Basic Ingredients: Make Meat from Wheat and Save a Bundle

Why buy seitan when you can make far more delicious seitan at home?



There seems to be a bit of mystery around making seitan, the vegetarian meat replacement sometimes called “wheat meat,” “mock duck” or “gluten meat.”  People assume it’s complicated and time consuming to make at home. Well, there’s no getting around the truth that it does take a bit of time, but it’s neither a mysterious nor difficult process, and with quality seitan costing $8 or more a pound in stores, it’s certain to save you money.  Make up a generous batch and freeze in zip lock bags what you won’t be eating within two or three days.  It freezes well, and is handy to have when making last-minute vegetarian entrees. My step-by-step directions for making seitan follow…


What you are going to do is 1) make a dough,  2) soak the dough to allow the starch to separate from the gluten,  3) wash out the starch, leaving you with the gluten,  4) simmer the gluten in a broth to flavor it,  5) use it in your recipes (I usually kick up the flavor by roasting it, as a final step). What you will need: 5 cups whole wheat flour (preferably bread flour, which is higher in gluten) 1 cup gluten flour, 1/2 cup soy sauce, a 2-inch piece of ginger, a 3-inch piece of kombu.  This recipe makes four cups of finished seitan.

In a large mixing bowl, combine 5 cups whole wheat bread flour (or whatever high gluten flour you can get) with one cup gluten flour. Gradually add and stir in enough water so that you have a soft, but elastic and easily kneadable dough.

Knead this dough from five to ten minutes, just as you would bread dough, and for the same reason. You are developing the gluten, and kneading a little longer may result in a higher yield.

When you've finished kneading, cover the dough with water and let rest at least one hour, two hours is good or even over night. Soaking softens the starch and allows it to separate from the gluten. Longer soaking will allow the starch to separate more easily.

Next step is to wash the starch out of the soaked dough. I do this under running water. You do a bit of kneading, and rinsing. You will see the starch washing down the drain. After five or six minutes you should have a springy, elastic dough. Punch a finger into it, if the dough immediately springs back, it is ready. You have washed out almost all the starch and what you have left is gluten.

This is the rinsed gluten, ready to be seasoned by simmering in a stock. To prepare the stock: bring 8 cups of water to a boil in a stock pot. Add 1/2 cup soy sauce, a 2-inch piece of ginger cut into thin slices and a 3-inch piece of kombu. Break the dough into eight pieces and add to the simmering broth.

Gently simmer the seitan in the broth for about an hour. Taste and see if how it is. If necessary, add a little more seasoning and simmer a bit longer. When you are satisfied the seitan is done, drain into a colander placed over a bowl to catch the liquid. This broth is great for making gravies, sauces and soups.

Allow the seitan to rest for a few minutes in the colander. It is now ready to use in your recipes. I further enhanced its flavor by tossing it with a little more soy sauce, and with mirin, olive oil, sliced onions and barbecue sauce and roasting all this for about 45 minutes in a 400º F oven. See the result, above. Irresistible!


4 responses

  1. I found it! Thanks for the step by step instruction. The pictures are very helpful too. I bought the vital wheat gluten flour – what do you think about using that instead of separating the gluten yourself?

    • Yes, it seems a lot of people make seitan from only gluten flour, which saves a couple of steps. All I can say is, when I tried that method, I was not as happy with the result. But it’s worth a try perhaps, because it is an easier process. Gary

  2. I will happily testify to the superior quality and taste of Gary’s ‘home-made’ seitan! Thank you, Gary, for sharing the steps and technique for seitan. I think generally people think it is harder than it actually is, especially considering how much better home-made seitan is than the store-bought.

    My husband made seitan at home back in Chicago in 1980, and one of my favorite photos from those days is one of him washing the gluten out of the soon to be seitan. We actually made seitan as ‘City Farms’ and marketed it to local health food stores as Wheat Meat, which it is sometimes called. Fritz made barbeque ribs out of seitan, and our meat eating friends really couldn’t tell they weren’t meat!

    There really is no comparison between fresh home-made seitan and store-bought. So, give it a try! Or before you do, locate Gary’s seitan on a ‘current monday night dinner menus’ (located at the top of this blog) and join us in Palo Alto for a delicious and satisfying meal of freshly made seitan!

  3. You commented on a product from Trader Joe’s and it has canola oil in it. I’m getting mixed reviews regarding canola oil. Could you please comment? Thanks…..

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