Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Never Buy Seitan Again (or, how to make your own meat feast)

I don't like to brag, but I will admit that my seitan gets excellent reviews. Last Thanksgiving, I made seitan roasted in orange juice, rosemary and olive oil. A panel of hungry omnivores and vegans taste tested it against a store-bought variety cooked in the same marinade, and my version won unanimously. I mean it when I say that you will never want to buy seitan again after trying this recipe. Perhaps even more importantly, the homemade version is considerably cheaper than store-bought. The only downside is that it's a bit of a pain in the ass to make, but that's why I made big batches. This recipe makes 6 generous servings.

Most seitan recipes involve making a dough, then boiling it. My recipe adds a third step; roasting. Without roasting, the resulting product can be flavorless and the texture can be pretty weird (strangely fluffy, not dense and meaty). So, omit this step at your peril. Although my recipe is a multi-stage process and takes at least an hour and a half, it is well worth it and does not need constant attention, so you can get on with other stuff in the meantime.

In this entry, I offer a recipe for orangey BBQ marinade, but you could substitute any kind of marinade that you fancy – teriyaki might be good, or possibly something with red wine and onions. 

For the seitan:
2 cups vital wheat gluten
6 tbsp nutritional yeast
½ cup soy sauce
2 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp tomato paste

For the marinade:
3 tbsp olive oil
1 ½ tbsp BBQ sauce
2 tbsp marmalade
1 tbsp soy sauce
Cracked black pepper

Start by heating a lot of water in a big pan – there needs to be room for all of the seitan, plus a lot of extra space for it to expand and move around. Next, measure all of the seitan ingredients into a bowl – the order doesn't matter. Mix with a wooden spoon until a sticky dough has formed. Then sprinkle a handful of all-purpose flour onto your work surface and use this to kneed your dough. See picture:

The dough should remain a little sticky, but should not stick to your countertop. If it does, add more flour and keep kneading. After kneading for about 5 minutes, form the dough into a log shape. Then slice this log into sections about an inch thick. See picture:

When the water is hot, lower each slice of seitan into the pot. The goal is the have the water just on the brink of simmering – steaming but not really bubbling. If you're getting a lot of bubbles, turn the temperature down. Allow the seitan to sit in the steaming mixture for 30-40 minutes. Stir once or twice during this time; not vigorously, just enough to make sure that the seitan isn't sticking to the bottom of the pan. When the time is up, fish the seitan out of the pan and leave to cool on a chopping board for 10 minutes.

After the seitan has cooled a little, you can either leave it in big chunks to make “steak”, or you can cut it into strips. Either way, measure the ingredients for the marinade into a roasting pan and add the seitan. Mix the whole thing around with your hands, making sure all sides of the seitan get nicely oiled. Roast at 400 degrees for 45 minutes, flipping the seitan pieces half way through.

When it comes out of the oven, the final product is beef-like. It can be served with vegetables and gravy, or it can be used in stir fries, sandwiches, and burgers. 


  1. I'm about to start making this! Does there need to be water added to the wet ingredients listed to make the seitan dough? About 1/2 cup?

  2. I've never added any water. 1/2 cup of soy sauce seems to be enough liquid to form a nice moist dough, but if you get a different result, I'd love to hear about it!

  3. I'll testify to the excellence of this seitan.