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

Directions:

  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

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