What is Seitan? Seitan is a product that is made from a product called vital wheat gluten. Vital wheat gluten is essentially a very glutinous flour that has 80% gluten. And just to put it in perspective, a hard bread flour, which is considered to be high gluten content to provide good structure, is about 11%. The benefit of this is that there is a high amount of protein as gluten is a combination of two proteins.
You use this wheat gluten similar to how you would use flour for bread. When you combine liquid to this flour and then apply any kind of work or friction to it, it starts to develop its gluten. The more you work it, the more glutinous it becomes.
What seitan is primarily used to represent is meat products. People will use seitan as a meat replacement in part because of its texture and also because of the nutritional value. It can be cooked many different ways. It can be poached, baked, fried, steamed, and boiled. Each of these different methods will produce different textures depending on what it is that you’re going for. If you want something that resembles a popcorn chicken texture, you’re going to poach it. If you want something firmer that has a roast or meat-like texture, you’re going to put it in the oven. If you want it to have a higher moisture content, and is going to be a little bit more soft, you’re going to steam it.
What I find is that when people are starting out with seitan, they can find it a little bit intimidating because it seems like there are a lot of steps to it. There are also some unfamiliar ingredients. I’m going to break it down into the basics so you can understand what makes up a seitan recipe.
One thing is that vital wheat gluten is the key ingredient. You cannot substitute this for a non-glutinous ingredient. There are other ways to take regular flour and wash it to create a ball of gluten, which can be effective for different things.
You can find wheat gluten at most bulk stores like bulk barn. Most health food stores have it too. Bob’s Red Mill is probably the most common brand that you can find available in packs which you can find at Food Basics, Goodness Me!, Nature’s Emporium, and Whole Foods.
When it comes to the recipe, you’ll have the wheat gluten which is the main ingredient and then you’ll have a whole bunch of seasoning ingredients which are there for flavour. You’ll also have water ingredients which are often water, vegetable stock, tamari, liquid smoke, tomato paste and miso. Combining those all together and making the dough ball is the first step. You will then knead and cook in your preferred method. Some dough requires very little kneading (softer) and more requires more (firmer) depending on the texture you want to produce.