How to Make Seitan

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Looks a bit like steak, hey??
Looks a bit like steak, hey??

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!)

How to Make Seitan

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:

The cooking broth is flavoured with soy sauce, molasses, & ginger
The cooking broth is flavoured with soy sauce, molasses, & ginger

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.

Use equal parts gluten & water
Use equal parts gluten & water

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.)

You'll end up with a dough ball like this
You’ll end up with a dough ball like this

By the end of the mixing process, you’ll have a lump of dough that resembles bread dough.

After kneading, it gets smoother... but not totally smooth like bread dough
After kneading, it gets smoother… but not totally smooth like 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.

Cut it into pieces before boiling it
Cut it into pieces before boiling it

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!

Use your biggest pan to accommodate the pieces- they'll swell a lot
Use your biggest pan to accommodate the pieces- they’ll swell a lot

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.

It looks a little spongy but feels pretty firm when it's done
It looks a little spongy but feels pretty firm when it’s done

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 so much lighter on the inside!
It’s so much lighter in colour on the inside!

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.


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