Crafting your very own homemade seitan is super easy. This step-by-step tutorial will show you how to make seitan with vital wheat gluten and a few pantry staples! Plus: a recipe for homemade seitan with three flavor variations.
Early on in my blogging days I posted a recipe for seitan. Just recently I set out to make some updates to that post, namely, rephotographing it, when I realized something more was needed.
A recipe is what kept me from making seitan for about ten years. I'll explain what I mean below, but for now, suffice it to say, seitan is more of a how-to, choose your own adventure type food. Seitan is super easy to make with the ingredients that are readily available these days, and once you've made a few batches you can totally wing it.
I first heard about seitan when I was about nineteen. I was a big fan of the show Christina Cooks with the Class. I loved that show! Ate up all of her seemingly crazy veggie concoctions, literally. One day she busted out some seitan, and I was intrigued, to say the least. I eventually got my hands on some, and later branched out into making my own seitan.
My first experiences with homemade seitan involved following a recipe that called for rinsing and massaging a big ball of wheat flour dough for a half hour or so to isolate the wheat gluten, which was a huge pain in the butt. This was before powdered vital wheat gluten became widely available.
That recipe also involved a big piece of kelp known as kombu, which was meant to give the seitan a savory flavor. The recipe instructed me to use kombu, so I dutifully searched every Asian market within a few city blocks until I found some.
After that I didn't make seitan again for a while because (1) the whole dough rinsing process was just way to daunting, and (2) I didn't feel like searching for kombu again.
I totally had it in my head that kombu was essential to seitan making. In my defense, the cookbook I'd been using, which was probably written in 1972, acted like kombu was the biggest deal ever and without it your seitan would be awful.
I know better now, and this is why I'm giving you a recipe today with three flavor variations.
Also, you don't even have to follow the recipe. Read my instructions below and make seitan your way. The only essential ingredient is the vital wheat gluten, which, thankfully, you can get at natural foods stores and some regular old supermarkets these days.
Let's back up! Perhaps you've never heard of seitan before and am wondering what on earth I'm talking about.
Seitan is a meat substitute that's made from seasoned wheat gluten.
Yes, you read that right: seitan is made from wheat gluten. And that might be why it scares people. But if you don't have celiac disease and you're not gluten sensitive, there's nothing to worry about.
Wheat gluten is the protein found in wheat. It has a very meaty texture, so and when you add some meaty flavors it's the perfect vegan meat alternative in all sorts of recipes — I use seitan in everything from stir-fries to stews to sandwich fillings. It also packs a whopping 25 grams of protein per 4 ounce serving.
You may have even had seitan before without realizing it.
If you've ever eaten a vegetarian restaurant meal and were amazed at how meaty it tasted, you were probably eating seitan. If you've ever eaten commercial meat substitutes, they probably contained some seitan.
I don't eat a whole lot of store-bought meat substitutes though. I prefer homemade seitan because it's generally a lot better, and I know what's in it.
How It's Made
The following is a detailed photo tutorial on how to make this dish. Scroll all the way down if you'd like to skip right to the recipe!
Though there are many ways to make seitan, the method described below is what I consider to be the simplest. We'll be making a simple gluten-based dough and simmering it in broth.
Other methods for making seitan include the washed flour method, where you start with whole wheat flour instead of vital wheat gluten, then rinse the flour to remove the bran and starch. There are also methods including baking and/or steaming your dough, like I've done in my vegan pepperoni recipe.
1. Make the Dough
As you might have guessed, the dough starts with vital wheat gluten, which will be in powdered form. You can cut the gluten with another type of flour. I like to do this — I find gluten alone results in seitan that's a bit tough for my taste.
Add water. 1 cup is a good amount for the batch size we're working with. Mix and form a dough.
2. Knead the Dough
Just like with bread making, we need to knead the dough a bit, to develop strands of gluten that give seitan a meaty texture.
About 5 minutes of kneading is sufficient. Let it sit for about 5 minutes after that.
3. Make the Broth
The broth is what gives your seitan flavor, so you want it to taste how you intend for your seitan to taste. You can do whatever you want here, and this is a great place to experiment. Feel like searching every local Asian market for a big piece of kombu? Totally fine, but if you can't find one, please don't let it stop you!
For the batch size we're going with, six cups of broth is about ideal. If you take a look at the amount of dough you've got, six cups may seem like a lot, but it's not. Your seitan will double or even triple in size while it cooks!
I usually start with low sodium vegetable broth, but water works too. You'll want a good amount of salt in there (meat is salty!), which is best provided by soy sauce, tamari, or liquid aminos. ¼ to ⅓ cup of soy sauce is my standard.
From there, it's all up to you what you add. Think savory flavors. Here are a few suggestions:
- garlic (fresh or powder)
- onion powder
- dried herbs
- nutritional yeast
- vegan Worcestershire sauce
- miso (this adds quite a bit of salt, so use less soy sauce if you include it)
- liquid smoke
- Kitchen Bouquet, Gravy Master, or another all-purpose seasoning
If you're not sure where to start, use the recipe below. If has three broth variations for seitan that's best suited to replace different types of meat: pork, chicken, and beef.
