At least once a year, specifically during the Philippine Holy Week period, I try being a full-fledged vegan. I don’t do it for religious reasons or anything like that. I decide to forego any animal products for two reasons. One, I like the challenge. As someone who really enjoys biting into a juicy burger or carving into the flesh of a cow, chicken or pig, I’ve always found it amazing that there are people that go through their lives not eating meat or any animal products. I choose to do it during the Holy Week period as this is usually the time when people “sacrifice” by not eating red meat. Doing it during this time means there are less questions as to why I’m trying not to eat delicious and nourishing meat.
The second reason is it gives me a kind of outlet to become creative. Being vegan means that you don’t just eliminate red meat from your diet. Being vegan means you have to remove other things like milk and eggs as well as these food sources come from animals as well. Essentially, you’re only source of food will come from plants. Finding other foods that will satisfy and fill you up can be difficult if you’re accustomed to eating meat on a regular basis. So you do have to be a little imaginative on how to “trick” yourself into enjoying just plants.
I felt this year was going to be a little more difficult as I just recently started trying to be a little more healthy and even try to pack a little more muscle on my slim, nerdy frame. I’ve started going back to working out with weights so I have been eating a little more protein lately to try to bulk up. But since my main source of protein have been from things like eggs, meat and milk products, I had to cut those items out for this week. I did a little research and there are vegan alternatives that do pack in the protein necessary to build muscle. There are even some bodybuilders out there that have gone all vegan and yet still are able to pack on the muscle.
As I was going to go full vegan this year, I had to find a good source of protein if I still intended on trying to get strong. One of those things I found was something called Textured Vegetable Protein, or TVP. It’s supposed to be some kind of “fake” meat and a cheap source of protein. Well, it had “protein” in its name at least, which is what I wanted. Specifically, I got Bob’s Red Mill TVP as this was the one that was readily available at Healthy Options. I’ve been eating it for a while now and here’s my review on it.
Now, this review will not be on how good Bob’s Red Mill TVP is at building muscle or anything like that. Rather, this review is going to be my honest take on its taste and appearance, how easy it is to prepare as well as how it works as a meat substitute. Even though I’ve been working out for a good number of weeks, I don’t think I’m qualified to say if it’s any good as a protein source. That’s for other more qualified reviewers to say. Anyway, on to the review!
The first thing I have to mention about Bob’s Red Mill Textured Vegetable Protein is that, well, it doesn’t look too good both just out of the packaging and after it’s ready for consumption. Essentially, TVP is a meat substitute that are basically chunks of dehydrated soy flour. Now, as it’s a dehydrated product, you have to add some kind of liquid to it to “cook” it. You can simply add something like hot water to it and let the chunks soak up the water and you’re good to go… sorta. Remember, these are just chunks of soy flour so they’re not tasty in the least. Even if I used other hot liquids like vegetable broth mixed with soy sauce, rehydrated TVP doesn’t taste all that good by itself.
After I did add water/vegetable broth/soy sauce to the TVP to rehydate it to its edible state, I noticed that it generally had the consistency of cooked ground meat and not raw ground meat. This is an important distinction as, if you’re expecting to mold the “cooked” TVP into things like hamburger patties (which was what I wanted to do initially), expect to add lots and lots of flour to get it to the necessary “sticky” texture needed for the patties to hold together. I’m not sure if it would work if you add more liquid but, since I’m just following Bob’s Red Mill’s instructions of using a 1 to 1 ratio of TVP and liquid, I didn’t want to risk it. Basically, if you’re like me and you don’t have the patience, you’re better off just using it as something like a ground meat substitute.
I will say that, although adding “tasty” liquids to the dehydrated TVP didn’t give it that much flavor, it seems as if it does a great job of absorbing the flavors of things like spices and aromatics during the cooking process. One of the dishes I concocted so far was a vegan bolognese sauce. But instead of using beef and red wine, I used the prepared TVP and vegetable stock, respectively. I do have to say it came out much better than I expected. Considering I don’t know all that much about cooking, the vegan bolognese came out much better than I expected! The prepared TVP does have the texture and consistency of regular ground meat once it’s cooked. I think if you don’t look all that hard, you probably won’t notice that it’s “fake” ground meat!
I also tried another dish, which was a version of vegan chili using TVP as well. That dish came out really good as well. Once again, I don’t think anyone would really notice that I was using TVP instead of ground beef in my vegan chili. The most important thing to note about those two dishes was that, after eating them, I didn’t feel I was deprived since I wasn’t eating real meat. My brain knew I was eating “fake” meat but my taste buds couldn’t tell the difference. Based on those two dishes, I will say that TVP, at least the Bob’s Red Mill brand version, does work well as a meat substitute for vegans, or at least for those who are starting out with veganism.
Even though Bob’s Red Mill Textured Vegetable Protein/TVP doesn’t look all that appetizing by itself, I have to say that it does work well as a meat analogue for vegans, as long as it’s prepared properly. Guys and gals who are really good at cooking and who want to try out a meat substitute will definitely get more out of TVP as they’ll be able to concoct better dishes than the ones I made. But, considering that I can’t be called a cook by any stretch of the imagination and I can still manage to prepare some really good dishes with it, I have to say that TVP is a great way to start out if you want to be a vegan.
Have you tried Bob’s Red Mill TVP? Or have to tried being a vegan? Let me know in the comments section below!