Vegetarian Tacos using TVP – Textured Vegetable Protein

These vegetarian tacos are perfect for anyone looking for a meat free meal the whole family will love. In this recipe, I’m using TVP or textured vegetable protein – an easy to use soy based product that soaks up all the delicious taco flavour and looks and feels like ground meat.

tvp tacos
Who doesn’t love taco night!? This time, we used TVP in our tacos – so good.

Also Read: Are Soy Foods Safe, Sources of Plant-Based Protein, Tofu Shepherd’s Pie

What is Textured Vegetable Protein or TVP?

TVP, also called Textured Soy Protein (TSP), is a processed soy product made after the oil has been removed from soy beans. The remaining fat free, soy product is cooked under high pressure and extruded into different shapes depending on the final product desired (crumbles, flakes, chunks, curls or strips). These pieces are then dried. You can buy dried TVP in these various shapes in natural food stores. They are tasteless and easily absorb the flavour from whatever sauces or seasoning you add to them.

Textured vegetable protein easily absorbs delicious taco seasoning and is very similar in texture and mouthfeel to ground meat.

TVP flakes are the perfect texture for these vegetarian tacos. If you’ve never tried TVP before, this is a great introductory recipe for you and your family. Keep reading after the recipe for more information about TVP.

Vegetarian Taco Recipe

tvp vegetarian tacos
Print Recipe
5 from 4 votes

Vegetarian Tacos Using TVP

These tacos are an easy plant-based meal that the whole family will love. If you're looking for a tasty meat free dish, these tacos use Textured Vegetable Protein, a soy based meat substitute that absorbs the taco seasoning easily and has a texture similar to ground meat.
Prep : 15 mins
Cook : 10 mins
Servings: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 340 g pre-cooked TVP*
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • dash cayenne pepper

Instructions

  • Heat canola oil in large pan over medium high heat.
  • Add onion and garlic. Stir and sauté until soft, not browned, for 2-3 min.
  • Add pre-cooked TVP and all seasonings. Stir and sauté for another 5-7 minutes until heated through.
  • Place in bowl and set out with other prepared toppings and warmed tortillas.
  • Enjoy as everyone assembles their own tacos.

Notes

Dried TVP flakes: Pour 3/4 cup boiling water over 1 cup dried TVP flakes. Stir, cover and soak for 10 minutes until TVP flakes are plump. Use in step 3 above.
Taco Topping Ideas:
sweet peppers, lettuce, cheddar cheese, queso fresco, feta, tomatoes, black beans, corn, salsa, sour cream, guacamole, avocado slices, cilantro, parsley, green onions, etc.
Tried this recipe?Mention @GetGettyS or tag #GetGettyS
Course: Main Course
Keyword: meat-free, tacos, TVP, vegetarian

I created this recipe for a project with MAKEmanitoba.ca exploring different protein foods produced here in Manitoba and the research being done at the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences. You can check out this fact sheet and other recipes at www.MAKEmanitoba.ca.

taco and TVP fact sheet
Check out the fact sheet created in partnership with MAKEmanitoba.ca featuring these vegetarian tacos and some of the UM research being done on plant-based protein rich foods.

What does TVP Look and Taste Like?

Here’s a look at what the dry TVP flakes look like. You’ll find these flakes in bulk food stores or natural food stores. These dry flakes are easy to rehydrate by soaking in boiling water. Simply pour 3/4 cup boiling water over 1 cup dried TVP flakes. Stir and soak for 10 minutes until TVP flakes are plump and ready use just like you would cooked ground meat.

These are dried TVP flakes you can buy at bulk food stores or in the vegetarian section of large supermarkets.

You can also buy ready to use TVP that has already been re-hydrated. This form of TVP is readily available in the vegetarian aisle of most grocery stores. You’ll find it next to the Tofu and may be called Ground Round or simulated ground beef. It often comes in pre-seasoned packages. I like adding my own seasoning so always look for the “original”.

ground round sample
Ingredients: Water, textured soy protein, onions, natural flavours, canola oil, salt, caramel, guar gum, cane sugar, spices, yeast extract, malt extract, vitamin and mineral blend.

