“TVP Taco” sort of sounds like something that should be illegal, like the new hot drug or assault weapon. But have no fear; TVP stands for “textured vegetable protein,” and as far as I know it’s never resulted in any possession charges. What should be illegal is Gimme Lean Ground Beef Style, the slimy meat substitute that I tried making tacos with before. After this failed attempt, my wife and I began to wonder if our taco days were over now that we don’t eat meat. So when my sister, who works in a vegetarian restaurant, told me that they used to serve TVP Sloppy Joes, I grabbed onto a last glimmer of hope.
You can probably find TVP near the grains in your supermarket. The brand I got was Bob’s Red Mill, found alongside the rest of Bob’s products, like bulgar, oats, etc. According to the package, “TVP is made from defatted soy flour that has been cooked under pressure and then dried.” Doesn’t sound too exciting, but what soy product really does? As you might know from reading Junk Food Isn’t Healthy; Health Food Isn’t Healthy, I’m not a big fan of overly processed foods (or anything masquerading as meat). But there’s nothing besides soy flour in this, and if it means I can eat tacos that resemble the ones I used to eat, then I’m all for it every now and then.
The results of the TVP Taco Experiment were nothing short of brilliant (if you’re as into tacos as we are). While the TVP didn’t taste like much in and of itself, it really took on the flavor of the taco seasonings. But best of all, the texture made it a dead ringer for ground meat. If there’s a ground beef or turkey recipe that you used to love but can’t make as a vegetarian, you’ve got to try a TVP version. I’m thinking lasagnas and pasta dishes with bolognese ragout (TVPese ragout?). And Erin and I are so excited that taco night is back. Arriba!
I’m not really sure how to rate this one. This way of making tacos is so standard that it’s kind of hard to give it a rating. I’ll say this. However many cows you would give normal tacos, subtract maybe a cow ass or a hoof. But that’s it. So if normal tacos are 4 cows out of 5 for you, then these are 3.8 cows. The TVP doesn’t add flavor the way meat does, but the texture is perfect. They’re tacos, and if you like tacos then you’ll like ‘em. If you don’t, you won’t.
So here’s the way we like to make our tacos. Obviously, if you don’t like one topping and prefer something else, use that instead (unless it’s meat). To steal a phrase from a fast food icon (let’s call them TVP King), “Have it your way!” Jalapeno hint: cut out the white ribs on the inside if you don’t like much heat.
Vegetarian TVP Tacos Recipe
Ingredients (for 10 tacos)
- 12 hard or soft corn tortillas
- 2 cups dry TVP
- 1 Tbsp soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp canola oil
- 1 packet taco seasoning (as few fake ingredients as possible, or make your own)
- shredded cheese (I believe in using real cheese or 2% milk cheese, not nonfat)
- 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
- 12 romaine or green leaf lettuce leaves (whole leaves, don’t chop!)
- a handful of chopped cilantro
- salsa, taco sauce, and/or hot sauce (green sauce made from pure jalapenos is my favorite)
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1 lime, cut into sections
Rehydrate the TVP by mixing with just less than 2 cups of boiling water in a bowl and letting it sit 5-10 minutes until the water is absorbed.
Prepare the tortillas however you like. If using hard, I heat them in a 325 degree oven for 5 minutes. If using soft, I heat them for 30 seconds each side in a dry skillet over medium heat.
Add the oil, rehydrated TVP, soy sauce, taco seasoning, and 1/4 cup of water to a pan over medium heat; stir occasionally until the water is absorbed.
Place one lettuce leaf in each taco shell (this way if it breaks, the lettuce holds everything in place). Add cooked TVP, cheese, salsa, scallions, jalapenos, cilantro, and fresh lime juice. I like that order, but only YOU can decide what’s best for your TVP tacos.