Even as a vegan that loves to cook and experiment with new foods, it took me a while to find vegan meat appealing. I was hesitant to try vegan meats for two reasons; for one, the thought of eating something that resembled meat wasn’t too appealing (after learning about the animal product industries). Also, store-bought vegan meat alternatives haven’t been very good or affordable until recently (and they are still quite expensive).
Although store-bought vegan meats are convenient to purchase and use, making vegan meat from home is also an option. Not only is it cheaper than buying pre-made vegan meats, but it’s can also be tastier and customized to your taste preferences.
Seitan aka “wheat meat” doesn’t sound like an appealing food, nor does it look all that appealing (in my opinion). However, this has become one of the staple proteins in my house as my partner absolutely loves this stuff (and I quite enjoy it as well). This recipe shares our go-to choice for homemade vegan meat making.
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What is Seitan?
Seitan is a vegan meat-like food made primarily from vital wheat gluten (aka gluten flour). Sometimes seitan is referred to as “wheat meat” because its primary ingredient is gluten which is sourced from wheat. Other ingredients can provide various textures to the vegan meat, but seitan is primarily a baked piece of gluten.
Doesn’t sound all that appetizing? Well, the vital wheat gluten alone has essentially no flavour so use any/all herbs and spices in your repertoire.
I’ve almost never made two batches of seitan the same; I flavour my seitan depending on my mood or what I’m planning to pair it with. However, the recipe below is by far the best combination I’ve come up with to this point!
The Many Textures of Seitan
Vital wheat gluten aka gluten flour is a very interesting ingredient. The first time I made this recipe, I was amazed at the resulting texture of the seitan.
My partner was extremely happy because he finally ate a vegan meat substitute that was chewy and more similar in texture to meat (compared to the mushier veggie patties he tried up to that point).
The first time I made seitan, I exclusively used gluten flour without any beans or onions in the mix. This has a huge impact on the texture. Gluten alone without any beans or vegetables to break it up makes for very firm and chewy seitan.
Some people may prefer this, but we prefer mixing in blended beans. This makes for a softer textured meat that’s less chewy.
Play around with the recipe and see what you prefer!
Is “Wheat Meat” Healthy? What to Know about Vital Wheat Gluten
Whether you consider seitan to be healthy or not might depend on your approach to food and ingredients. I don’t categorize food as healthy or unhealthy because these arbitrary classifications can lead to harm for some people (especially those prone to disordered eating).
Vital wheat gluten is an excellent source of protein. Gluten itself is a protein, so its flour is basically pure protein with extremely small amounts of carbs and fat. This may be helpful for people with higher protein requirements who are trying to follow a vegan diet.
Vegan diets also tend to be higher in carbs. Whole food sources of vegan protein tend to come packed with carbs. While these are healthy carbs, some people feel better with fewer carbs and more protein so this might be a good option for them.
Shouldn’t I Avoid Gluten?
Unless you have Celiac disease or a diagnosed intolerance to gluten (from a medical doctor), both of which are quite rare, there should be no harm in consuming gluten. As mentioned above, gluten can be a great source of protein on a vegan diet.
Is Gluten Flour a Balanced Source of Protein?
Gluten is extracted from wheat which tends to be quite low in the amino acid lysine. Vegan diets may be lower in lysine if high-lysine foods aren’t eaten throughout the day. If someone relies on gluten or seitan as their main protein, low intake of lysine could be a problem.
The solution is to focus on eating a variety of plant-based protein sources through the day, including some foods high in lysine. Variety is always important for a healthy and balanced diet.
Also, as vital wheat gluten is a processed product, it may not be the most optimal protein source to use as a staple in your diet. It can certainly be consumed, but whole-food protein sources tend to provide more balanced nutrition with additional vitamins and minerals that lack in processed food like vital wheat gluten or seitan.
Flavouring for an Easy Seitan Recipe
As noted above, flavour the seitan however you prefer. The herbs and spices suggested below are just that; a suggestion.
Why So Many Ingredients?
Gluten flour has no taste, so spices and herbs need to make up for that. I like food to be really flavourful, so I go all-in with the flavouring for this recipe. The ingredient list might look long but keep in mind this makes quite a large amount of vegan meat. Lots of flavour is needed for the whole piece of seitan.
You can substitute any and all of the spices and herbs as you prefer, or based on what you have on hand. The important concept to keep in mind is maintaining the correct ratio of dry ingredients to wet ingredients. If you significantly increase or reduce the amount of wet or dry ingredients, the texture of the seitan won’t be correct.
I hope you enjoy trying out this easy seitan recipe and gain the confidence in your skills making vegan meat! I was quite hesitant to give it a try but I’m so happy I did, and I’m sure you will be too!
Note: this recipe calls for herbamere which is a sea salt, vegetable and herb blend. If you don’t have herbamere you can sub for ½ tsp salt + ½ tsp of a herb blend (Italian seasoning or herbs de provence work well).
How to Make Vegan Meat: Easy Seitan Recipe
- Tin foil
- Baking tray
- Silicone baking mat
- Large bowl
- 2 C gluten flour vital wheat gluten
- 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 ½ tsp onion powder
- 1 ½ tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground sage
- 1 tsp Herbamare seasoning see note above for substitutions
- ½ tsp turmeric
- ½ tsp celery seed
- ½ tsp oregano
- Black pepper to taste about ¼ tsp
- Salt to taste about 1 tsp
- Preheat the oven to 350 °F.
- Mix all dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
- Use a food processor to blend the onion and beans in tomato sauce together. Transfer from the food processor into a mixing bowl.
- Dissolve the bouillion cube into ½ C of water (hot water is helpful to use). Add to the bean mixture.
- Add the remaining wet mix ingredients to the bean mixture (3 tbsp tamari, 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar, ¼ C oil).
- Stir the wet mix into dry mix. Knead with your hands until all dry mix is incorporated and you have one ball of dough.
- Now it’s time to shape the seitan. You can make one large loaf or a couple smaller loaves. I like to make 2 pieces as I find it cooks best this way.
- To shape the seitan, rip 2 large pieces (at least one foot long but more is fine) of tin foil and place on the counter. Cut the dough in half and place each half onto a piece of tin foil. Shape into a log.
- Wrap the tin foil around the dough as tightly as you can manage, folding in the edges of the tin foil to create a well-sealed pouch for the seitan to cook in. It's best to double-layer the tin foil (after the seitan is wrapped once, use a second piece of tin foil and wrap tightly again).
- Place the two logs onto a baking tray and place on the center rack of the oven for 1 hour 20 min. You can flip the logs over halfway through.
- Once cooked, take out of the oven, let sit for a few minutes. Then carefully remove the tin foil and transfer the seitan onto a baking tray to cool.
- The texture will be best if the seitan is left to cool completely. To achieve this, place in the fridge for a couple hours. It’s fine to eat right away but it will be significantly softer (will firm up with cooling down/ being in a fridge).
- Slice and serve!