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posted: 3/3/2010 12:01 AM

Textured vegetable protein (TVP) has come a long way

Desperation dinners

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  • You won't miss the meat in this hearty bowl of chili made with soy crumbles.

    You won't miss the meat in this hearty bowl of chili made with soy crumbles.
    Courtesy of Alicia Ross


In the past, when we thought of TVP (which was not often), we always thought of chili. And we also thought "compromise." Using a vegetable-based substitute for meat felt like a last resort in our efforts toward vegetarian cooking. Not anymore.

Textured vegetable protein, or TVP - also called textured soy protein - has come a long way in the past few years. For starters, mainstream companies such as Boca and Morningstar Farms moved away from dried TVP toward the easier-to-use and more palatable frozen crumbles that don't have to be reconstituted.

And perhaps in their smartest move, these companies gave TVP a new category name - "recipe crumbles" in the case of Morningstar Farms, or "ground crumbles" for the Boca brand. We suspect these names are to make TVP seem more mainstream and to conjure up the notion of ground beef.

For us, the main draw of these vegetarian "crumbles" is the fact that they're made of soy - and soy is extremely low in fat and high in protein. (Visit our Web site at for more information on the nutritional benefits of TVP and cooking tips.)

Now we have a new reason to experiment. Frozen recipe crumbles have gotten a flavor boost, too, with added spices such as garlic and onion. But some things don't change. When we think of textured protein, frozen or not, chili springs to mind. We think you'll love today's recipe for Black Bean and Veggie Chili and are betting you'll never miss the meat. For another vegetarian-chili recipe with lentils, visit our Web site at

Suggested menu: Black Bean and Veggie Chili with grape clusters and assorted crackers.

• Write to Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross at Desperation Dinners, c/o United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016 or More at the Desperation Dinners Web site,