Today I’m going to talk about seitan – a wheat gluten-based meat substitute that’s very high in protein. If you’ve never tried making it at home, my recipe for BBQ seitan can be a good place to start.
Seitan originates in Asian cuisine and can be very versatile in everyday vegan or vegetarian dishes. Seitan is pretty easy to make at home: if you make a batch, you can use it in different dishes over the course of a few days, thus saving time and money on meal planning.
Out of all ‘fake meats’ (including soy-based), seitan resembles the texture and taste of actual meat the most, especially duck and other poultry, depending on how it’s cooked. I’ve even heard that some vegans refuse to eat seitan because of its meatiness!
While this reasoning is not for everyone, another group of people has to stay away from wheat gluten for health reasons – the gluten-intolerant folk.
A little history: the word ‘seitan‘ is believed to originate from Japanese sei (to be, of the nature) and tan, or tanpaku (protein). The word is considered to have been introduced by the founding father of macrobiotic diet George Oshawa in the 1960-s.
However, different versions of wheat gluten have been used for centuries in Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese cuisines, especially by Buddhist cooks.
Just as the name suggests, seitan is very high in protein: depending on the recipe, it can contain 70-80 percent protein – higher than any type of meat!
Originally, wheat gluten for seitan is derived from washing whole wheat flour and rinsing off all of the starch until you are left with an elastic, sponge-like substance.
However, it’s easier to make seitan at home directly from powdered vital wheat gluten that can be purchased in grocery stores or online (I use Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Flour brand). You make the seitan mixture by combining vital wheat gluten with water or vegetable broth, and add in some seasonings and spices to make it more flavorful.
What happens next is up to you! There are a few ways you can cook seitan: arrange it into a 1/2-inch layer and bake it in the oven, tear up in pieces and put it in a steamer, or boil the pieces and then bake them in the oven for a little longer.
All methods work best if you cover seitan with some kind of sauce to prevent it from drying out. Sure, this may sound like too much work, but if you power through it once and make a big batch, you can use the resulting seitan in different dishes for the next few days!
After I tried a few different ways of cooking seitan, I discovered that the best results come from the third method I’ve mentioned above (boiling and then baking). This way, the boiling broth enhances the flavor of the finished product, plumps up seitan pieces and makes them juicy.
Rubbing the seitan pieces with rich sauce (like barbecue in this recipe) after they’ve been boiled and then sending them to the oven takes things to the next level of deliciousness!
Commercially manufactured seitan can be found in grocery stores, but I just don’t trust that stuff enough because I don’t know how exactly it was made, plus the sodium content can be too high. And of course, my homemade seitan is much tastier, fresher, and way cheaper – what’s not to like about that!
For this recipe, I decided to use homemade BBQ sauce to baste my seitan with (recipe follows). I ended up with quite a bit of seitan for just two people, so I was happy to serve it 2 times:
1. As is with some baked sweet potato fries and a salad the first night;
2. With some penne pasta, marinara sauce, and stir-fried vegetables the following day:
Had we ended up with more leftovers, I would have definitely made some BBQ seitan sandwiches with mustard, pickles, and some extra barbecue sauce! Mmm, just thinking about this makes my mouth water!
What can I serve with BBQ seitan?
This BBQ seitan pairs especially well with vegan slow cooker collard greens, sauteed balsamic kale and onions, vegan poppyseed coleslaw or spicier vegan chipotle coleslaw for the ultimate comfort food experience.
If you’ve tried this recipe, I’d love to hear how it turned out! Give it a star rating below, pin it to Pinterest, tag @vegan_runner_eats on Instagram, or leave a comment.
Have you tried making seitan at home? If so, what recipe did you use?
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