I’ll be honest, I wait as long as possible before going to the grocery store after I arrive back home to Manila. It’s just not a pleasure like it is in the U.S. You ex-pats know what I’m talking about… Luckily for me, I normally keep enough food in my pantry to sustain us through at least 4 typhoons and 18 minor power outages. Therefore, it’s been fairly easy to raid the cupboards to see what “main dish” I can whip up to go along with all those fruits and veggies I purchase at the local market every Saturday (where it is a pleasure to shop!)
This time, it was seitan… often called “wheat meat”… It’s vegetarian protein made from vital wheat gluten. Obviously, this won’t work for gluten-free diets, and there’s really no substitute for it. You will just have to leave it alone, and I’m truly sorry for that. But if gluten doesn’t bother you, seitan is a really lovely meat alternative. It’s firmer than tofu, milder in flavour than tempeh, super high in protein and iron, low in carbs and fat, and best of all, you can make it yourself at home. It’s made with only a few ingredients, super easy, and you get to knead it like bread dough- how fun is that??
I’ll take you through the process step by step:
Step 1: Prepare your cooking broth: Heat the water plus flavouring agents in your biggest pot. I use a splash of soy sauce & molasses and a few slices of fresh ginger. You can also use garlic, other sweeteners, no sweetener, etc. It’s up to you! But the soy sauce does give it a lot of flavour and a nice brown colour. You’ll want this at a boil by the time you put your dough in.
Step 2: Mix up your gluten and water to make a dough. I add a couple of tablespoons of nutritional yeast & a few seasonings (garlic powder & oregano) to amp up the flavour. Feel free to experiment here depending on what you’re going to do with your finished seitan… (i.e. if you’re making tacos with it, use cumin & oregano, for spaghetti & “meat sauce”, use Italian seasoning.)
By the end of the mixing process, you’ll have a lump of dough that resembles bread dough.
Step 3: Knead it! This develops the gluten and makes the final texture nice. Plus, it’s fun! Just dump it out onto a floured board or countertop, and knead it like bread dough… fold it over on itself, press down with the heel of your hand, give it a quarter turn, then do it again. Knead it for 5-7 minutes or until your arms are tired… that’s probably enough. Your dough will feel elastic, but not look as smooth as bread dough.
Step 4: Cut it into pieces. When I first started making seitan, I wanted the pieces to be square. But there’s no way to cut a circle into perfectly square pieces because you’re always gonna have some round edges… frustrating for a control freak like myself, so now I just go with triangles. Works for me!
Step 5: Boil it. Go ahead & just plop it into your boiling broth, being careful not to splash yourself. Immerse all the pieces with a spoon (they will tend to float back up), and cover it. Keep it at a gentle boil for about 45 minutes to an hour. You’ll know it’s done when it feels firm. Be warned: it will swell up a LOT!! This is completely normal & desirable.
Step 6: Cool it in the broth. This allows your seitan to absorb the flavours of the broth.
That’s it! You’re done and you have about 2 pounds (1kg) of seitan or enough for about 8 servings. It keeps for about a week in the fridge (store it in the broth) or a month in the freezer (again, freeze it in the broth.)
It’s fully cooked and ready to use at this point. Seitan is good in countless ways:
- sliced & sauteed in a little oil, served with rice & veggies
- ground up for taco meat
- in spaghetti sauce
- marinated & used in a stir-fry
- baked dry like a pot-roast & served with mashed potatoes
- sliced & used in my Tempeh Sliders recipe
Or come up with your own! Let me know if you try this, friends… your comments & pictures make my day.
How to Make Seitan
For the seitan dough:
- 2 c. vital wheat gluten
- 3 T. nutritional yeast (optional)
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 2 cups water
For the boiling broth:
- 8 cups water
- 2 T. soy sauce
- 2 T. molasses
- a few slices fresh ginger if desired
- To make the broth, combine 8 cups water, soy sauce, molasses, & ginger in a large stock pot. Heat over medium-high heat until boiling.
- To make the seitan dough, mix together the gluten powder, yeast flakes & garlic powder.
- Add water to dry mixture and mix well. The dough will become very sticky and rubbery; this is normal.
- Remove dough to a floured board and knead it for about 5 minutes. Then let it rest 5 minutes.
- Cut the dough into 8 equal-sized pieces. It’s now ready for cooking.
- Slide the seitan pieces into the boiling broth. Lower heat to a simmer, making sure all pieces are immersed, and cover partially, allowing steam to escape.
- Simmer for about 45-60 minutes, adding more water as necessary. Seitan will swell a lot during cooking. It is done when it feels firm when squeezed with a pair of tongs.
- Remove from heat & let stand in the broth 15 more minutes.
- It’s now ready to use as you would meat- in stir-fries, stroganoff, BBQ, anywhere you would use sliced meat.
- Store it in the fridge in its cooking broth. It also freezes well (also in the broth) so you can freeze half of it for later.
- Makes about 1 kg (2 pounds)
How to Make Seitan
Serves: 2 pounds (8 servings)
Amount Per Serving:
1/8 of recipe
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 0.5 gm||0%|
|Total Carbohydrate 4 gm||1.3%|
|Dietary Fiber 1 gm||4%|
|Protein 23 gm|
|Vitamin A||Vitamin C|
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
The Expat Dietitian