If you’re vegetarian, or just looking to reduce your meat intake, you probably eat a lot of tofu or soy products. It’s an easy-to-find vegetarian protein source that can relatively easily be used in place of meat. But the truth is, its texture is not firm enough to work with. That’s where wheat gluten comes in. Like tofu, wheat gluten is a vegetarian protein source that originated in Asia. Unlike tofu, however, wheat gluten (sometimes called “wheat meat”) has a satisfying, firmer texture that makes it work in ways tofu never could – like, for example, on the grill.
You can find wheat gluten in some Asian grocery stores (it may be labeled “seitan”), but it is not sold at major chain stores in North America. Fortunately, it’s very easy and inexpensive to make your own wheat gluten at home.
Note: Those who have celiac disease or other gluten sensitivities should not eat wheat gluten.
How to Make Your Own Vegetarian Meat
Ingredients and Tools Needed:
- all-purpose flour
- whole wheat flour
- veggie stock
- a large mixing bowl
Here’s How to Make Enough Wheat Gluten to Serve 4 People:
- Combine two cups all-purpose flour and two cups whole wheat flour in a bowl.
- Add just enough water to make a dough.
- Place the dough on a floured counter or cutting board and knead for about 20 minutes to fully develop the gluten.
- Place the dough ball in a bowl, cover with water, and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
- Remove the dough from the fridge, pour out the soaking water, and cover with lukewarm water.
- Knead the gluten under the water. The water will turn very white. After about five minutes, pour out the water and refill the bowl. Keep kneading (and replacing the water) until the water no longer turns white.
- Pinch or cut the gluten into the size and shape desired (keeping in mind that it will grow to about twice its size in the next step).
- Add the gluten pieces to a pot of boiling veggie stock, making sure they are fully covered. Simmer for about two hours. You may need to top up the stock as the gluten soaks it up.
That’s it. You now have your own, homemade vegetarian “wheat meat” with an excellent texture, and it cost just pennies to make. You can store the gluten in the simmering liquid for up to a week in the fridge.
Use the Starch to Make Noodles
The milky white water from the first stage of rinsing can be saved and used to make noodles. Simply pour the water through cheese cloth into a large container and put it in the fridge overnight to allow the starch to settle at the bottom. Carefully pour most of the clear water off the top, leaving about 1 cup of liquid. Stir the starch and liquid together, then pour into a lightly oiled shallow pan. Place the pan in a wok or over a large pot to steam the noodle mixture until it turns opaque. Remove from heat and float the pan in cold water until the noodle sheet cools, then carefully remove the sheet from the pan, coat both sides very lightly with oil, cut into strips, and serve.
The Bottom Line
It’s always handy to have alternative sources of protein, especially if you’re entertaining vegetarian dinner guests. Wheat gluten can be used just like meat in most recipes, and has a more satisfying texture than the usual vegetarian standby.