All Praise Seitan!

The last time I made seitan was over two decades ago. I had never heard of the stuff before. Seitan was years away from appearing in American stores, even in health food stores. While in a suburban supermarket I picked up a copy of a then cutting edge book on vegetarian eating called “Eating For The Eighties”. I enjoyed the book, so when I found another book by the same husband and wife team in my public library I checked it out. That book described seitan and had a recipe for making it from scratch.

Seitan is wheat gluten. Gluten is the protein in wheat. You get gluten by making wheat flour into dough and kneading the dough in a pot of water until you have squished out all of the starch, leaving only the sinewy protein. The sinewy protein bears a striking resemblance to meat.

So, I made the dough and sat down in the morning with a saucepan of water. It took me all day long to reach the point that when I squeezed the dough no more white starch came out into the water. I wasn’t ready to being cooking the seitan until dinner time. The results looked amazingly like “London Broil” , didn’t taste anything like it, though it didn’t taste bad and it had the rubbery texture of basic seitan that hasn’t been dressed up in a more elaborate recipe.

Making seitan from ordinary flour was a good experience. It gave me a sense of how hard people had to work in the distant past just to eat. It literally took me all day to make.

Well, in the year 2011 I can buy “vital wheat gluten” in the baking section of my local supermarket. Vital wheat gluten is wheat flour with the starch already removed for you. You can use vital wheat gluten to make seitan in fraction of the time it takes to make seitan from scratch. Hours and hours of kneading are no longer required.

I made this incredible recipe last night. It came out even better looking than the borrowed picture above. It took me about 20 minutes of preparation time, before I was free for an hour and half while it cooked.

The seitan roll I got fresh out of the oven was very similar to the spicy Tofurkey Kielbasa you can get in stores. The vital wheat gluten flour for the recipe cost me a little bit over $3. I had most of the other ingredients already, as I think many vegans would.

I was amazed how tasty it was and I was amazed how easy it was to make:

Dry Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups vital wheat gluten
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp salt ( I left this out )
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cumin ( I couldn’t find mine and left this out )
  • 1-2 tsp black pepper ( I accidentally used tablespoons, it still came out okay )
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper ( I used 1/4 tsp )
  • 1/8 tsp allspice (I used 1/4 tsp)

Wet Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • 4 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp ketchup
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (I used canola oil)
  • 2 tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce (I used Bragg’s soy sauce instead)
  • 1-3 cloves garlic, crushed


  1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Combine the dry and wet ingredients in separate mixing bowls
  3. Mix the ingredients in each bowl well
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, mix well
  5. Knead the dough for about 4 minutes
  6. Shape the dough into a log about 6 – 8 inches long
  7. Wrap the log in foil, twisting the ends closed
  8. Put the log into the oven for 90 minutes
  9. Unwrap the log and let it cool completely
  10. Store the log in the foil or in plastic, inside of a refrigerator


High in iron, high in other minerals, high in vitamins, high in beneficial fiber, high in phytochemicals, high in protein, good for the famer’s soil and dirt cheap legumes are a staple food the world over.

According to the American Dietetic Position Paper On Vegetarianism, a person taking in enough calories to maintain his/her weight will also likely take in adequate amounts protein. If s/he is eating good food in a varied diet( see this ). Eating 2 – 3 servings of legumes a day will help insure adequate protein levels for most people. A serving of legumes is about 1 cup cooked. If a person is interested in an optimal intake of protein, s/he can improve the quality of his/her protein intake by combining a legume with a whole grain or combining a legume with a serving of seeds in the same meal.

There are two great all vegan bean recipe books:

  1. “The Great Vegan Bean Book” by Kathy Hester
  2. “Fabulous Beans” by Barb Bloomfield

You can find more recipes by typing “beans” or other search terms into the Vegan Recipe Search Engine. Most public libraries will have at least several all bean recipe books or vegetarian cookbooks. I have found some of my most favorite recipes by looking through these books and picking out the vegan recipes.

What About Gas?

Legumes contain oligosaccharides, a type of carbohydrate that is hard to break down. There is a type of bacteria in the human gut that will break these sugars down, but a byproduct is gas. This gas can be reduced.

Methods For Reducing Gas

  1. Legume Choice
  2. Soaking
  3. Quick Boiling
  4. Pressure Cooking
  5. Miscellaneous Methods

Legume Choice

Not all legumes have the same amount of oligosaccharides. If you eat legumes with less oligosaccharides you will get less, if any gas.

