BASICS: Seitan

I think I first came across seitan in my high school cafeteria, which was completely vegetarian (believe it or not).   But it may have been at one of our church potlucks, though I’m sure they didn’t call it seitan.

This is definitely not gluten-free.  This is gluten-concentrated.  And it is a fairly versatile ingredient.  You can use it in large steaks for Chicken Fried “Steaks,” slice it thinly for fajitas, diced in a Shepherd’s Pie, or finely minced for tacos or in a chili.

This is the recipe I use whenever I need some seitan.  It is from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, a book I recommend.


1 cup vital gluten flour

3/4 cup water

Put the flour in a bowl.  Add the water and mix by hand until it comes together, which is pretty fast.  You should have a small, rubbery (isn’t that appetizing!) ball.  Add a little more water if needed.


Knead the dough by hand for five minutes, for a couple of minutes in a mixer with a dough hook or in the food processor for about 30 seconds.  Cover the dough with a cloth and let it rest for 20 minutes.


In the meantime, prepare the simmering liquid (recipes below).

After resting, pull or cut the dough into two equal pieces.  Stretch into “logs” and place into the simmering liquid.


Bring to a boil and then simmer and cover for about an hour turning the seitan over a couple of times.


After an hour, slice a piece off to test if it is ready.  If you want it less dense, simmer for another 15 to 30 minutes.


Simmering Liquids

Golden Simmering Liquid

6 cups vegetable stock or water

1 cup white wine, apple juice or cider

1 tablespoon salt (if you are using water)

1 tablespoon peppercorns

2 bay leaves

4-6 garlic cloves, slightly crushed

Combine the ingredients in a large pot with a lid and follow the directions above.

Dark Simmering Liquid

6 cups vegetable stock or water

1/3 cup soy sauce

Combine the ingredients in a large pot with a lid and follow the directions above.  Mark Bittman suggests using this recipe if you are using the seitan for Asian-style recipes or with mushrooms, caramelized onions , root or winter vegetables.

You can add other seasonings, like fresh herbs, cinnamon sticks, cloves, etc.  But I keep it simple by using the Golden Simmering Liquid recipe as I mentioned above.

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