Cultured wheat flour has long been used in the food industry. These days, you’ll notice it on the labels of a wide variety of baked goods and other food items. In many cases, it is listed as an ingredient in clean-label products or those marketed as real food (i.e. minimally processed with no harmful contents).
So, what is cultured wheat flour? What is it made of and why do food manufacturers use it? Most importantly, is it safe for everyone to consume?
Cultured Wheat Flour Defined
Cultured wheat flour is a natural food preservative that is effective in preventing the growth of mold, yeast, and several types of unwanted bacteria. As such, it plays a huge role in food preservation, specifically in lengthening the shelf life of commercially manufactured food products.
As a preservative, cultured wheat flour is mostly used in the production of baked goods. It is useful for yeasted products (e.g., loaf bread), quick bread (e.g., muffins), and flatbread (e.g., tortillas, naan). It also helps build a desirable texture.
Although generally used as a natural preservative, cultured wheat flour is also known to enhance the flavor profile of food. Most describe the added taste to be mild yet slightly sweet, and nutty.
Cultured Wheat Flour Ingredients
Cultured wheat flour is produced by fermenting wheat flour using Propionibacterium freudenreichii bacteria, which is widely used in cheesemaking and manufacturing a number of dairy products.
When culturing wheat flour, the bacteria produce natural propionic acid, acetic acid, and other short-chain fatty acids and metabolites, which impart antimicrobial properties. Once the fermentation process is complete, the cultured product is dried (usually spray-dried for efficiency and freshness) and packaged as a white or off-white powder.
Is cultured wheat safe to consume?
Cultured wheat flour is often used in place of chemical preservatives like calcium and sodium propionate, potassium sorbate, and benzoates. Research shows that such artificial ingredients are effective in fighting food spoilage but at the cost of certain health risks like asthma, allergies, and other inflammatory conditions.
The fermentation with Propionibacterium freudenreichii bacterium has obtained GRAS standing with the US FDA. This means it is generally regarded as safe for human consumption. Additionally, the European Food Safety Authority lists Propionibacterium freudenreichii as QPS, or food ingredients with a qualified presumption of safety.
Is cultured wheat flour vegan?
Yes, cultured wheat flour is typically vegan. If you follow a vegan diet, a Kosher certification should give you additional assurance that the product is made without the use of animal-derived ingredients. That means it contains neither meat nor dairy. To be vegan, please ensure the manufacturer of the Cultured Wheat does perform any animal testing.
Is cultured wheat flour dairy-free?
Yes, vegan and Kosher-certified cultured wheat flour is dairy-free. The confusion about this being a dairy-contaminated product stems from the bacterium’s widespread use in the dairy industry. Additionally, Propionibacterium freudenreichii cultures may have originated from milk. However, many manufacturers have long been able to propagate the bacteria without the use of any dairy products.
Is cultured wheat flour gluten-free?
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No, cultured wheat flour is not a gluten-free food preservative. As such, cultured wheat flour is not a suitable preservative for people with celiac disease, allergies, and other gluten sensitivities.
Is cultured wheat flour keto?
While cultured wheat flour itself is not keto, products that use it as a natural preservative could be keto-friendly. The end-products effect on ketogenesis will depend on the primary flour (in the case of baked goods) and the other ingredients.
It’s important to note that this ingredient is only used in small portions. So, if you’re following a ketogenic diet, you won’t need to worry that cultured wheat flour would significantly impact your daily net carb consumption, but it is recommended to check the label on the finished product.
Is there organic cultured wheat flour?
Yes, there are organic cultured wheat flour products. If you require an organic product for food preservation, look for organic certification from a legitimate organization. For example, Mezzoni Foods’ Cultured Organic Wheat Flour has been certified by Oregon Tilth Certified Organic (OTCO) as compliant with USDA’s organic standards for food manufacturing and handling.