Wednesday 23 July 2008

Chickpea cutlets and gluten strings

When I saw Cindy making these chickpea cutlets on Where’s the Beef?, I was curious. Apparently these are everywhere in the world of vegan blogging, but it seems they originated with Isa and Terry in Veganomicon and were posted by them on

But what interested me most was the gluten flour that Cindy had bought at Allergy Block in Carlton. I keep seeing vital wheat gluten in recipes and not really understood what it was. But when I saw I could buy it at a local health food store, I had to find out. These chickpea cutlets and a loaf of bread were a good way to explore this new substance. As I began to make the cutlets I read I was meant to knead the mixture till gluten strings formed. Huh? But once I did the kneading, even though it was a weird texture to knead, it made sense. Lo and behold, the gluten strings appeared. I took a photo of them because it was so weird.

This has opened up a whole world of new possibilities. Now I can try making my own vegetarian sausages, which means not always having to buy them from the supermarket. I dislike seitan (satan?) which is made from this wheat gluten so I am a little wary of it but am fascinated by the way it held the burger together with a hint of stretch in the texture. Isa and Terry say it is ‘vegan food you can eat with a steak knife’. True. But these burgers taste so much better than steak (a personal viewpoint I know).

The vital wheat gluten is not the only challenge in the ingredients list. I was a little unsure of putting so much soy sauce in but the end result is tasty rather than salty. I also don’t know what is meant by paprika – does it mean mild, hot or smoked. I suspect you could use any of these and get quite different tasting burgers. I decided to go with the gentle flavour of mild paprika. I also didn't get my burgers as nicely golden brown as Cindy but they still tasted great. They were lovely with leftover pasta the first night, and with salad, corn and toast the second night.

Oh and if you want to check out what fellow Melbourne vegetarian bloggers, Cindy and Michael from Where’s the Beef?, are eating at the moment, you will find that they are not posting many recipes right now. They are too busy experiencing the delights of the UK, including Edinburgh. I am enjoying a bit of armchair (deskchair?) travel and recommend you head over too if you like travel photos with a bit of food in the mix.

Chickpea cutlets
(adapted from via Where’s the Beef?)
Serves 4

400g tin of chickpeas, drained (about 1 cup cooked)
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup wheat gluten or gluten flour
½ cup breadcrumbs
¼ cup vegie stock or water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, crushed
½ teaspoon dried mixed herbs
zest of ½ medium lemon (about ½ teaspoon)
½ teaspoon mild paprika
shake of cayenne pepper
extra oil for frying or greasing

Mash the chickpeas and oil together in a bowl until all chickpeas are smashed into a smoothish mixture. Add the remaining ingredients and mix till a smooth dough forms. Knead the dough for about 3 minutes, until gluten strings form. Divide the dough into four pieces and flatten them into patties, 1.5 cm thick (or thinner).

Bake or fry them. For both golden crunch and health, the best option is to fry in a little oil for 2-3 minutes or til golden on both sides and then bake a further 15 minutes at 180 C to cook through.

On the stereo:
Among My Swan: Mazzie Star


  1. I'm envious every time I read about these, because I know the wheat gluten would upset my digestive tract for at least 3 days. But they look SO yummy, and unlike you, I used to LOVE seitan (though not satan). Looks as if yours came out great. You'll be doing faux chicken satays and roasts in no time!

  2. I'm so pleased to hear you made these! I've read so many good things about them on the web, but like you, have never found vital wheat gluten. Is it an Aussie brand? I thought of trying bread flour as a replacement but it doesn't sound like it would produce those weirdo gluten string things! I'll just have to keep looking...

    By sheer coincidence I stumbled on Where's the beef last weekend when googling around for something. Her posts are making me quite nostalgic for Cambridge, where we used to live!

  3. I've wanted to make these chickpea cutlets for a long time now but never had vital wheat gluten and was a bit scared. Glad to see you were successful. :) Can't wait to see how your vegetarian sausages turn out! I've been wanting to try making those too.

  4. I had chickpeas for dinner tonight, Indian style. I'm intrigued by these cutlets. Reading over the recipe, I was wondering how they would hold together, but seeing your pictures, I've no doubt these would work out.

  5. Ah, I'm glad these worked out so well for you too! I think I'll be right onto them again on my first weekend back home. :-)

    I had likewise been baffled by all those recipes including vital wheat gluten, and I'm assuming that this is equivalent though I'm not certain. Since finding gluten flour, I've been bookmarking DIY seitan and vege-sausage recipes all over the blogosphere!

  6. I made chickpea burgers, but couldn't get them to hold together. By, jings, I think you have the answer!

  7. thanks Ricki - that seems unfair that you love seitan and can't have it and I would happily send it all your way and I can! I wouldn't make seitan but liked these burgers because they had much nicer texture than seitan

    thanks Lysy - yes, the brand I bought is Lotus which is an Australian product. Maybe you could look out for British bloggers making these and see what they use and if it goes by another name or even ask in a health food store if you get someone who knows a bit about the products - I would never have thought gluten flour and vital wheat gluten were the same but I think they do the same job. I am pretty sure it is different to bread flour but that would be better than cake flour. Oh yes, glad you have discovered Where's the Beef!

    thanks Ashley - they really aren't so hard but the dough isn't like any other dough I have had to knead

    thanks Lisa - we have had quite a lot of chickpea meals lately - these burgers hold together wonderfully - seems to be the mystery of the wheat gluten

    thanks Cindy - I will look forward to your veggie sausages. I'd be interested to taste home made seitan as it might taste better fresh but not sure I will try it (esp in this time of drought when the recipes I have seen call for so much running water)

    thanks Holler - these are amazing the way they hold together - and I've had my fair share of burgers that end up a scramble!

  8. They look sensational. Absolutely delicious.

    Lotus brand. Right. Shall get some next week and have a play. They do look very, very good...I remember Cindy loved them.

  9. This is a great recipe and it's a lot of fun to see how we all end up with a slightly different "cutlet". I made mine fairly thin and cooked them on a panini maker. It seems that no mater if you form them thick or thin, bake them, grill them or fry them, they always turn out great! The wheat gluten definitely gives them a very specific texture.

  10. i always have vital wheat gluten in the pantry for breads, but this is such a great idea!!!!


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