Vital Wheat Gluten - The Other Meat SubstituteBy Mary Curtis
If you're looking for an alternative to soy meat, vital wheat gluten may be just right for you. "Wheat meat" - as it is called by some - has positive attributes which make it preferred as a meat substitute, even over soy:
It actually looks like meat after it is prepared;
It can be shaped into sausages, hotdogs, strips, etc.;
Its texture and taste is similar to meat.
Tired of soy? If you're looking for an alternative to soy meat, vital wheat gluten may be just right for you. A word of warning, though if you are allergic to gluten: check with your health care provider before trying vital wheat gluten. Otherwise, vital wheat gluten is an excellent alternative for vegetarians to soy. Is is also good for non-vegetarians to cut calories and fat.
Nutritionally, wheat gluten has positive qualities when compared to beef:
Wheat gluten retains high levels of protein;
Wheat gluten is lower in fat than beef;
Wheat gluten contains no cholesterol.
This recipe is easy to make. I use already-made vital wheat gluten which should be available in the baking section of your grocery store and also available online. A couple of really good brands are:
- Vital Wheat Gluten Concentrate - Bulk 50 Pound Bag
- Bob's Red Mill Gluten Flour, 22-Ounce Packages (Pack of 4)
After you prepare the wheat gluten, you can store the nuggets in your refrigerator for up to two days. When you are ready to use some, you will cook them just like meat. You can fry the nuggets in vegetable oil or put them on a baking sheet in the oven. You can also saute the nuggets in a stir fry or put them into stew and soups.
The taste of the wheat gluten nuggets will change depending on what seasonings you use. For this recipe, I use onions, fresh ginger, and garlic. But you can make the nuggets plain or use your own combination of seasonings.
|Heating the broth is the first step.|
|Chopped garlic, ginger, and onions added to wheat gluten mix for seasoning.|
Step One: The Broth:
- In a large saucepan or a Dutch oven, pour water to about half full.
- Add 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and 2 tablespoons of molasses (you can also use brown sugar if you are out of molasses).
NOTE: If the broth comes to a boil before you are ready to boil the gluten, just cover it and turn the heat back to low until you are ready.
Step Two: Make The Gluten Mix
The wheat gluten mix has only two ingredients plus an optional third ingredient. They are:
- Wheat gluten
- Seasonings (optional) - fresh seasonings can include chopped garlic, ginger, and onions
The ratio of wheat gluten to water is one to one. As far as the optional seasonings, I use chopped garlic, ginger, and onions for this recipe but you can experiment with various seasonings of your choice to achieve different flavors.
You can use dried seasonings but I suggest fresh when available for better taste. For fresh, finely chop the seasoning seasonings; a couple of tablespoons each should be enough for a two-cup batch of wheat gluten, but use your own judgement for how strong you want the flavor to be. For bottled commercially dried seasonings, half of that - or about a tablespoon for a two-cup wheat gluten batch - should suffice.
Wheat Gluten Mix Ingredients:
- 2 cups wheat gluten
- 2 cups water
- 2 tablespoons each: finely chopped garlic, ginger, and onions (optional)
|Wheat gluten dough after kneading. Here it is flattened out on a board using the flat side of a cooking knife.|
Wheat Gluten Mix Preparation:
Set the the seasonings (optional) and water aside within reach. Put the wheat gluten in a small mixing bowl.
Quickly, add the water and chopped seasonings on top of the gluten all at once.. Using a fork, whip everyting rapidly for about half a minute. You will notice that the gluten rapidly gets very sticky.
Turn the mass out onto a board and knead with your fingers for another half minute or so. The gluten should adhere to itself in one large ball.
Flatten the gluten into a slab about a half-inch thick. You can use your hands for this or with the flat side of a knife or use a spatula. I advise against using a rolling pin because the dough is very sticky but if you use a rolling pin, just touch the dough lightly.
Step Three: Shape The Dough
NOTE: The shape we will be using in this recipe will resemble chunks of meat after they are prepared. As you get more experience, you can develop your own shapes, but these chunky shapes are by far the easiest with which to start.
- Dough Shaping 1: With your hands, roll the dough into a large cylinder. You do not have to shape this cylinder perfectly but just shape it loosely with your fingers.
- Dough Shaping 2: Using a sharp knife, cut along the cylinder lengthwise effectly making to long strips. Now loosely shape each of these into cylinders. Like in the first step, just shape them loosely.
- Dough Shaping 3: Cut across the width of both strips into chunks. Make each chunk about an half-inch thick, or thumb width. These chunks will swell when they are boiled in the broth into chunks a little larger than the size of stew meat.
|Dough Shaping One: Roll the dough into a large cylinder. It doesn't have to be perfect, just press it together loosely with your fingers.|
|Dough Shaping Two: With a sharp knife, cut the large cylinder lengthwise into at least two strips. Reshape each length into a cylinder. Like the previous step, you don't have to be perfect with this, just loosely shape into cylinders with your fingers.|
|Dough Shaping Three: Cut along the width across both strips into chunks. Make your chunks about half an inch thick (thumb width). These chunks will enlarge once they are boiled in the broth. You will get a feel for the right size that you prefer after a while, but keeping them a half inch or less makes chunks a little larger than stew-meat size.|
Step Four: Boil The Prepared Gluten Chunks In The Broth
Put the gluten chunks into the broth and bring to boil. As soon as the broth begins to boil, cover and turn down the heat to low or medium-low so that the broth slowly simmers.
Cook covered for about 1 hour. Check and adjust heat to maintain a slow simmer with a few bubbles.
When cooking time is up, drain off the broth in a colander. Remove the gluten chunks to a sealable container and refrigerate them until you are ready to use them.
Note: Gluten meat chunks, after having been boiled in the broth, will keep in the refrigerator for about two days.
Step Five: Fry Gluten Chunks When Ready to Use
The final step is to fry chunks in vegetable oil. I use olive oil but use any quality oil of your choice.
Pour enough oil into the pan to make about a quarter-inch layer in the bottom of the pan. Heat the oil on high until it is hot.
Before putting the gluten chunks into the oil, back the heat off to medium or medium-high. Fry each side about two or three minutes. Lightly press the chunks with a spatula to flatten them, if you wish, so they resemble sausage.
|Flatten chunks with spatula to resemble sausage while frying with eggs for breakfast.|
- Add vegetables for a stir-fry.
- Fry with eggs for a breakfast.
- Add the fried gluten meat to stew or chili.
Wheat gluten has long been used in Asian cooking. Far East legend has it that Buddhist monks were looking for a soy alternative when they discovered wheat gluten.
The process of obtaining gluten from wheat flour involves washing the flour to remove the starch. If you are interested, however in trying to make your own gluten from regular flour, here are a couple of links to help you: