Hail Seitan!

Howdy, friends!  Today I want to talk to you about something very near and dear to my heart.  Seitan is single-handedly responsible for keeping Allysia and I sane through this month of frugal foods.  Don’t get me wrong, we love beans, lentils, and all forms of cheap, natural protein,  but sometimes you just need something different.  Something familiar and friendly, tasty and versatile.  All of these things describe seitan for me.

Obligatory gratuitous close-up shot
Maybe seitan feels so familiar to me because the last time I ate real meat was in 2012.  When done right, seitan seems to be the easiest way to reproduce some of the tastes and textures of meat.  Homemade versions won’t confuse current omnivores, but storebought versions could give a few people a challenge to identify.  Obviously we haven’t been splurging on pre-made seitan this month, but we have learned a lot about creating it ourselves.  With a little bit of experimentation I’ve developed a nice simple seitan recipe that serves as the perfect tabula rasa to twist and change into a great product every time.

Note from Allysia: I am generally a seitan-making failure, either making it too spongy or too dense, but Michael figured out this method that I love, and always eagerly anticipate eating – especially seasoned and fried up in a dry rub.

Blank-Slate Seitan
makes about 4 large-sized servings of seitan, or six smaller servings

Large pot of salted water, boiling
1 cup wheat gluten
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon onion powder
1/2 cup water or vegetable broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons oil (olive or neutral vegetable oil)
1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (or other acid)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
Black pepper
Additional spices or flavourings (see below)

1. In a mixing bowl combine the gluten, nutritional yeast, and onion powder.  Mix the remaining ingredients in a separate bowl.
2.  Combine the wet and dry ingredients and stir together until the liquid is absorbed.  Remove from the bowl and knead like bread dough for about 3 minutes.  The seitan should be rubbery and soft.  Shape it into a wide flat log that will fit into your boiling pot.
3. Add the seitan to the pot, partially cover, and reduce heat to a simmer.  Cook the seitan for 45 minutes.
4. When the time is up, cover the pot completely and allow the seitan to cool in the fridge (while still in the pot).  Let it sit until room-temperature, or overnight.
Sliced seitan cooked with mushrooms and onions to make a sauce-y sandwich
Those who have made seitan before know that it can usually be boiled, steamed, or baked.  Boiled seitan is the most tender of the three, and also the easiest to make (steaming seitan can be quite finicky, and baked seitan can turn out dry). 
As made above, the seitan works well in applications where it is not the centre of attention: diced and added to pasta sauce, stir-fried with a sweet-and-spicy vegetable mix, or, a current favourite, smothered in blackening spices and fried.  If you want the seitan to have a little more of its own flavour you can add some additional flavour to the dough itself.  When using the seitan for pasta sauce I might add healthy amount of dried basil, oregano, and thyme.  An Asian-styled-spin can be given by removing some of the salt and beefing up the soy sauce, adding some toasted sesame oil, and grating in some fresh ginger.  Any flavours that you would add to a dish can be added to this recipe.  Since the seitan is boiled it won’t get so hot as to destroy any delicate flavourings.

Blackened seitan slices served with pureed cauliflower/potatoes and braised carrots
The real trick to using homemade seitan is knowing its strengths and weaknesses.  Since the seitan is fairly soft and moist, it won’t work well if served in a large slab.  It does, however, work great when sliced or diced before it hits a hot pan.  This allows the liquid to be removed from the individual pieces, leaving a great meaty texture.  After this month of frugality is over we may try to find a great baked recipe which may work better served in large pieces.  I don’t think I will be able to rest until I can say that I have made a great-looking, great-tasting seitan steak.  A lofty goal to be sure, but you’ve got to set your goals high.  Until next time.

One more sandwich shot for good measure.
  • https://www.blogger.com/profile/00589414740603993442 foodfeud

    That seitan sandwich is insane!! I'm not the biggest fan of seitan but it certainly has its place. The breaded and fried shot looks great as well.

  • https://www.blogger.com/profile/08901767751926870086 veganmiam.com

    I’ve yet to make seitan and would love to for Thanksgiving! I even have vital wheat gluten in my pantry that I need to use. I love my seitan fried and crunchy with a bit of moist interior 🙂 Looks delicious…would love to use it sweet & sour sauce 🙂

  • https://www.blogger.com/profile/11490816021651698189 Jolene – EverydayFoodie

    You can make your own seitan!? I didn't know this! I've been craving the stuff since I had a seitan sandwich in NY, and it blew my mind.

  • https://www.blogger.com/profile/03361314949001991348 Maggie Muggins

    Now that is a kick ass sandwich. I'm a total flip flopper when it comes to seitan, I'm super picky about the texture and flavours but I'm always willing to give a new recipe a shot! Totally tucking this one away for my next seitan making adventure.

  • https://www.blogger.com/profile/17066424084187434409 Joey

    I like a good bit of seitan. The readymade stuff is great, but I tend to make it at home these days for frugal reasons. Seitan ribs or breaded seitan – so good!

  • https://www.blogger.com/profile/15887621874869110597 Kari

    Your last dozen posts just arrived in my feed reader all at once! Now I'm annoyed at myself for not remembering to check on your frugal living without the reminder of feeds…but will be enjoying catching up retrospectively 🙂

    Anyway, seitan and I have had few encounters! I've certainly never made my own so appreciate this recipe 🙂