Okay, so I have a confession to make. Until recently, I really, really craved some meat. Until recently, I also really didn’t like seitan. I’ve been looking forever for a good seitan recipe, and I’d find one online that I thought was decent, but then the blogger chef would say something like, “These taste amazing! And so real! Mmm, yummy, yummy!” And all the comments would say something like, “Best seitan recipe ever! Tastes like the real thing! Even fooled my meat loving husband!” and all of that made me very suspicious. See, I know my seitan, and seitan does not taste like meat. It sort of seems like meat, sometimes looks like meat, and might even chew like meat, but it is not meat. I also get suspicious of all those seitan photos; if something claims to taste amazing but then looks like a blob, well, I’m trusting the blob over the amazing.
I’m also highly suspicious of recipes that claim to be bursting with flavor, because usually when I inspect the ingredients, there really isn’t a way for flavor to be bursting anywhere. I’ve tried adding raw minced onions and garlic to seitan to make it taste good, but that flavor doesn’t stay. It most certainly doesn’t make it taste like meat, and usually, the minced onion and garlic chunks make it seem even less like meat. Before I found the recipe I like, I was even dubious about the efficacy of nutritional yeast flakes in adding flavor. I’m still dubious, to be honest.
After all of my misgivings and several failed attempts, however, I found a delicious seitan recipe that satisfied my cravings. A few disclaimers: first, this isn’t a stand alone recipe. By that I mean, you can’t make this and throw a slab of it by itself on a plate and expect anyone to think it’s meat, because it’s not. You have to use this WITH something — either as the meat in the sandwich, or the meat in a rice dish, or the meat in something else, but don’t make it and serve it as steak. Second, repeat after me: seitan to flavor ratio. It’s all about reducing the seitan to flavor ratio, because by itself, the seitan is pretty boring — the sauce is where it’s at. In order to have as much flavor cover the largest amount of seitan possible, you need to slice the finished seitan really, really thin and lock in the flavor by flash cooking it on a frying pan.
Third, you have to boil the seitan. I’ve tried baking and frying, and both options aren’t so hot. Frying it might have worked better for me if I had made the seitan pieces smaller, but frying still can’t do what boiling can — slowly marinade in the flavor by boiling it into each nook and cranny. Baking has always resulted in something disastrous — not only has it been super tough, chewy, and bland, it’s also terribly disappointing because it LOOKS so promising. The first time I tried baking it, the seitan puffed up and goldened up so beautifully, I thought for SURE it was going to be meat-like. My fellow guinea pigs were super excited until they tasted it for themselves, and the collective disappointment was thick enough to cut up and serve for dinner.
With that being said, I’m pleased with this recipe I found in Veganomicon. I was dubious about this recipe, too, but since I’d heard thatVeganomicon is as good as it gets, I figured I might as well try it. The secret to this recipe is in the broth, I think. After you finish making it, you let the seitan slices marinate in the broth until you use them. The broth/sauce seeps into the seitan through all of its wonderful porous holes, courtesy of the boiling method, and even if you squeeze most of the sauce out — which I would recommend so that the seitan doesn’t taste too salty — enough of the sauce remains within the seitan pores to give it a good, satisfying flavor.
Enough with the talk. Here’s the recipe below, with some of my own notes:
For the seitan:
1 cup vital wheat gluten flour
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, pressed or grated (I omitted this completely and used onion/garlic powder and the taste still came out great)
For the broth:
4 cups vegetable broth
4 cups water
1/4 cup soy sauce
1. Mix together the dry ingredients for the seitan in a large bowl. Add the garlic into this mixture, too. Make sure the dry ingredients are thoroughly mixed because otherwise, you’ll have clumps of unevenly flavored gluten.
2. In a separate bowl, mix together the wet ingredients for the seitan, then pour the wet into the dry and stir with a wooden spoon. You’ll need to use your hands to knead the dough into an even lump; everything should be evenly distributed as much as possible and the dough should be elastic.
3. Divide the dough into three equal parts with a knife and shape into a lump/round form, stretching them out a bit. The seitan will expand as it boils.
4. Add all the broth ingredients into a medium sized pot and place the uncooked seitan inside. Cover and bring to a boil, but make sure it doesn’t boil continuously on high for too long — reduce to a simmer, uncover partially, and cook on low for an hour, turning the seitan occasionally.
5. After the hour is done, turn off the heat and let the seitan sit for 15 minutes, uncovered.
6. Remove the seitan from the broth (don’t throw away the broth!) and cut into thin slices when cool enough to handle. Store any seitan slices in the broth until you need to use them.