This homemade seitan recipe using gluten flour provides an easy and inexpensive route to a great DIY version.
Store-bought seitan can be quite good, or it can be shoe-leather tough, to use a non-vegan metaphor. And while it’s not ridiculously pricey, it isn’t as much of a protein bargain as beans, or even tofu. That changes when you make it at home.
I’ve been tweaking this simple formula for years, and though you’ll find a number of variations in books and around the web (incorporating chickpea flour, nut flours, flavorings, beans, etc.), it’s good to nail this basic recipe first, to get the feel of how to make seitan. Then, by all means, experiment as much as you’d like.
A traditional Asian food long used as a meat substitute: You may have had seitan in dishes like Buddhist’s Delight or Mongolian “Beef” in Chinese restaurants.
Protein dense and pleasantly chewy: This product of cooked wheat gluten is one of the most protein-dense plant foods available. Of course, seitan isn’t for anyone with gluten intolerance or sensitivity or who is celiac. Steer clear!
Here’s my little secret: I believe that adding a mere teaspoon of baking powder to the dry mix makes all the difference when it comes to the texture. If I ever forget to add it, boom! It’s back to shoe leather toughness. So I make sure not to forget any more.
Vegan Mushroom and Seitan Stroganoff
photo by Hannah Kaminsky
Seitan’s meaty texture lends itself to many preparations. It’s great as a substitute for beef chunks in stews, stir-fries, fajitas, and kebabs. It’s great on the grill, too.
Homemade seitan doesn’t require much effort. You just need a little patience for the few hands-on steps, resting time, and cooking. If you follow the steps outlined, this homemade seitan recipe can yield a more tender and flavorful result than the store-bought variety.
It freezes well: When I make this, I often freeze half after it has been cooked and cooled (in an airtight container with some of the broth).
For a visual view of the process, see the photos following the recipe. They’re not exactly pretty, but might be helpful for your first couple of attempts.
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce, tamari, or Bragg Liquid Aminos
- 1 cup water
- 2 1/4 cups gluten flour (vital wheat gluten)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast, optional
- 1 large or 2 regular-sized vegetable bouillon cubes
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce, tamari, or Bragg Liquid Aminos
- 3 to 4 slices fresh ginger or a good squeeze of bottled ginger
- Combine the soy sauce with 1 cup of water in a small mixing bowl and stir together.
- Combine the gluten flour, baking powder, and optional nutritional yeast in a medium mixing bowl. Gradually add the liquid to form a stiff dough, stirring with a spoon at first, and then working together with your hands. Drizzle in a little more water if need be; you want all the dry ingredients to be moistened, while making sure the dough remains stiff.
- Turn out onto a floured board (you can use additional gluten flour for this) and knead for 2 to 3 minutes. It’s not going to be completely smooth, but really work it!
- Return the dough to one of the bowls you used, then cover with a clean tea towel. Let it rest for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, fill a soup pot about 2/3 full with water. Add the bouillon cubes and ginger. Start heating.
- Once the dough has rested, divide it into two more or less equal pieces and pull into long, narrow loaves the shape of miniature French breads. This dough isn’t easy to work with; it tends to spring back to whatever shape it’s in, but do the best you can — it will come out fine.
- With a sharp, serrated knife, cut each section of dough crosswise into slices no thicker than 1/2 inch.
- When the water comes to a slow boil, gently drop in each slice of dough. Within a couple of minutes, the dough is going to puff up and look like it’s threatening to escape the cooking pot! It will settle back; keep pushing the pieces down into the water. I like to reach in with kitchen sheers and cut pieces that have expanded crazily, but this is optional.
- Simmer gently and steadily for 30 minutes. Scoop out pieces of seitan to use in recipes (usually about a third to a half of the amount made with this recipe is what you’ll need for an average recipe). Set on a plate or cutting board until cool enough to handle, then cut into smaller slices or chunks.
Transfer whatever portion of seitan you won’t be using right away to a container, then pour in enough stock to cover. Use within a few days or freeze. Seitan freezes very well, thaw out on the counter or in the refrigerator before using.
Save any of the tasty stock that remains to use in soups, stews, and gravies.
Gluten flour, baking powder, and optional nutritional yeast go into one bowl; a specific amount of water plus soy sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos go into another. No, this isn’t a commercial for Bragg products, though they are good!
Once the wet and dry mixtures are combined, they’re kneaded for 2 to 3 minutes and allowed to rest for 15 minutes.
I like to divide the dough into two parts and stretch into two mini-loaf shapes. It’s not easy to shape and cut this springy dough, so use your muscles and a sharp knife to form, then slice into 1/2-inch segments.
In the meantime, a soup pot is filled with water, which is flavored with vegetable bouillon, more soy sauce or Bragg, and ginger, then brought to a slow boil. The slices of dough are gently dropped in one by one.
The dough puffs up like crazy at first. Use a cooking spoon to push down into the water; they’ll settle down after a while. The dough, which we can now call seitan, is cooked for 30 minutes. Don’t drain the broth; you can use it for other purposes and to cover the seitan when you store it in the fridge or freezer.
Scoop the seitan out of the liquid and cut into strips to use in recipes. Or, you can keep the pieces whole, then bread and sauté them to make cutlets.
Here, I’ve started to amp up the flavor by cooking the seitan strips in a marinade.
OK, this is starting to look better. Super-Easy Seitan and Broccoli Stir-Fry was made with this homemade seitan recipe.
- See more kitchen tips and vegan trends here on The Vegan Atlas.