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I was wondering if the ability to make a "coagulated protein mass" was unique to gluten in wheat.

For example, if one grinds up a bunch of lentils into a very fine powder and then adds water to make a lentil dough (And stirring consistently in one direction to bind proteins) is it possible to wash away the starch and leave behind a lentil-protein mass?

If not lentils then which sorts of seeds/nuts/vegetables are amenable to this "seitanification" process?

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  • There’s ‘textured vegetable protein’, which is typically made from soybeans. You may also want to look into veggie burger recipes to make something that sort of accomplishes what you’re trying for… but be careful or you might recreate nutraloaf: en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nutraloaf
    – Joe
    Jan 19, 2023 at 19:18
  • TVP is somewhat similar to seitan. It's generally soy based. Don't think you could make it at home from scratch though. You'd need an extruder, a machine which works at high temperature and pressure. Not really worth the effort, since TVP is readily available.
    – Billy Kerr
    Jan 20, 2023 at 10:44

2 Answers 2

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The important part isn’t (just) coagulation, but the viscoelasticity (pliant stretchiness) which allows it to form a loose structure incorporating starch and gas. Few proteins have that property. (Casein, a milk protein, comes to mind; the process of making mozzarella is not so very different from that of making seitan.)

If there was a legume-derived protein with largely the same properties as gluten, you definitely would have heard about it by now.

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Protein is a good building block from which to make a squishy structure. Manufacturers are using this to engineer new foods, especially with the current rise in products for people with specific diets. There are vegan cheeses and vegan sausages which are, structurally, mostly a legume protein matrix with some vegetable fat dispersed in it. So there are a lot of substances which are based on a plant protein and have a similar "bite" to them. For me, this is sufficiently similar to answer your title question with "yes".

In the body of the question, you also specify a specific method of producing the substance, which is a different matter. When a protein isolate is made (the process uses water to separate it from the starch and fibre, just like seitan), the result is a protein powder. That powder is only an ingredient that can be used in protein-based "squishy block" food, but it is not the ready-made block itself, as with seitan. So this is a question I have to answer with a "no". You cannot apply a seitan-making process to another plant - all you'd get is a slurry.

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  • I'm surprised at this answer; I had thought that gluten was fairly unique in how readily it cross-links.
    – Sneftel
    Jan 19, 2023 at 13:20
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    @Sneftel You are right, gluten does cross-link quite readily indeed, and that's exactly why you cannot use the "seitan" method with other proteins. Apparently there are ways to join proteins into a single mass, even though not as easy - and they are also food-safe methods (formaldehyde would have been awfully convenient, if it wouldn't be so good at cross-linking the proteins of your own digestive system!). The results are quite widespread in current Western supermarkets - tofu, vegan "cheese", quorn, TVP, etc.
    – rumtscho
    Jan 19, 2023 at 13:38

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