Seitan is wheat gluten made from washing wheat flour dough with water until the starch has been removed. The leftovers are the elastic insoluble gluten which is then cooked into seitan.
Seitan was first used in 6th century Chinese cuisine. Written as min jīn (also spelled mien chin or mien ching), this literally translates to ‘dough tendon’. Often served to Buddhist monks who swore off meat, seitan was quite popular and commonly found in Chinese, Japanese, East and Southeast Asian countries.
Seitan took it’s first journey westward in the 18th century. Written about in Italian texts as far back as 1745 and English texts dating back to 1803. Famed crazy-person Dr John Harvey Kellogg’s Sanitarium Foods (creepy) advertised wheat gluten in 1882 as Western doctors of the era recommended it to persons with diabetes.
Wheat gluten was first called ‘seitan’ by George Ohsawa in the 1960s. Ohsawa pioneered the macrobiotic diet and its philosophy. Adopted by such visionaries as Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead and Iggy Pop of the Stooges, et al.
Oshawa was a whole-foods visionary who defined positive health with seven criteria, “lack of tiredness or fatigue; good appetite; good sleep; good memory; good humour; precision of thought and action; gratitude”.
It is uncertain how seitan became ‘seitan’ with some speculation being perhaps from Japanese shokubutsusei tanpaku meaning ‘vegetable protein.’ What we know at ecoRDN is that seitan is delicious and a great alternative to tofu. Seitan is also low in carbohydrates and very high in protein. Three ounces of this wonder gluten contain an average of 3-4 grams of carbohydrate, 2 grams of fat and 21 grams of protein! (Perfect after a workout!)
Unfortunately seitan is pricey, if you are on a budget. As much as we at ecoRDN love seitan we rarely buy it because it’s not as economical as tofu or tempeh. Then we figured out how to make it at home, and it is not only easy but also inexpensive, and so we are sharing this game-changing recipe with you!
2 cup vital wheat gluten
1 cup nutritional yeast
2 Tbsp onion powder
2 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp cracked black pepper
10 fl oz vegetable stock for dough (plus additional 2.5 quarts for cooking)
2 Tbs liquid aminos (or shoyu/tamari based on preference)
+ 1 tsp coconut oil (to coat the inside of the bowl you will mix your dough, helps to prevent sticking. Wheat gluten is very sticky!)
2.5 quarts of vegetable stock (in addition to the 10 fl oz for dough prep)
Heat 2.5 quarts of stock on stove until simmering, cover.
Coat your mixing bowl with coconut oil to prevent sticking. Mix all dry ingredients together in bowl, add the 10 fl oz stock, with a dough scraper or spatula, incorporate stock and aminos into flour and mix until a dough ball is formed.
Use your hands to form the mass into a loaf, scrape all dry ingredients from sides of bowl and incorporate into the loaf. With bread a lighter touch is necessary to preserve the airiness and prevent toughness, but with seitan the more you work the dough the firmer your finished product will be and that is key! So knead and punch and twist and roll to your plant-based heart’s content!
After forming a nice little loaf cut into fourths and add each to the simmering stock, carefully to avoid burning splash-back. Remain uncovered and turn up the heat a little, to somewhere between a simmer and a boil. Set timer for one hour. The loaves will begin to expand into little dense roasts. Turn them periodically to cook evenly and absorb all that wonderful stock.
Most of the stock will have reduced or been absorbed into the seitan by the end. Use the remainder to make gravy or freeze for use in the next batch as a super flavorful addition to the dough!
If you like this recipe please like and comment below! Let us know how it turned out!
As always thanks for reading and eat well!