Seitan is one of my favourite meat-free alternatives. Cooked right, it has the most succulent, chewy texture which makes it perfect for adding to any kind of meal where meat typically takes centre stage, like kebabs and steak. Store-bought seitan can be expensive and not so easy to come by here in the UK, so I choose to make my own. In this post, I’m sharing my favourite basic seitan recipe. It’s really easy to prepare and takes only 15 minutes hands on time.
Seitan (also known as ‘wheat meat’) is made with vital wheat gluten, which is the protein part of the wheat seed, milled into flour. Per 100g, vital wheat gluten flour contains a whopping 75g protein. It’s also low in fat and contains zero cholesterol, making it a healthier alternative to animal products.
Here in the West, seitan’s had somewhat of a resurgence in the past couple of years (thanks to the explosion of plant-based lifestyles), but it’s been popular for centuries in Asian countries such as China and Vietnam. You may have seen ‘Mock Duck’, ‘Mock Beef’ and similar on the menu in your local Chinese restaurants and take-aways, or the canned varieties in Chinese supermarkets. These products are typically made with wheat gluten.
There are a variety of ways to prepare seitan. You can boil, steam, bake and pan fry it. Each method produces a different texture. How you choose to prepare your seitan comes down to personal preference, so I highly recommend trying a few recipes and seeing what works best for you. A couple of years ago, I first tried my hand at making seitan, but I wasn’t keen on the flavour. The recipe included a fair amount of chickpea (gram) flour and this is what I could detect in the final product. Since then, I’ve chosen to omit the flour and I find the seitan tastes much more palatable.
While steaming is probably the most popular cooking method, I personally prefer to simmer it in a pan of broth. I don’t even wrap it in any foil. Boiling it direct in the broth, I find the seitan takes on a lovely flavour and soaks up the broth, leaving it succulent. When I’ve steamed it or wrapped the seitan before simmering, it does stay a neater shape, but it’s a bit drier and chewier. For me, the taste and texture is the most important features of seitan so I don’t mind it looking a bit ugly and bumpy on the outside. It doesn’t stay whole for long anyhow as I slice it into strips for kebabs or sandwiches.
You can flavour seitan in myriad ways using different combinations of herbs and spices. The basic seitan I’m sharing today can be eaten as it is, without any additional flavouring, however pan-frying it in a little olive oil will enhance its flavour.
When making my vegan version of doner kebabs, I like to spice up the seitan strips with smoked paprika and ground cumin, which I sprinkle in as I’m pan-frying it. I’ll be sharing my doner kebab recipe very soon, so I’ll link to it here once it’s ready… here it is
If it’s your first time making seitan, I would recommend making a half batch of the recipe below (no need to split the dough into two pieces; keep it as one) and see how you get on. (This is what I did for the first handful of times I made it, then I started to double the quantities). I tend to make one batch of seitan each week, which I store in the fridge in an airtight container. I have heard that seitan is freezable but I’ve yet to try it as ours never hangs around for very long!
Basic Home-Made Seitan
- 270 g / 2 cups vital wheat gluten flour
- 22 g / 6 TBSP nutritional yeast flakes
- 2 tsp onion powder
- 2 tsp garlic powder or fine garlic granules
- 2 tsp vegetable bouillon powder
- 160 ml / ⅔ cup water
- 4 TBSP soy sauce
- 4 TBSP fresh lemon juice
- 2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
- 1.9 litres / 8 cups water
- 4 tsp vegetable bouillon powder
- 2 TBSP soy sauce
- Fill a large saucepan or stockpot with the broth ingredients, cover with a lid and bring to the boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to a very gentle simmer.
- Place the dry seitan ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir through to combine.
- Add the wet ingredients to a jug and whisk with a fork to combine. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredient bowl and stir with a spoon until the mixture starts to come together. Use your hands to knead the mixture into a dough ball. Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Knead each piece for 3 minutes, then shape into a rectangle. Repeat with the second piece of dough.
- Carefully lower the seitan into the broth. Partially cover with a lid and simmer for 45 minutes. Make sure that the water stays at a very gentle simmer. You should only see a bubble surface now and then. (If the water boils, the seitan will become very bubbly and holey on the inside).
- After 45 minutes, turn the heat off, remove the lid and leave the seitan to rest in the broth for 15 minutes.
- Place the seitan in a strainer to drain off the excess liquid. Once completely cool, transfer to an airtight container and store in the fridge, where it will keep for a week.
- Before serving, pan fry the strips of seitan in a little olive oil. Add seasonings, to taste. For kebabs and curries, I like to flavour the home-made seitan with 1 tsp each of smoked paprika and ground cumin.
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Big thank you to Suma for supplying me with their lovely products which I used to create this recipe:
– Suma Vital Wheat Gluten Flour, which is available for customers in the UK to purchase from independent health food shops and online.
– Suma Extra Virgin Olive Oil
– Suma Organic Vegetable Bouillon Powder / Marigold Vegan Bouillon Powder
– Suma Organic Garlic Granules
– Clearspring Tamari Soya Sauce
– Marigold Engevita Yeast Flakes with B12
– Onion powder, which I purchase from my local independent health food shops or online
If you try this recipe, please come back and leave a review. It’s so helpful to me (and other readers) to hear your experiences and ideas for variations. Thank you! ❤️
And by the way, if you ever find yourself in Camden Market, London be sure to head to the Young Vegans Pie & Mash cafe. Their seitan steak and ale pie is so good! It has the most tender ‘melt in your mouth’ texture. Hands down the best seitan I’ve tried so far!
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