Vital wheat gluten flour is highly concentrated wheat gluten that is commonly used to create doughs with a strong structure and chewy texture.
But what exactly is vital wheat gluten flour? How is it made, and what are its nutritional benefits?
What is vital wheat gluten flour?
Vital wheat gluten flour, also known as wheat gluten or gluten flour, is made by extracting the gluten from wheat flour, leaving behind a product that is almost pure protein.
This protein is what gives vital wheat gluten flour its unique properties, making it a popular ingredient in baking, as well as vegetarian and vegan cooking.
To make vital wheat gluten flour commercially, wheat flour is mixed with water to form a dough. The dough is then washed with water to remove the starch and other soluble components, leaving behind a sticky mass of gluten. This gluten is then further processed to remove any remaining traces of starch and water, then dried and ground, resulting in a powdery flour-like consistency.
What’s the difference between vital wheat gluten flour and regular flour?
Firstly, vital wheat gluten flour is much higher in protein than regular flour. In fact, it is almost pure protein, with protein content ranging from 75-80% compared to just 10-15% in regular flour.
Another difference is the texture and structure that vital wheat gluten flour provides. When added to dough or batter, vital wheat gluten flour gives it a strong and elastic structure. This is because the gluten proteins in vital wheat gluten flour are highly elastic and have the ability to trap air, creating a chewy and light texture in baked goods.
Regular flour can provide this same structure, but you need much more all-purpose flour compared to vital wheat gluten flour in baking to achieve the same results.
Benefits of vital wheat gluten flour
Because it’s made up of mostly gluten, vital wheat gluten flour is one of the highest gluten flours – around 73% protein from gluten. This makes it ideal for providing structure and texture to baked goods.
It is also commonly used as a meat substitute in vegetarian and vegan recipes, as its chewy texture and ability to bind ingredients together make it a great stand-in for meat.
Vital wheat gluten flour nutrition facts
|Flour (¼ cup)||Calories||Carbs||Fiber||Sugar||Fat||Protein||Glycemic Index|
|Vital wheat gluten flour||120||4 g||0 g||0 g||1 g||23 g||Likely low|
|All-purpose flour||120||24 g||1 g||0 g||0.5 g||4 g||85|
How to bake and cook with vital wheat gluten flour
Vital wheat gluten flour is not a substitute for all-purpose flour or stand-alone flour. It’s designed to be added to low gluten flours to increase their protein/gluten content. Add about 1 tablespoon for every 2 cups of flour.
Add vital wheat gluten flour to yeast bread recipes to give the bread more volume by trapping more gas and steam. Or, use it to make veggie burgers, meat substitutes, and other recipes where you need to bind ingredients together.
For example, seitan, a vegan meat substitute, can be made by combining vital wheat gluten flour with water and seasonings to make a dough that is then simmered in broth.
Popular vital wheat gluten flour baked goods and dishes
Add vital wheat gluten flour to other flours to make delicious and chewy:
- Pizza crust
- Seitan and meat substitutes
- Binder for meatballs, veggie burgers, and tofu
How to make vital wheat gluten flour at home
Making vital wheat gluten flour at home involves making dough and then washing it to get the gluten, followed by drying and grinding it into a fine powder.
Follow these steps:
- Combine white flour (high protein) and cold water to create a sticky dough, and let it rest for 30-60 minutes.
- Wash the dough in cold water and knead it, squeezing out as much starch as possible. The dough should become stringy before forming a single mass of gluten.
- Rinse the dough again to remove any remaining starch. Keep rinsing and draining the water until the water is almost clear.
- Using a dehydrator, dehydrate the vital wheat gluten at 125ºF/50ºC until it’s completely dry.
- Grind it into a powder using a coffee/spice grinder or high-powered blender/food processor.
- Sieve in a bowl, and re-grind any large pieces. This is your homemade vital wheat gluten flour!
How to store vital wheat gluten flour
Store-bought vital wheat gluten flour is extremely shelf-stable, lasting 1-7 years, depending on the brand. Keep vital wheat gluten flour in an airtight container and store it in a cool, dry location. For homemade vital wheat gluten flour, use it within 6 months for the best results.
What are the best substitutes for vital wheat gluten flour?
There’s really nothing else like vital wheat gluten flour’s unique properties and high gluten content. Xanthan gum and guar gum are just about the only baking substitutes. They are both common thickeners and stabilizers that can be used as substitutes for vital wheat gluten in baking. They can help improve the texture and structure of baked goods but should be used in small amounts to avoid making the final product too gummy or slimy.
Bread flour or protein powder may also work depending on what you are making.
No, vital wheat gluten is not the same as flour. Flour is made from ground wheat kernels and contains both gluten and starch, while vital wheat gluten is made by extracting the gluten from wheat flour and removing the starch.
No, flour cannot be substituted for vital wheat gluten as they serve different purposes in baking. Vital wheat gluten is a high-protein flour that is added in small amounts to improve the texture and rise of baked goods, while regular flour contains both gluten and starch and can be used as a stand-alone flour.
Vital wheat gluten and wheat gluten are essentially the same thing – a concentrated form of wheat gluten, with a protein content of around 75-80%. Sometimes seitan is also called wheat gluten, which is a vegan meat substitute made from vital wheat gluten dough.