usually add equal parts TVP and water, and then mix in a bouillion cube or two. (Don’t overdo it on the bouillion, though. It doesn’t take much to flavor the TVP, and every cube will make it saltier!) Then, for color, I toss in a little unsweetened cocoa powder and a little paprika. Don’t worry. A little cocoa powder will NOT make your TVP taste like chocolate; it just gives it a good dark color and helps it to soak up the other seasoning flavors you add to fill out a rich, beefy taste.
If I’m using TVP as a replacement in something saucy, like taco meat or chili, or if I’m only cutting regular ground beef/turkey with TVP to make it go further, I might stop there. However, if you’re making something sauceless, light in color, or with only TVP (no ground meat), you might want to add a little something else to it to darken its color and help it “assimilate.” I recommend leftover brewed coffee, chili powder or a little bit of finely ground black pepper.
An added bonus of using TVP to cut into existing ground beef is that you not only save yourself money on meat (a big bag of TVP that I can’t use up in a month costs less than four dollars at my regular grocery store), but also that you can get away with (and actually benefit from!) using a lower-grade (fattier, cheaper) ground beef as your base. If you were cooking primarily with ground beef and nothing else, you might be tempted to spend extra money on 90- to 97 percent lean meat, but if you’re cutting TVP into the mix, you’ll probably be grateful for that extra fat in the skillet — after all, Fat = Flavor. I use 80 percent lean when cutting it with TVP. Plus, you can reduce your liquid added to TVP if adding to a fattier skillet, and then you don’t have to drain the meat when it’s all cooked! (I LOATHE draining meat, in case you were wondering.)
And finally, I like the idea of using TVP even more after reading that it is often used in prisons as a cheap source of protein and because of its long shelf life. Something about that makes me feel like a real hardass, and I like it.
So how can I keep my loved ones from finding out they’re being completely hosed in the meat department???
Well, in my experience, they won’t guess from the taste or texture unless you start bugging them with goofy questions that make it suspicious, so just keep your mouth shut. Stay away from TVP when preparing hamburger patties or meatloaf, at least until you get the hang of cooking with it, and you should be home free. The only real issue in my house that poses the threat of discovery and subsequent nose-turn-uppage is the actual physical evidence. Therefore, I leave you with this recommendation for the perfect kitchen hiding place–the decaf coffee can. ‘Cause, frankly…who the hell wants that? Why is it even there? In fact, at my house, I’ve discovered this is the most effective hiding place on the premises short of a good old box of feminine products in the bathroom…which, of course, probably wouldn’t be recommendable as a spot for for storing food items.