This basic seitan recipe is made with vital wheat gluten and lightly seasoned for use in a wide variety of dishes. It's easy to prepare and so much more affordable than store-bought! Slice seitan for sandwiches and wraps, crumble it for tacos and pizza, and tear into chunks for dishes like Seitan Bourguignon.
What is seitan?
Seitan (pronounced "say-tan") is a high-protein, low-fat meat substitute made from gluten, the main protein found in wheat. This is why seitan is often referred to as "wheat meat."
Seitan is extremely versatile and can take on any seasonings, spices, and flavors you want to add. It can also be formed into a variety of shapes, like meatballs, roasts, burgers, jerky, steaks, and nuggets.
Seitan can be made with vital wheat gluten or using the original method of washing wheat flour.
For the "wash the flour" method, flour and water are combined to form a dough, which is then agitated under water until most of the starch has separated and washed away, leaving behind the stringy, meaty protein. In fact, there was recently a viral TikTok video showing the "wash the flour" method.
While people all over social media are having their minds blown by the meaty result of washing wheat flour, vegans everywhere are like, "See?! We've been trying to tell you for years how awesome this stuff is!"
Some people prefer to do the washing process themselves, but thankfully, it's easy to find vital what gluten in stores, which makes homemade seitan much easier and more accessible for folks who don't have a lot of time.
Where did seitan originate?
Vegetarian Buddhists were enjoying wheat gluten as far back as the 6th century. The process is thought to have either been developed by Buddhist monks or by chefs who prepared food for Chinese emperors during their annual, week-long observation of vegetarianism.
So while the word "gluten" has taken on a negative connotation in today's world, it's really not a strange food at all. Though it should certainly be avoided by anyone with Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.
If you haven't ventured into making seitan yet don't be intimidated! This recipe will show you how to make a basic seitan using vital wheat gluten.
While I love the pre-made seitan products available in stores, the added convenience can get expensive very quickly, especially if you're feeding a family. With costs ranging from $6 to $8 per 4-serving package, that puts this versatile plant-based protein out of reach for a lot of people.
Is homemade seitan more affordable?
Yes! To give you an idea of how much money you can save by making your own seitan, here's a quick overview. I'll use Bob's Red Mill vital wheat gluten in this example since it's the brand you're most likely to see in stores here in the US.
At our local Ingles (a North Carolina-based grocery chain) I can buy a 22 ounce bag of vital wheat gluten for around $7.50. You'll also find it online from sites like Amazon, Thrive Market, and Vitacost for anywhere from $5.50 to $8.
That 22 ounce bag will make FIVE batches of the recipe I'm sharing today, which equates to 5 pounds of cooked seitan!
Even after factoring in the costs of the other ingredients, you can see how much more affordable it is to make your own seitan.
TIP! Be sure to keep an eye out for sales because you never know when you'll come across a big jackpot. At a local discount grocery we regularly see vital wheat gluten on sale for $2.99 a bag.
When you have an opportunity to stock up, store the extra vital wheat gluten in the freezer to extend its shelf life.
- vital wheat gluten - currently I use this one from Anthony's
- garbanzo bean (chickpea) flour - if you're not familiar with this ingredient it's very versatile. Use it to make tortillas, socca, and vegan frittatas.
- nutritional yeast - adds umami and helps tenderize the seitan by disrupting gluten formation. I recommend a non-fortified brand like this one by Sari Foods.
- smoked paprika - optional; adds color and a subtle smoky flavor.
- soy sauce - for saltiness and depth of flavor.
- balsamic and apple cider vinegar - vinegar rounds out the flavor profile and helps cut the flavor of vital wheat gluten.
- oil - a small amount of oil helps tenderize the seitan.
See recipe card below for amounts and full instructions.
How To Make Seitan
Be sure to watch the video below to see the recipe come to life!
- First, set up a steamer basket. You can also use the steam function on an Instant Pot.
- In a large bowl whisk together the vital wheat gluten, chickpea flour, nutritional yeast, onion powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, and salt.
- In a separate bowl whisk together the broth, soy sauce, both vinegars, garlic, and olive oil.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and stir with a large spoon until a soft dough forms. Transfer the dough to the counter top or other solid surface and knead it for a few minutes.
- If making nuggets, tear off pieces of dough. For larger steaks, use your hands to stretch the dough into an approximately ¾-inch-thick rectangle. Cut into 4 equal-size pieces.
- Place in the steamer basket. Cover the pot, and set a timer for 15 minutes. At the 15 minute mark, flip the seitan (be careful of the steam), and set the timer for an additional 15 minutes.
- Use tongs to remove a piece, and place it on a cutting board. The center should feel very firm when pressed with the tongs. You can also slice it through the center to check for doneness. If needed, steam for another 5 to 10 minutes.
*Steaks usually require about 5-10 minutes longer than smaller nuggets.
- Transfer the seitan to a plate to cool. Use in your favorite saute or stir fry, or refrigerate for later use.
After chilling overnight, the seitan will be even meatier and firmer.
Simmering vs Steaming Seitan
Most basic seitan recipes call for simmering, and honestly, that's how I cooked it for many years. But I've become a big fan of steaming seitan for a few reasons.
- It's quicker.
No matter which cooking method you choose, the amount of time will always be dependent on the size of your pieces of dough. But in general, steaming takes about 30 minutes, whereas simmering takes closer to an hour.
- It uses less water.
