Textured Soy Protein

As paddlers, we are always looking for the perfect food, something that is tasty, nutritious, easily carried and a breeze to prepare at the base camp. Well, that's easier said than done, isn't it? Although on dry land we may be gourmets or gourmands who love lingering over a slow-cooked boeuf bourguignon, our criteria on an expedition has to be very different. Our priority is often finding a lightweight, easy to carry food that has a long shelf life.

Packed with proteins 

Many paddlers choose textured soy to take along with them on their trips. It's a meat substitute made from soy flour after soy oil has been extracted. Since it has been dehydrated, textured soy (also called tsp) can be stored at room temperature. For longer expeditions, when carrying along meat becomes very difficult, textured soy is a great alternative. Not only is it easy to pack and carry, it contains more than 50 % protein, is high in fibers and low in fat and sodium. And because it isn't a meat product, there is not the same risk of contamination with bacteria such as Salmonella and E. Coli.

Vegetarian and vegan friendly

My son is a vegetarian who grew up eating meat. He tells me he likes textured soy because it can substitute ground beef, ground lamb, ground turkey or chicken in most recipes, and it has the same feel as meat does in his food. And since it absorbs two to three times its weight in water or juices when it is rehydrated and has not much taste it easily absorbs any flavours you add to the cooking process.

Easily packed and carried 

Carrying textured soy along on a paddling trip couldn't be easier. It is lightweight and comes prepared as a substitute to meat in various shapes (chunks, flakes, nuggets, grains, and strips). When it is stored dry at room temperature, it has a shelf life of more than a year, but if it is sealed in an airtight container the shelf life can be much longer. I usually just pack it in zip-lock bags, although I sometimes use my vacuum sealer to keep the product airtight if I'm going on a longer expedition.

Textured soy protein has been around for a couple of generations now. It's a food product that is made when soy oil is extracted. In some cases, producers use the chemical hexane to separate soy oils from proteins, and trace amounts of the solvent can be left after the procedure. The FDA says those trace amounts are acceptable in our diet, but some people worry any amount is too much. To be safe, I always buy from producers of organic textured soy protein who guarantee they don't use hexane. And I also make sure I bring along other protein-rich foods, like cheese, peanut butter, beans, lentils and other legumes. But used in moderation, textured soy protein is a great paddling and camping partner.

Cooking with textured soy protein: 

To reconstitute textured soy, pour 3/4 cup boiling water over 1 cup of textured soy and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes. It can also be added dry to dishes like soups or spaghetti sauce. After rehydration, textured soy should be treated like meat and must be refrigerated and eaten within a few days. 


Favorite pastas for campers (4 to 6 portions)

  • 1 1/2 cup ground textured soy protein
  • 2 cups beef broth (made with cubes and water)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion finely diced
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 4 cups canned tomato sauce (flavored with herbs)
  • 2 cups uncooked small bowtie pastas
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Grated parmesan cheese to taste

In a small pot, bring broth to a boil. Remove from heat and add textured soy. Let stand for 5 minutes, covered.

In the meantime, in a skillet cook vegetables in oil over medium heat for 10 minutes. Add textured soy mixture, tomato sauce and pastas. Bring to a boil, cover and let simmer until most of the excess liquid is absorbed and pastas are cooked but still slightly al dente. Add a bit more water if needed. Serve with grated parmesan cheese.

Easy stir-fry

(4 portions)

  • 1 1/2 cup textured soy protein nuggets
  • 3 cups chicken stock (made with water and cubes)
  • 2 tbsp dark sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • Hot sauce to taste
  • 1 large onion, chopped in 8 pieces length wise
  • 4 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 chopped bell pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tsp corn starch
  • 2 cups cooked rice

In a small pot, bring broth to a boil. Remove from heat and add textured soy. Let stand for 10 minutes, covered. Drain and make sure to keep the broth for the sauce.

In the meantime, in a skillet cook onion and drained textured soy in half the dark sesame oil over high heat for 5 minutes. Add broccoli, bell pepper and garlic and cook 2 more minutes. Add soy sauce, hot sauce and corn starch (dissolved in a bit of hot broth to prevent lumping). Stir well and cook 2-3 minutes. Just before serving add remaining sesame oil. Serve over rice.

  • Note: for this recipe, you can use any quick cooking vegetable you like (asparagus, zucchinis, cauliflower, etc.).
  • For quicker results, use bottled garlic that is already chopped.
  • Just before leaving home for a paddling trip, chop broccoli into florets and place in a perforated plastic bag. It will keep for up to 3 days. You can chop onions up to 2 days in advance. But bell peppers do not keep when chopped in advance. Chop them on-site.

Favorite chili for meat lovers
(4 to 6 portions)

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 4 tbsp real bacon bits (such as Hormel) (or soy bacon bits)
  • 2 cups ground textured soy protein
  • 2 tbsp medium chili powder*
  • 1 tsp dried marjoram*
  • 2 tsp dried coriander*
  • 1 tsp dried cumin powder*
  • 1- 10 oz can beef broth
  • 1- 28 oz can diced tomatoes flavored with chili peppers
  • 1 can red kidney beans, drained

In a large pot, sauté onion in olive oil over high heat for 3 minutes. Add bell peppers, garlic cloves, bacon bits and textured soy protein and cook 2 more minutes. Add remaining ingredients and cook uncover for 15-25 minutes over medium heat. Serve with whole wheat flour tortillas.

  • Note: depending of the length of your paddling trip you can also add chopped lettuce, shredded cheese and the like as garnishes.
  • Before each paddling trip, I like to measure and prepare all the seasonings I need for each meal in advance and to place them in little waterproof pouches (such as Ziploc bags). It saves a lot of time and allows me to cook with many different flavors.
  • Chopped bottled garlic is very convenient and keeps for days without refrigeration.

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