TVP Chili – A Recipe For Your Health And Wealth


Kitty PoP loves chili time.

This is the time of year that many people are starting to come up with resolutions. And since many of those resolutions are about being more on top your health and wealth, I figured I’d share one of my favorite ridiculously cheap and quite healthy recipes if you’re looking to start the new year off on the right foot.

I’ve been a vegetarian for many years, so the recipe below is for a vegetarian chili that even Mr. PoP (a carnivore through and through) swears is pretty darned good.


Instead of using ground beef or turkey, this recipe uses TVP, which stands for textured vegetable protein. I buy it dehydrated in the bulk foods section, and rehydrate it. Odds are, even if you consider yourself a meat-atarian, you’ve consumed TVP at one time or another since it’s used as a “meat extender” at many restaurants.

Back when I was in school the cafeteria ladies ‘fessed up one day that the sloppy joes were actually vegetarian. It was probably made of TVP.

Think those burgers at McDonalds or that ground beef in your Taco Bell taco is 100% meat? Doubtful. Other restaurants will even use it as an extender in meat loaf or meat balls. And seriously, when your other option is pink slime, you’d prefer those restaurants use TVP!


Bulk TVP at Whole Foods

TVP is made as a by-product of the process that creates vegetable oil, so it is virtually fat free, has very little in the way of carbohydrates, and has a fair amount of protein.  It’s also incredibly cheap. There’s not a whole lot in the way of other nutrients in it, but when you combine it with other nutrient rich foods, you’re in good shape.

So now that you’ve accepted that you’ve probably eaten TVP at some point in your life and just not known it, quit gagging and give this recipe a try.

TVP Chili

This recipe makes a HUGE batch of chili – about 15 1 cup servings all less than $6 if you include all the optional ingredients. It’s less than $5 if you just go with the basic version. On top of that, it’s not bad for you either!  The beans soak overnight, the remainder of the recipe takes ~2 hours on the stove, but isn’t all that labor intensive.

Costs are in italics and represent regular prices in our local grocery store. If you buy in bulk, or stock up on BOGO sales, I’m quite sure you can get it for less.


  • 2 c dried beans (we like at least half to be kidney beans, since they’re traditional in chili) $0.75
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic (~6 cloves) $0.25
  • 1 large onion chopped $0.50
  • 3 (15oz) cans diced stewed tomatoes $2.00
  • 1.5 c TVP $0.60
  • 2 c vegetable broth (from bullion cubes is ok) $0.25
  • 4 tsp chili powder $0.50 for all spices
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper* (more if you like a spicy chili)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup frozen corn (optional) $0.20
  • 2/3 c nutritional yeast** (optional) $0.80

1. Soak the beans overnight in water. In this batch we used 1 cup kidney beans, 1/2 cup small red beans, and 1/2 cup pinto beans. If you’ve got a curious cat like Kitty PoP, cover the bowl with a towel so they won’t be tempted to grab a midnight snack.

2. Drain beans, then in a BIG pot (ours is a big stock pot!), cover with water and a big pinch of salt. Boil for one hour until cooked.

3. Rehydrate the TVP while the beans are cooking by heating vegetable broth for a couple minutes in microwave, then add TVP. Stir and let sit for a few minutes for the TVP to rehydrate.


Upper left – dehydrated TVP
Right – after adding broth and letting sit for a few minutes

3. Add remaining non-optional ingredients. When the beans are starting to get soft after about an hour, add garlic, onion, tomatoes, rehydrated TVP, spices, and water to cover. Stir to mix, then simmer for 30 minutes.


Left – Rainbow of spices
Right – Adding everything to the pot

4. Add corn and nutritional yeast. (Both of these are optional.) Simmer another 15-20 minutes.


Left- Adding the frozen corn
Right – Flaked nutritional yeast

5. Chili will thicken upon standing or you can add a few tablespoons of corn meal to help it thicken a bit sooner. And that’s it.


Bon Appetit!

Serving suggestions: Top with a dollop of sour cream or sharp cheddar as you desire. Serve by itself or with a baked potato, baked tortilla chips, or some nice corn bread for a very filling meal.

For 15, 1-cup servings (includes all optional ingredients):

  • Cost Per Serving: $0.39
  • Calories: ~100 calories
  • Protein: 11 grams

Recipe Notes:

  • 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper makes a chili that’s on the spicy side for me, but I’m a person who likes their salsa mild. If you need heat in your chili, try increasing the cayenne pepper, but I’d recommend doing so a little at a time. A little goes a long way!
  • Nutritional yeast is usually used as a vegan cheese substitute, and adds a nice savory flavor here. But you can easily omit it. You might just find yourself wanting to add extra cheese or sour cream topping.
  • I buy both TVP and nutritional yeast in the bulk section at our local Whole Foods. Other natural markets would likely also stock them.

Have you ever tried TVP? Any questions? What’s your favorite cheap and healthy meal to start the new year off right?

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