8 Recipes That Will Make You Fall in Love with Seitan
What is seitan?
Seitan is a plant-based protein often used as an alternative to animal products, like chicken, beef, or pork. Invented in China around the 6th century CE, it was a popular source of nutrients for vegetarian communities, specifically those adhering to the tenets of Buddhism. If you’ve ever seen mock duck on a Chinese takeout menu, then you are already familiar with seitan.
But what actually is seitan? Right, let’s get to that.
Seitan is made from gluten, the main protein found in wheat. To make seitan (from scratch), wheat flour is kneaded with water until strips of sticky protein are developed. The flour dough is then washed until all of the starch has been removed. What remains is a mass of protein that can be cut into chunks or slices and either steamed, boiled, fried, or baked.
Today, the process for making seitan is greatly simplified (check out this super simple recipe, here). Home cooks can go to their local supermarket or natural foods store and pick up a bag of what is often labeled as vital wheat gluten, the powdered form of wheat gluten, which is almost all gluten and no starch. Mixing the vital wheat gluten with equal parts water and a little flour is all you need to create the dough. You can either mix spices and/or seasonings into the dough directly or boil the dough in an aromatic broth or stock. Or, if you’re trying to save some time, you can always buy prepared seitan (it’s often located in the refrigerated aisle near the other plant-proteins).
Benefits of seitan
There are many reasons to incorporate seitan into your weekly meal planning. First, it’s good for you: seitan is high in protein, low in calories and saturated fat, and contains a number of important minerals including iron, phosphorus, and selenium. It’s also good for the environment, requiring a fraction of the natural resources compared to animal proteins. Lastly, seitan is versatile and pretty tasty when properly prepared, serving as an excellent replacement for ground beef, steak, or grilled chicken.
Cooking with seitan
Seitan has a relatively neutral flavor, often described as tasting like plain chicken breast or button mushrooms, and a firm-yet-chewy meat-like texture. When cooking with seitan, you want to keep the product moist, which can be accomplished by adding some fat, like olive oil or coconut oil. If you’re doing a stir fry or sauté try to cook the product as quickly as possible to avoid it from drying out (remember, seitan purchased from the supermarket is almost always precooked).
But the fun of cooking with seitan is its versatility. It’s a unique culinary canvas that, with the right sauces, seasonings, and cooking methods, can be transformed into everything from fajitas and taco meat to cold-cuts and chicken tenders to kebabs and barbecue ribs. Looking for some inspiration? Check out our roundup of fun and innovative seitan-focused recipes.
Barbecued Seitan Ribs
Yes, thanks to this recipe from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen, it is possible to enjoy the chewy taste and tangy flavor of barbecue ribs using only plant-based ingredients. The first step is to make your seitan dough and spread it in an oven-safe dish, before cutting into rib-sized strips. But the magic happens after you bake the seitan and invert the whole baking dish onto a hot grill grate. You’ll achieve the smoky flavor of barbecue without having to deal with any pricey cuts of meat. No grill? No problem. Just baste with barbecue sauce and put back in the oven until the sauce has thickened or caramelized.
For the Barbecued Seitan Ribs recipe, click here.
Buffalo Seitan Nuggets
Everyone loves nuggets: they’re easy to eat, designed for dipping, and are perfect for lunch boxes. This recipe for Buffalo seitan nuggets from Make It Dairy Free is certainly innovative, calling for a batter of cornmeal, coconut cream, liquid smoke, Buffalo sauce, and seasonings. After coating chunks of seitan in the batter, the nuggets go in an oil bath for a quick fry until golden and delicious.
For the Buffalo Seitan Nuggets recipe, click here.
Crispy Orange Seitan and Broccoli
Craving Chinese takeout? You can make your own plant-based version with seitan, thanks to this recipe from The Curious Chickpea, which uses a sauce of fresh-squeezed orange juice, ginger, pepper flakes, and soy sauce. The key to achieving super-crispy seitan is to toss the chunks in cornstarch before a quick fry in the pan. Pour the sauce over the freshly cooked seitan and broccoli and you’re ready to eat.
For the Crispy Orange Seitan and Broccoli recipe, click here.
Quick Seitan Masala
A lot of Indian food is naturally vegetarian, which makes it a great cuisine to experiment with when trying to eat more plant-based foods. This recipe from Holy Cow Vegan for a quick seitan masala packs a punch of flavor thanks to a heavily-seasoned seitan and a tasty sauce made with onions, ginger-garlic paste, tomatoes, and garam masala.
For the Quick Seitan Masala recipe, click here.
Two-Layer Mojo Seitan Tacos
Taco night is a great opportunity to introduce family or friends to plant-based proteins because the other supporting components—tortilla, salsa, guacamole—are already so familiar. But this taco recipe from Rabbit and Wolves isn’t your ordinary beans, cheese, and lettuce. Before cooking, the precooked seitan strips are marinated into a jazzy concoction of garlic, citrus juice, oregano, cumin, and olive oil. You can marinate all night or a couple hours, but once you’re ready to cook, pour the seitan and marinade and cook until the sauce is thickened. Now you’re ready to assemble your tacos. Yum!
For the Two-Layer Mojo Seitan Tacos recipe, click here.
This recipe from Pasta Based takes some time to prepare, but it will be worth it in the end. Homemade seitan made using cannellini beans is formed into thin disks of dough, which are then coated with bread crumbs and baked. After they come out of the oven, the seitan “cutlets” are topped with sauce and a layer of homemade vegan mozzarella.
For the Seitan Parmesan recipe, click here.
Seitan Satay Skewers
Seitan satay skewers, say that three times fast. Alliteration aside, these little nuggets of seitan are seasoned with a pungent blend of coconut milk, curry powder, red curry paste, and sugar. Paired with a smooth and decadent peanut sauce, this recipe from Yum Vegan Lunch Ideas will satisfy your desire for a Southeast Asian snack.
For the Seitan Satay Skewers recipe, click here.
For more ways to pump up your plant-based cooking, try these 10 Foods You Never Knew You Could Grill. When posting pictures of recipes to your social media network, tag @MeatlessMonday use #MeatlessMonday to show the plant-based community your creation.