Food & Drink

Wheat gluten can be meat substitute

Q. Where can I find gluten? When I asked at Healthy Home Economist Market, they only had gluten flour. Are they different?

Wheat gluten is the protein portion of wheat flour, produced by rinsing away the starch from a dough-like mixture of wheat flour and water. The gummy gluten strands don't dissolve in water, so they remain behind.

Wheat gluten is frequently used as a meat substitute, because it can be formed into shapes that vaguely resemble meat. “Mock” meats, frequently served in Asian restaurants that cater to a Buddhist clientele, are made from wheat gluten.

Wheat gluten is sold in a number of forms. One of these is gluten flour, also known as vital wheat gluten. That's what they sell at Home Economist. This form is very dry and is usually added to bread doughs to increase protein.

Depending on what you're making, vital wheat gluten may be what you want. If you are after a meat substitute, you should purchase a product called seitan.

Seitan is made from gluten flour by adding a very small amount of water – just enough to form a stiff paste – and vigorously kneading. The dough can be extruded into meat-like shapes or sold in blocks. Seitan has little flavor, but it takes on the flavors of any liquid it's exposed to – it's a fantastic in marinades and braising liquids.

You can find vital wheat gluten at Home Economist and at health-focused grocery stores such as Earth Fare. Seitan is available at health food stores such as Berrybrook Farms and at some supermarkets.