To steam the seitan steaks you'll only need a couple of inches of water in the bottom of a pot versus needing to fill a large pot at least half way for simmering. Plus, simmering uses additional soy sauce or salt because the water needs to be seasoned.
- Steamed seitan stays more dense and doesn't absorb as much water.
When simmered, the dough absorbs quite a bit of the cooking liquid, giving it a higher water content. This makes it harder to get a good sear on the outside of the seitan if you're using it immediately afterward in something like a stir fry.
In the photo below you can see a previous batch that was simmered. Another issue with simmering that often trips people up is keeping the simmer low enough.
If the seitan boils, it will get puffy and lose some of the desirable, dense, and meaty texture.
Chicken-style seitan (pictured below) - omit the smoked paprika and onion powder, and add 1 teaspoon of poultry seasoning blend. If desired, instead of forming the dough into steaks simply tear it into nuggets.
RELATED: If you're a fan of seitan chicken, don't miss this NEW recipe, Easy Seitan Nuggets! They're fantastic plain, or follow the recipe for crispy breaded nuggets.
How to Season Seitan
The seasonings in this recipe are meant to be neutral and versatile. I wanted to create a basic seitan that's flavorful enough to stand on its own but not SO strongly seasoned that it can't transition into something else, like an Asian stir fry or our favorite fancy dinner Seitan Bourguignon.
I didn't necessarily try to replicate the flavor of Westsoy's seitan, but making a product similar to that is what I had in mind with this recipe.
The inspiration came after a friend was disappointed with her first batch of homemade seitan. She had followed the recipe on the side of the Bob's Red Mill bag and wasn't impressed!
So I started thinking about the likelihood that many people's first experience with homemade seitan is probably with that same recipe, and how different that is from pre-cooked, store-bought seitan.
That's when I decided to create a basic seitan recipe that's not quite SO basic, if you know what I mean. None of the seasonings in this recipe prevent you from being able to take it in different directions, like Asian, Italian, or Mexican dishes.
And if you want to add spiciness or something like a poultry seasoning blend, go for it! The one major thing to consider is the amount of salt. Keep the final dish in mind.
If you plan to eat the seitan as is, you'll want to include a bit more salt (as described in the recipe). But if you plan to use it in a dish that includes a salty sauce, reduce the amount of salt in the dough. Make sense?
Ways to Use Seitan
Slice the seitan for sandwiches, wraps, and salads.
Use a food processor to pulse the cooked seitan into a ground texture. Add it to taco bowls and burritos and sprinkle it on pizza.
And check out this Vegan Thai Larb recipe using crumbled seitan. It's an excellent appetizer and dinner party recipe!
And here's an idea for a quick weeknight veggie saute:
- Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add a tablespoon of oil and some diced onion, mushrooms, and peppers. Saute for about 5 minutes or until the onion is translucent.
- Add crumbled or cubed seitan and a few dashes of chili powder and cumin. Cook until the seitan is hot and the veggies are as done as you like.
- Stir in some salsa, and serve with rice, avocado and cilantro.
Simple, easy and delicious!
Store cooked seitan in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Seitan can also be frozen for up to 2 months.
More Beginner-Friendly Seitan Recipes
I hope you enjoy this easy seitan recipe as much as we do! If you try it be sure to leave a comment and star rating below to let us know. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Easy Seitan Recipe (Seasoned, Versatile)
- 1 ¼ cups vital wheat gluten (150 g) - Weigh if possible. Otherwise, whisk the flour, then spoon into a measuring cup and level off the top.
- 3 tablespoons chickpea flour (22 g)
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, optional - For "chicken" nuggets (as mentioned in post) replace with 1 tsp poultry seasoning.
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon fine sea salt, depending on final use/dish - *Use less salt if you plan to pair with a salty sauce.
- ⅔ cup vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 cloves garlic, grated on a microplane zester
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- For steaming the seitan (preferred cooking method): add a few inches of water to a large pot and set up a steamer basket. Make sure the water doesn't touch the bottom of the basket. Bring the water to a simmer.*See Notes for the simmering cooking method.
- In a large bowl whisk together the vital wheat gluten, chickpea flour, nutritional yeast, onion powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika and salt.
- In a separate bowl whisk together the broth, soy sauce, both vinegars, zested/pureed garlic, and olive oil.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir to combine. Transfer to a solid surface and knead for 2 to 3 minutes. The dough should start to feel tough and more resistant. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes, then knead a few more times. If making nugget-style chunks, tear off pieces of seitan from the dough ball. For larger steaks, use your hands to stretch the dough into an approximately ¾-inch-thick rectangle (refer to photos above).
- Cut into 4 equal-sized pieces and place in the steamer basket. Cover the pot, and set a timer for 15 minutes.
- At the 15 minute mark, flip the seitan (be careful of the steam), and set the timer for 15 more minutes. Use tongs to remove one piece, and place it on a cutting board. The center should feel very firm when pressed with the tongs. You can also slice it through the center to check for doneness. If needed, steam for another 5 to 10 minutes. *Steaks usually require about 5-10 minutes longer than smaller chunks.
- Transfer to a plate to cool. Use in your favorite saute or stir fry, or refrigerate for later use. After chilling overnight, the seitan will be even meatier and firmer.
Storage Store cooked seitan in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Seitan can also be frozen for up to one month.
Estimated Nutrition (per serving)
Nutrition information is an estimate and will vary depending on the exact amounts and specific products and ingredients used. We calculate this information using the online calculator cronometer.com.