I was a vegetarian restaurant over the weekend and ordered a meal that had "tofu" and "soy protein". The soy protein looked somewhat like steak, but was whiter and tasted similar to steak. I asked the woman what it was, but she could only tell me that it was "soy protein". I am looking to incorporate this ingredient in my meals, but I am not sure what to get or where to get it as I understand there are many types of soy protein. I know that I haven't provided a great description, but does anyone have any educated guess about what type of soy protein this could be? Also, where is a good play to purchase soy protein? Thank you.

  • How exactly did it look somewhat like steak? Texture? Color? It's fairly likely that the color and flavor aren't inherent properties.
    – Cascabel
    Mar 21, 2011 at 21:04
  • Color was creamish, but compared to tofu (which was also in the dish), it was darker. The texture was in between that of tofu and steak. The only other (possible?) hint I have is that they said they order it in a massive block from Asia. I believe they also use it in "Veggie Chicken". Thanks for your help.
    – skaz
    Mar 21, 2011 at 22:17

4 Answers 4


This sounds like seitan to me, or mock duck, mock chicken, braised gluten, or one of the various other names for it.

It is made from wheat gluten and has a texture, as you state, between tofu and a kind of rubbery steak. For vegetarians, it is my opinion that it is the closest of the simple meat substitutes to a sensible "meat" texture.

I find it easiest to buy the fried variety canned in the UK from Chinese food shops and some large supermarkets. How the seitan is braised/prepared makes a difference to the final texture and flavour hence getting the different mock varieties.

Mock Duck, Mock Chicken cans

Companion Seitan "Tidbits" (Cha'i-Pow-Yü) I find are very useful for curries and that sort of thing.

Companion Seitan "Tidbits" (Cha'i-Pow-Yü)

It should be quite easy to obtain in your area. There are a lot of modern western meat alternatives that are very accurate and are a combination of soy-based TVP and seitan. I know Tofurky is popular state-side, a company called Redwoods covers similar bases in the UK.

Tofurky Roast

Redwoods Cheatin Products

  • As I understand it, seitan is not soy protein at all though, correct? The waitress specifically said soy protein, although I believe I want to try seitan as well. Aside from people being allergic, there are no strong downsides to gluten, right?
    – skaz
    Mar 22, 2011 at 13:55
  • @skaz: It is not, but there are two things to consider there, a) she might not have known what she was talking about, b) the latter stuff I have listed above is all hybrid soy/seitan and makes the best substitutes. Plain soy-based TVP has a very different texture to seitan, if you try both, you would know which you had before. As far as the health aspects are concerned. Soya has as many known allergy concerns as gluten, if not more, if you are allergic to either, avoid them - otherwise should be fine. Some people find both hard to digest, can't say that I have noticed that.
    – Orbling
    Mar 22, 2011 at 15:19
  • @skaz: Given the digestive comment, if you have IBS, Crohn's, or anything like that, gluten and soya are best avoided. Soya should also be avoided if you have any thyroid/endocrine issues, as it is a hormone mimicker.
    – Orbling
    Mar 22, 2011 at 15:21
  • Forgot about seitan. Now that you've mentioned this, I think it could also be tempeh. They're all sort of similar.
    – Aaronut
    Mar 23, 2011 at 23:25
  • @Aaronut: Tempeh has a very, very strong flavour though, even curried you can still tell what it is, and it crumbles up easily due to the structure being composed of many whole soya beans fused together. As they were marketing it as "veggie chicken", I would say it's either some variant of seitan, as stated above. Or the other form of braised gluten they use for the "mock meat" substitutes, doù baō (豆包), made from tofu skin (dried sheets from the skin on soya milk when boiled). I find it amusing that Google Translate renders that as Bean Bag. ;-)
    – Orbling
    Mar 24, 2011 at 0:35

I believe you are talking about Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP), AKA textured soy protein.

Unlike tofu, which is made in a fashion similar to cheese (i.e. by coagulation of soy milk into curds), TVP is made almost entirely from soy flour and is actually a byproduct of soy processing.

TVP can be made from foods other than soy, but soy is the most common.

  • TVP tends to be leaner, lighter and chewier than anything that could stand in for steak... Aug 29, 2016 at 9:04

I go to an excellent Chinese takeaway that sells soy 'lamb', soy 'duck', soy 'beef' etc etc. Each of them are very different and as a vegetarian I would love to know where to buy different styles of soy protein so cook with. When I asked they said they order the different types of soy protein in bulk so I think unfortunately your best option may be to look into actual food manufacturers and see if you can buy some and store it?


hard to say, but maybe it was some kind of Quorn product? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quorn

  • I don't believe so - they said it was soy (which to me it looks like Quorn is not). Also, I believe they said they get huge blocks of it shipped from somewhere in Asia, but this looks like it is from the UK.
    – skaz
    Mar 21, 2011 at 18:40
  • @skaz: Quorn is the most popular of the UK vegetarian substitutes, made from a type of mushroom like substance and egg.
    – Orbling
    Mar 22, 2011 at 9:19
  • If it's anything like I've tried it isn't quorn
    – nixy
    Mar 22, 2011 at 10:17

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