Vital Wheat Gluten – The Other Vegetarian Meat

Warning:  This recipe uses double-cooked wheat gluten.  Those individuals who are sensitive to gluten are advised to check with their doctor or health professional before trying this recipe.

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:

  1. It actually looks like meat after it’s prepared;
  2. It can be shaped into sausages, hotdogs, strips, etc.;
  3. Its texture and taste is similar to meat.

Wheat gluten has long been used in Asian cooking – including for mock duck. It was used in the Far East by Buddhist monks who were looking for a soy alternative – and is now catching on here in the West.

Nutritionally, wheat gluten has positive qualities when compared to beef:

  1. Wheat gluten retains high levels of protein;

  2. Wheat gluten is lower in fat than beef;
  3. Wheat gluten contains no cholesterol.

This recipe is easy to make – especially if you’re familiar with making dumplings.

FIY – The process of obtaining gluten from wheat flour involves washing flour to remove the starch. I have never tried the process myself of making gluten from flour – instead I buy vital wheat gluten at my supermarket. If you are interested, however in trying to make your own gluten from regular flour, here are a couple of links to help you:


Vital wheat gluten should be available in your supermarket in the baking section. A couple of really good brands are Bob’s Red Mill and King Arthur. These brands are also available online at:

Wheat gluten meat substitute is made in a 2-step cooking process – it is cooked twice:

  1. You boil the wheat gluten in a broth – just like dumplings: After you boil the gluten nuggets and drain off the broth, you can store them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to eat them; boiled gluten nuggets keep refrigerated for up to two days.
  2. You fry the nuggets in vegetable oil: When you’re ready to eat, you fry the nuggets just like sausage. If you don’t want to fry, you can try baking the nuggets although I have never baked them so I don’t know how they’ll turn out.

Step One – The Broth:

  1. Fill a large saucepan or a Dutch oven with water until it between one-third and one-half full. You don’t want to fill it more than halfway because when you add the gluten pieces, the water level will rise and you don’t want it to boil over. Place the pan on high heat.
  2. 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

Essentially, the wheat meat consists of just 2 ingredients:

  • Wheat gluten
  • Water

Measurements: 1 part gluten to 1 part water

To this you can various seasonings of your choice.

I suggest these in any combination:

  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Ginger

You can use dried or fresh seasonings. I prefer fresh when I have the time. If using fresh, finely chop the seasoning. Use your own judgment but a couple of tablespoons each of fresh-chopped seasonings should be enough for a 2-cup gluten batch. Half of that should be good for dried store-bought seasonings.

Next, mix it up:

In a small mixing bowl, quickly, and all at once, add the gluten, water, and chopped seasonings. Whip rapidly with a fork for about half a minute. You will rapidly notice that the gluten gets very sticky. (I use a fork for this process rather than a whisk or egg beater because the fork is easier to clean as the gluten gets sticky – you just scrape the side of the bowl so the gluten goes back into the bowl.)

Now that the gluten has gotten 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 do it lightly with a rolling pin.

Shape it:

The shape we’ll be using in this recipe will resemble chunks of meat after they’re prepared. This shape is easiest to do but as you get more experience, you can develop your own shapes.

Roll up the slab into a loose cylinder. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just press it together with your fingers.

With a sharp knife, cut the large cylinder lengthwise into at least two strips. Reshape each length into a cylinder. Again, you don’t have to be perfect with this.

Now, cut along the width across both strips into chunks. Make your chunks between one-quarter to one-half inch thick. These chunks will enlarge once they’re boiled in the broth; you’ll 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 Three – Boil 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 heat to low or medium-low so that broth slow simmers.

Cook covered for about 1 hour. Check and adjust heat to maintain slow simmer with a few bubbles.

When cooking time is up, drain off broth in a colander. Remove gluten to sealable container and refrigerate until you are ready to use it.

Note: Gluten meat chunks, after having been cooked this way in the broth, will keep in the refrigerator for about two days.

Step Four – Fry Gluten Meat Chunks

The final step is to fry or stir-fry the gluten 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 in the gluten chunks, 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.

Add vegetables for a stir-fry or eggs for a breakfast treat. You can also now add the fried gluten meat to stew or chili.

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