Hail Seitan

I know that I’m alone among the vege-bacon-tarians here in my passionate love of meat substitutes. But then, I’m probably also the one who loves meat the most. For awhile, my fake meat consumption dropped after I started eating fish and shrimp. I’ve been slowing down on the seafood, though, partly because it’s expensive, and partly because of the increasingly dire state of the oceans/fishing industry.

Fortunately, Colin is mostly fine with swapping out real meat for soy meat. Unfortunately, meat substitutes are also expensive. My favorites are the Gardein products, but they’re about $4 a bag, and the bags are pretty small. (Seriously, though, the mandarin orange chik’n is awesome – even better than the TJ’s version.) I also will chop up the Quorn naked chik’n cutlets to throw into a soup, pasta, or casserole. But again: expensive.

Last week, I went to a Vietnamese restaurant that has an extensive veg menu. I ordered a “chicken” curry. The “chicken” was incredible. I’m telling you, Asian countries are the best at making meat substitutes, since they’ve been doing it for hundreds of years. (Thanks, Buddhists!) Generally, they’re some form of seitan. So I decided to make my own.

Seitan, for the uninitiated, is made of wheat gluten, which is a great source of protein. And it turns out that it’s very simple to make. It is not, however, simple to make well.

There is a dizzying amount of variation in seitan recipes; in some, it’s baked, in others, simmered. I decided to try a baked-then-grilled version of BBQ pulled seitan sandwiches.

Here’s what I used:

  • 1 cup vital wheat gluten
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • ground pepper
  • 3/4 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 tbsp crushed garlic (A lot of recipes use tahini, which I didn’t have. Solution? More garlic, obvs.)
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • 3 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
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Bob’s Red Mill seems to be the standard. I had to go to a couple stores before I found this at the local co-op.
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This is the only jarred garlic I have not found to be disappointing. Sometimes I am just too lazy to peel and crush my own garlic, especially since I don’t own a garlic press. #TJPTMIMOO

Here’s what I did:

  1. Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet in another.
  2. Drizzle the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients slowly, mixing as you go.
  3. Knead the dough lightly.
  4. Spread the dough out on a greased pan and bake at 350 for 25 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, throw together a coleslaw.
  6. Once the seitan is done in the oven (it should be browned), it could be eaten.
  7. But if you want more of a smoky flavor, slice it into cutlets, douse it in Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce, and stick it on the grill, set to medium-high.
  8. Grill about 10 minutes, brushing it with watered down BBQ sauce occasionally.
  9. Use a fork and knife to pull it into small pieces. Add more sauce as desired.
  10. Put it on a bun with coleslaw. Enjoy.

So, how would I rate my first attempt at seitan? Taste: Very good. Texture: Mediocre. It was a tad too chewy, and not very much like like the tender stuff from the Vietnamese restaurant. That seitan has a grain to it that’s very similar to chicken. So I’ve looked up how to make seitan less chewy, and I plan to make these modifications on my next attempt:

  • add more broth
  • simmer, OR bake submerged in broth
  • knead as little as possible
  • cut the vital wheat gluten with another flour
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I made WAY too much coleslaw.
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Here’s what they looked like coming off the grill.

The finished product:

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4 thoughts on “Hail Seitan

  1. That looks good! I have not ever fallen in love with seitan, but I don’t think it’s ever been done properly. I tried to make BBQ tofu sliders (because I am ALWAYS looking for more opportunities to eat barbecue sauce on everything) a while ago, but they were underwhelming, to say the least.

    Also, I never eat fake meat products (with the exception of the fake taco meat that is occasionally good on burrito night), but a friend of mine who just moved to SF is obsessed with them, so I’ve tried a few more! She brought some fake Italian sausages that were really good with spaghetti squash (I know, I know, but maybe you’ll like it with fake meat?!), and some ground soy thing that we put in chili last night, and it made it really substantial! So I might be converting shortly to the crew that isn’t wildly offended by the idea of fake meat.

    1. I use the Morningstar soy crumbles a lot – they definitely do make dishes more hearty. I use them in chili, in stir-fries, and in shepherds pie. Even a friend who has zero vegetarian inclinations tried the shepherds pie and said it was really good with the soy. Were the sausages Tofurkey brand? Because those are my favorite… I like the kielbasa. And you should really try the Gardein products! They’re amazing.

  2. That photo when they’re coming off the grill! Delicioso. I was going to say that this should be marked with TJPTMIMOO because there is definitely no vital wheat gluten here, but then I noticed the tag already- dammit you guys, this might be the most successful campaign ever! Also, I’m assuming the purple stuff in the coleslaw photo is cabbage, not red onion, right? Do you have really good knife skills to get it so finely chopped, or do you use something else? I get impatient chopping cabbage, but I love it when it’s thinly sliced!

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