My first bites of seitan - the meat-like food made from vital wheat gluten - were the commercially made plant-based protein products by Sweet Earth and Uptons Naturals. They were really tasty, and the texture appealed to us. It is a perfectly good avatar for meat. If you're headed in the WFPB direction and haven't tried them, you should remedy that. Soon.
The only problem here? We liked them so much that, well, it was getting a little expensive. And, me being me, I says to self "can't I make that?" Yes, Cynthia. I could, and you can too.
If you're new to this plant-based protein scene, you might not know what Seitan (pronounced: "Say-Tan") is. Well, it's a highly versatile protein made from wheat that's been 'rinsed' of the starch, leaving the high protein 'vital wheat gluten' behind. Gluten is that part of wheat that lends elasticity to bread. It's been around for centuries in Asia as a meat substitute.
Seitan is a brilliant 'chameleon' in that it can so closely resemble the texture of meat, unlike other plant-based proteins like tofu or tempeh. There's little mistaking what those are, and that can be problematic for newbie plant-based eaters ... and their kids, and husbands. Ahem. Seitan can be colored to resemble meat, it can be sliced, shredded, chopped, chunked ... you name it. And, making it at home is super simple.
I use the Bob's Red Mill Vital Wheat Gluten and their recipe. I've tried a couple other recipes, and honestly, the Bob's is simpler, more straight-forward and produces a superior Seitan. But, true to form, I've tweaked their recipe a bit. Ahem.
Here's the general recipe - with my tweaks:
1 ¾ cups Vital Wheat Gluten
⅓ cup Nutritional Yeast
2 tsp Garlic Granules
2 tsp Onion Powder
1 tsp Crushed Fennel
½ tsp Turmeric
½ tsp red pepper flakes
3 Tbsp Maggi Arome or Soy Sauce
1 tsp Molasses
drops, as needed, of Kitchen Bouquet to 'color' the Seitan to better resemble beef, pork or chicken.
1-½ tsp dried Bouquet Garni herb blend*
¼ cup ground flax seed
*To mix your own Bouquet Garni, approximate measures/rations of the following dried herbs: 1/4 tsp. savory, 1/8 tsp rosemary, 1/2 tsp thyme, 1/4 tsp oregano, 1/4 basil, 1/8 tsp dill weed, 1/4 tsp marjoram, pinch of sage and a pinch of tarragon.
NOTE: if you're going to halve this recipe into a 'Beef' and 'Chikin' version, then hold off on the Kitchen Bouquet. Add more or less Kitchen Bouquet to each version to achieve the coloration you desire. Also: for the 'Beef' version, I added some Mesquite Smoke powder (½ teaspoon) and some smoked Paprika (1 teaspoon).
Making Seitan is really just making a dough.
In a medium bowl, whisk wheat gluten, nutritional yeast and dry spices. In a separate bowl, combine remaining ingredients and stir until smooth. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet mixture, using a fork to bring dough together (it will be lumpy and springy).
Divide the dough into two parts - if you are going to make a 'chikin' and a 'beef' version. If not, then just motor ahead. I colored the 'beef' version with a bit more Kitchen Bouquet (just a few drops at a time) for a darker color, and added some Mesquite Smoke powder (about ½ teaspoon) and some additional Paprika (about 1 teaspoon).
STOVE TOP METHOD: Bring 4–6 cups water to a rolling boil in a medium pot, and place a tight-fitting steamer basket inside. Add Seitan, still wrapped in foil or parchment, cover with the pot lid and steam for 80 minutes. Do not remove lid. Let Seitan cool for 30 minutes before cutting into slices or chunks. Enjoy as-is, or sear on the stovetop.
INSTANT POT METHOD (which I recommend): Wrap the smaller 'loaves' of Seitan tightly in aluminum foil or parchment. Add two cups of water to the Instant Pot, followed by the steamer trivet or basket ( I used the basket as I stack the loaves in it). Lock the lid in place, turn the valve to the locking position. Set the Instant Pot for High Pressure, timer to 120 minutes. When the Instant Pot is done, do a Quick Release of the pressure, remove the loaves and allow them to cool enough to handle.
ABOVE: This batch has less Kitchen Bouquet for coloring, and I call this the 'Chikin' version.
BELOW: This batch has more Kitchen Bouquet for a 'Beef' color.
Go ahead and stack the loaves in the Instant Pot.
Now, you can exercise a couple of choices.
Leave it whole in a sliceable loaf? Or, take a loaf or two and shred it with a fork into, well, shreds.
BELOW: A previous batch of 'Chikin' Seitan, that I shredded and froze. This is awesome in a quick vegetable soup, or as a Chikin Pot Pie. Yup.
Yeah. Chikin Pot Pie ... it's just Seitan, peas, carrots, potato, celery, onions and my killer Creamy Chikin Gravy, baked under a puff pasty lid.
It's up to you, but they both loaf and shredded have their uses. I like to shred before freezing. It just works better. The loaves freeze great, and once thawed in the refrigerator, you can slice like very thin deli slices, cut into strips for a stir-fry, chunks for soups or stews. It's all a big playground!
As you can see below, I vacuum pack (using my FoodSaver) and toss 'em into the freezer.
Seitan lasts for months in the freezer, and at least a week in your deli tray. I've been known to slice off a piece for a quick snack. It's that tasty!
Oh, BTW: It makes a killer jerky! Yeah. Just pop it into your dehydrator.
This button will take you to PayPal where you can securely pop a bit in the 'tip jar'.