Why is wheat gluten used in food?
Wheat gluten is the plant-based protein of wheat. It belongs to the Protein family.
Wheat gluten is isolated by physical extraction when mixing wheat flour with water. The starch is washed out of the dough and the gluten remains. Once separated and dried, wheat gluten is an insoluble concentrated protein powder, which regains its original characteristics after rehydration and mixing.
Wheat gluten used in food is principally used in the milling & flour industry and in bakery products, where it serves to significantly improve dough strength, softness, and shelf-life.
It is also a major vegetable source of proteins and is used in meat preparations (including fish, poultry, and surimi-based products), pasta, and certain cold cuts, as well as serving as a binding agent, for instance in helping products like mushroom or chickpea burgers hold their shape. It is also the main ingredient of seitan, a meat substitute.
As a plant-based protein, wheat gluten can provide high nutritional values supplementing or partially replacing animal proteins in human nutrition.
Consumers suffering from Coeliac disease, or any other form of gluten intolerance, have to avoid consuming products containing gluten. For this reason, any product containing wheat gluten must be clearly labeled.
To learn more about the Starch industry's proteins, take a look at our leaflet on Plant-Based Proteins.