Here’s what it looks like inside the package.

precooked TVP
Precooked TVP without added taco seasoning. This is Yves Ground Round.

Important Note:

The world of alternative meat products is changing rapidly with new products being added to grocery shelves weekly. Always read the ingredient list of products and be sure that you are happy with what you see.

TVP – Textured Vegetable Protein is a name that is a registered trademark owned by Archer Daniels Midland.  They have been making TVP since the 1960’s when it was made exclusively from soy beans. As a result, the name TVP was always associated with soy based protein. Today, however, that has changed and it is no longer safe to assume that TVP only refers to soy based products. TVP can also be made from cottonseed, oats, wheat, peas, corn or other vegetable proteins. Again, read the label so you know what you’re getting.

seasoned tvp in bowl
TVP seasoned with red onions and taco seasoning for an irresistible taco filling.

Why Use TVP?

TVP is a good option for anyone looking to add more plant based proteins to their meal plan. It’s affordable, easy to use, absorbs flavours easily and has a very similar mouth feel and texture to ground meats. This taco recipe is a perfect example of how easy it is to substitute meat with plant-based proteins and still have a tasty, attractive dish that the whole family will love.

From a nutrition stand point, TVP is a complete protein. This means it contains all nine of the essential amino acids the human body needs to function. This makes TVP appealing to anyone following a vegetarian or vegan diet since few plant-based foods qualify as a complete protein.

A 1/4 cup of dried TVP flakes contains 90 calories, 0 grams of fat, 9 grams of carbohydrates (5 grams of fiber and 2 grams of sugars), and 13 grams of protein. It is also a good source of iron and potassium. The pre-cooked versions will vary because they often have different added ingredients.

Are there any Concerns Using TVP?

TVP is a processed food and our food guide recommends eating more whole foods and less processed foods. Our food guide also recommends more plant-based protein foods instead of getting all our protein from animal sources. That may sound conflicting, but what it really means is that we should be eating a variety of foods and getting our protein from various sources. So your best bet is to use TVP in rotation with all your others sources of protein.

Anyone with a soy allergy should not use TVP as the soy allergens are still present in TVP.

Anyone with a gluten sensitivity should also be aware and carefully read the ingredient label as some TVP can include wheat products.

Storage

Dry TVP has an extremely long shelf life. If kept dry in an airtight container, it will last indefinitely. Great news for backcountry campers like me!

Precooked TVP packages must be kept in the fridge. Closed packages will have a Best Before Date that usually allows several weeks of storage in the fridge. These packages can also be frozen for extended shelf life. I put packages in the freezer as they are, leave in fridge to thaw and have found no difference in quality at all. It’s always best to go through frozen food within 3 to 6 months.

Any leftovers with TVP should be refrigerated in an airtight container and used within three or four days.

Other Plant-Based Protein Meals to Try

Tofu Shepherd’s Pie

Beet and Bean Soup – Vegetarian/Vegan Borscht

Butternut Squash Chili

Cauliflower Chickpea Curry

Very Quick Butter Chickpeas

Red Thai Curry with Edamame and Cashews

Falafel Salad Bowl with Quinoa and Bulgur

Have you tried TVP? I’d love to hear about your favorite dishes and your thoughts on eating more plant based meals. Leave a comment or tag me on social media with your recipes. I’m on Instagram @getgettys and Facebook @GettyStewart.HomeEconomist.

Sign up to get articles by Getty delivered to your inbox. You’ll get recipes, practical tips and great food information like this. Getty is a Professional Home Economist,  speaker and writer putting good food on tables and agendas.  She is the author of Manitoba’s best-selling Prairie Fruit Cookbook, Founder of Fruit Share, a mom and veggie gardener.

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