Lower Oligosaccharide Legumes

  1. lentils
  2. mung beans
  3. black eyed peas
  4. split peas
  5. peanuts
  6. organic soy beans

Higher Oligosaccharide Legumes

  1. black beans
  2. kidney beans
  3. navy beans
  4. pinto beans
  5. chick peas

The legumes in the lower oligosaccharide group have more protein per serving than legumes in the higher oligosaccharide group. These legumes, except for soy beans and peanuts also cook more quickly. In about 35 – 45 minutes. Legumes in the higher oligosaccharide group take about 90 minutes to cook, except for chick peas which take at least two hours. Legumes are done cooking when they are “al dente”, soft, like a baked potato. When cooking legumes always bring the water up to hard boil and then turn the heat down to low. Combine 2 parts water with one part legume.

An easy way to get a fast, cheap, complete meal is to combine 2 cups of dried legumes from the low oligosaccharide group ( except for soy beans or peanuts ) with 2 cups of dry brown rice and 8 cups of water. Bring the water to a rolling boil and then turn the heat down low. Cook for about 35 minutes on low heat, until all of the water is steamed away. Combine 2 cups of this mixture with a green vegetable, a sauce of your choice and have fruit for dessert. You can refrigerate and reheat the leftover beans and rice to get several fast meals.

Soy Beans And Peanuts

Peanuts and organic soy beans are also “low gas” legumes.

Peanuts are versatile in ways I never imagined. If you are interested, you should investigate African cuisines.

Organic soy beans are super beans. Super high in the quantity and quality of protein, organic soy beans are also high in many other nutrients. Organic soy beans can be cooked in about 25 minutes if they are soaked overnight and cooked in a pressure cooker. Organic soy beans, organic edamame, tofu made from organic soy beans and tempeh from organic soy beans can all be eaten by most people with no discomfort at all. I emphasized the word “organic” for soy beans, because most soy beans in the United States are genitically modified ( GMO ). Buying organic soy beans is still a fairly cheap thing to do and avoids this issue.


Soaking legumes in water overnight helps reduce gas. Some of the oligosaccharides will move out of the legumes and into the water. Soaking the legumes in water overnight also reduces cooking time and improves the texture. It isn’t necessary to reduce gas, but I also soak legumes from the low oligosaccharide group to get these additional benefits. To soak legumes, combine 1 part legumes with 2 parts water in a container and refrigerate overnight. You can leave the container for several days in your refrigerator without harm. In fact, you can do so on purpose to have beans presoaked and ready to go when you want them. After soaking the legumes, make sure you rinse them off and change the water. Doing so will get rid of more oligosaccharides and reduce gas further.

Quick Boiling

I’ve found “quick boiling” to be the most effective method for reducing gas. It isn’t necessary for and should not be used on legumes from the low oligosaccharide group. After soaking 1 part legumes with 2 parts water overnight, rinse off the legumes and change the water. Bring the legumes and the fresh change of water to a rolling boil for 1 minute. Then change the water again. Doing so will “boil out” more gas producing oligosaccharides. If you don’t eat legumes from the high oligosaccharide often, I would recommend repeating this at least 2 times before cooking the legumes. You will not lose a significant amount of nutrition. You will also notice much more comfort after eating the high oligosaccharide legumes prepared this way.

Pressure Cooking

A pressure cooker is a pot with a lid held on by a strong clamp. This allows pressure to build up inside of the pot making the temperature inside go higher than would be possible with a sauce pan. This results in food being cooked much more quickly….at a speed competitive with microwave ovens.

  • high oligosaccharide legumes will cook in 15 minutes instead of 1 1/2 hours
  • soy beans cook in 20 minutes instead of 2 – 3 hours
  • chick peas cook in 25 minutes instead of 2 – 3 hours
  • potatoes and most root vegetables will cook in 10 minutes

I’ve also found, through my personal experience, that pressure cooking will greatly reduce gas, especially if you also soak the legumes and do “quick boiling” as described above. Pressure cooking also tends to lock in flavor. If you never had a sweet potato pressure cooked, you never had a good sweet potato. If you can afford it, I would recommend getting a stainless steel pressure cooker.

Miscellaneous Methods

Canned beans are more expensive, but in my personal experience I have found canned beans to be less gas producing. If you use canned beans make sure you rinse them off first. Canned beans come packed in solutions with a lot of sodium and some other chemicals you may not want.

You can also buy a natural enzyme, a “vegan beano’ to help you break down the oligosaccharides in legumes without gas.

Many people recommend cooking beans with baking soda, a bay leaf, a bit of the spice hing, a strip of dried kelp or a strip of dried seawead called kombu to reduce gas. I have never found these methods to be effective. Your mileage may vary.

As your system gets used to eating legumes on a regular basis you will find less gas being produced. Start off with small amounts and build up.

Good luck and good eating! 🙂