By the time your broth is done, your seitan dough should be sufficiently rested. Cut it into smaller pieces. I recommend cutting it into at least 4 pieces because (1) if they're too big the broth won't fully penetrate them, and (2) remember that they'll expand during cooking, and if they get too big the broth will no longer cover them.
Tip: The smaller you cut your dough pieces, the more broth penetration you'll get, giving you more flavorful seitan.
Bring the broth to a boil. Lower the heat until it's just at a simmer, and then add the dough pieces. Set the timer for an hour and keep an eye on the pot. You don't want to let it get to a rolling boil, or your seitan might end up overcooked and chewy. I like to keep mine just barely simmering.
Once it's finished simmering, your seitan is ready to be eaten or used!
Shelf-Life & Storage
Store your homemade seitan in the cooking broth, in an airtight container. It will keep in the fridge for about five days, or in the freezer for about three months.
How to Cook with Seitan
Technically, your seitan is already cooked and you can eat it straight from the pot — I often do!
But you probably want to incorporate it into a dish.
Seitan can be directly substituted for meat in many recipes. Look for recipes that call for distinct pieces or slices of meat. Stir-fries, kebabs and stews are great for using big chunks of seitan. Sliced seitan can be used in sandwiches. I've even finely chopped seitan and used it as a substitute for ground beef.
Seitan lends itself to baking, frying, pan-frying, stir-frying, grilling, simmering and steaming, among many other cooking methods.
I've provided three flavors in the recipe card below: beef, pork and chicken. It's usually best to choose the variation that's closest to the variety of meat your recipe calls for.
From there, it's just a matter of directly substituting seitan for meat in the recipe. The only modification you might need to make is to the cook time. You don't need to worry about seitan cooking all the way through or to a specific temperature like you might with meat, so the cook time in many recipes can be shortened.
Read my article on how to cook with seitan if you need more guidance.
You can also try one of my seitan recipes. I've listed a few favorites just above the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
Frequently Asked Questions
Many grocery stores carry packaged seitan in the natural foods aisle. Look for brands like WestSoy, Upton's Naturals and Franklin Farms. If your regular supermarket doesn't have it, try a place like Whole Foods.
Yes! You can use it to make another (smaller) batch of seitan if you'd like. You can also add it to recipes like soups, stews and gravies.
Sure you can! I'd encourage you to first make one of the recipe variations below to get familiar with the process, but experiment to your heart's content after that, adding seasonings to both the dough and broth.
Usually this happens when you let the broth boil too rapidly, which leads to rapid expansion of trapped air within the dough, totally messing up the texture of your seitan. Keep it at a super low simmer, so it's barely bubbling.
Unfortunately, no. Since gluten is the main ingredient in seitan, it really can't be done. I've found that Butler Soy Curls are a great gluten-free option that work in place of seitan in many recipes. Also check out my two other favorite plant-based protein ingredients, tofu and tempeh, both of which are gluten-free.
I also created an entire round-up post of seitan recipes if you need some more inspiration!
Like this recipe? If so, please stop back and leave me a review and rating below if you try it! Also be sure to follow me on Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram, or subscribe to my newsletter for more recipes like this one!
Crafting your very own homemade seitan is super easy, and you don't even need a recipe. This step-by-step tutorial will show you how to make seitan with vital wheat gluten and a few pantry staples! Plus: a recipe for homemade seitan with three flavor variations.
For the Broth - Pork Flavor
- 6 cups low sodium vegetable broth or water
- ⅓ cup soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons liquid smoke
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
For the Broth - Chicken Flavor
For the Broth - Beef Flavor
- 5 ½ cups low sodium vegetable broth
- ½ cup dry red wine
- ⅓ cup soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons vegan Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
Stir the vital wheat gluten and chickpea flour together in a medium bowl.
Add the water and stir to form a soft dough.
Transfer the dough to a work surface and knead it for 5 minutes.
Allow the dough to rest for 5 minutes.
While the dough rests, stir all of the broth ingredients for your choice of broth together in a large pot.
Place the pot over high heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat to a low simmer.
Cut the dough into at least 4 large pieces, or if you prefer, smaller strips or chunks.
Add the dough to the broth.
Allow the broth to simmer for 1 hour, uncovered, watching closely to ensure it stays at a low simmer (don't allow it to rapidly boil).
Remove the pot from heat and allow it to cool a bit.
When the seitan is cool enough to handle, you can cut it into smaller pieces if you like. Use it in a recipe immediately, or store it in the broth. Refrigerate for up to 5 days, or freeze.
The nutrition information is very approximate for this recipe, since there are three flavor variations and it's difficult to estimate just how much broth is absorbed during cooking.