Seitan (or wheat gluten) is the protein from wheat, also known as wheat gluten. It is used as a meat substitute due to its similar texture and appearance when cooked. Like tofu, it can take on the flavors of whatever it is paired with. Eaten alone, it is relatively bland, similar to unseasoned chicken or button mushrooms.
This meat substitute is very high in protein. This is why it is popular in vegan and vegetarian dishes. It can be made at home using vital wheat gluten that you can purchase at most healthy markets. You can also purchase seitan already prepared, either plain or in a variety of seasoned flavors.
You can make seitan from scratch by rinsing the starch from wheat flour to extract the gluten. This is time consuming and not necessary with the availability of packaged wheat gluten. Seitan is commonly made by mixing the gluten with water or vegetable broth, kneading it, letting it rest, then simmering, steaming, or baking it. You can add olive oil, tamari, nutritional yeast, or liquid aminos to give it more flavor. Steaming seitan results in a good product for sandwiches. Baking it makes the finished product a little stiffer. This is good for roasting and braising.
Basic Seitan Recipe
(courtesy of Post Punk Kitchen)
1 cup vital wheat gluten flour
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
1/2 cup cold vegetable broth
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, pressed or grated
For the simmering broth:
4 cups vegetable broth
4 cups water
1/4 cup soy sauce
Fill a stock pot with the water, broth and soy sauce, cover and bring to a boil.
In the mean time, mix together gluten and yeast in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl mix together broth, soy sauce, lemon juice, olive oil and garlic. Pour the wet into the dry and combine with a wooden spoon until most of the moisture has absorbed and partially clumped up with the dry ingredients. Use your hands and knead for about 3 minutes, until it forms elastic dough. Divide into 3 equal pieces with a knife and then knead those pieces in your hand just to stretch them out a bit. Let rest until the broth has come to a full boil.
Once boiling, lower the heat to a simmer. Add the gluten pieces and partially cover pot so that steam can escape. Let simmer for 45 minutes, turning occasionally. Turn the heat off and take the lid off, let sit for 15 minutes.
Remove from broth and place in a strainer until it is cool enough to handle.Slice and use as desired.
Seitan is great in sandwiches. It is a bit chewy like meat and will take on the flavors of marinades, sauces, and everything else you pile onto your bread. Here are some popular sandwiches with links to the recipes and vegan websites.
1. Vegan Philly Cheese Sandwich This sandwich is loaded with grilled red peppers, sweet onions, seitan, vegan cheddar cheese, and spices. It is served on a hoagie roll with fresh tomatoes and cilantro.
2. BBQ Seitan Sliders Shredded seitan strips are marinated in homemade barbeque sauce and served with onions and red cabbage coleslaw. The buns are spread with a homemade barbeque aioli. There are recipes included for the BBQ sauce, coleslaw, and aioli. The sauce is where you will put your energy for this tasty sandwich.
3. Slow Cooker Apple Cider Seitan Sandwiches This is a time intensive recipe because it requires making the seitan in a slow cooker and making slaw from scratch. This is a crowd pleaser and worth the effort. You could skip making the seitan from scratch and go right for the slow cooked apple cider seitan part of the recipe with seitan that you might already have on hand. Making the slaw is easy, as it calls for pre-packaged ingredients. You assemble the cooked seitan and coleslaw on a toasted roll and enjoy at a party or game watching event.
4. Seitan Sauerkraut Sandwich This sandwich has seitan topped with sautéed onions and mushrooms, sauerkraut, horseradish sauce, and mustard. All these flavors are enjoyed on toasted sourdough bread.
5. Rueben Sandwich with Russian Dressing Here is another seitan and sauerkraut sandwich. This one is a take on the classic Rueben. In this recipe the kraut is jazzed up with lots of aromatics. The sandwich is served with vegan cheese and Russian Dressing on “buttered”, toasted rye bread.
6. Marinated Seitan Sandwich with Spicy Red Cabbage Slaw This is a sweet, tangy, and spicy sandwich with tons of flavors going on. Once the seitan is left to sit in the sweet and tangy tamari based marinade, you can turn your attention to the spicy slaw. This has a little kick with the addition of jalapeno peppers. Serve this on toasted bread.
7. Smoky Maple Seitan Sandwich Here is a sandwich with no cheese or cabbage. This one is different, made with liquid smoke and maple syrup to cleverly enhance the seitan. It is served on multi-grain bread with a sauce made with vegan mayo, Dijon mustard, and hot sauce. It is topped with lettuce, onion, and avocado.
8. Seitan Gyros If you like Greek food, this vegan version of a gyro may hit the spot. It has the spices, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and creamy yogurt (vegan) dressing that are typical in a gyro, without the mystery meat. With crisped seitan, the sandwich is presented on a pita.
Seitan is one of those non-descript vegan foods, similar to tofu, that comes to life when paired with plenty of seasonings, sauces, and vegetables. Unlike tofu, it has a texture with some tooth to it. For those of you who are sensitive to gluten, you could substitute tempeh that is made from gluten free beans and grains. If not, give seitan a try. It is an affordable, vegan alternative to meat that is filling and high in protein. Was this article helpful? Support us by shopping our cruelty free apparel here!