Why would anyone crave baked beans?
Make really good seitan yourself
Seitan. Protein-rich, vegan “meat substitute” that we don't really want to call that. We'll show you how to make it yourself and why seitan doesn't have to be unhealthy or expensive.
Do not get me wrong. We think it's really nice when we are asked in interviews, for example, that we supposedly never cook with meat substitute.
Apart from the fact that this is not so correct: Fresh vegetables, preferably as regional and seasonal as possible, are definitely what we like best on the table.
But does that mean that we never bite courageously into the tofu sausage that was previously loaded with about a kilo of mustard? No. We do not find “meat substitutes” disgusting or demonize the use of the words steak or schnitzel because we are vegans. Take this, ministers of agriculture of all countries! As a vegan, I took the forbidden words into my mouth.
Even if we don't really like the name, meat substitute - in whatever form - for us is at least one ingredient that can make the switch easier for new vegans and otherwise simply something that tastes simple and poignant.
However, we only use finished products in exceptional cases. They are by far not all that bad, so oversalted and rich in fat as we have been ripped off left and right by the media in recent years, but let's be honest: Homemade is always better.
And today the time has finally come. After years in which he actually had to eke out a shadowy existence on the blog, we dedicate ourselves to our very dearest meat substitute and prove to you: Making really good seitan yourself is extremely easy and also very cheap. Someone should claim again that living vegan is only for those with higher incomes.
First of all, let's be clear what we are talking about. Seitan is basically - attention, a trigger word is coming soon - the gluten, i.e. the building block mixture in the grain that is responsible for making your bread dough made from gluten-containing grain, i.e. from spelled, wheat, but also rye, elastic and does not end up as an indefinable mass. Okay, rye dough is a bit of a different story. It inevitably turns into a sticky mass, but it still contains gluten.
Gluten is simply the main protein in grain and the gluten that forms and holds the dough together.
It becomes seitan when starch and bran are washed out of the ground grain - mostly wheat. What remains is a very protein-rich and therefore healthy food for a vegan diet ...
… if one does not suffer from celiac disease or a "non-celiac gluten sensitivity", the existence of which is still controversial. Unfortunately, there is also no alternative to washing out the gluten, so you shouldn't serve seitan to celiac patients.
People who are not affected by this gluten intolerance can, however, eat seitan products without hesitation and should not listen to lurid book titles or individual studies. Please, please, please.
For example, a 1-star Amazon review for our book Vegan can be justified with the claim that gluten is the “most unhealthy” food of all. Such brutal, generalized statements are simply wrong, unfortunately you can still hear it from all sides.
Hey, I have hay fever. Is that why I hold the birch responsible and advocate burning down each of these dangerous trees? Nope, but I like to avoid him because I know that we are not so good with each other. It would be nice if we could talk about food again at this level.
Where does that stuff come from?
The use of gluten as a meat substitute has been known, at least in China, since the sixth century. Years ago I read about the story of the discovery, but I can no longer find the source. Still, it's entertaining and that's why I like to tell the story. Source or not. #sorrynotsorry
So: Allegedly, Buddhist monks on a hike stored their supplies close to a stream and, as Murphy's law says, the bag with the grain for the noodles falls into the water. Since nobody notices that, the stuff dangles in the current until the starch has been washed out and only the spongy gluten, now probably a little “algae”, remains. I mean, let's admit it: a chunk of freshly washed seitan looks anything but appealing. But the monks were probably too hungry to just throw away the good grain and apparently they liked it too and that's why there is seitan today. Thanks, people!
As I said: Did the story turn out the same way? No idea. What is certain is that the use of gluten in the kitchen has changed over the dynasties in China as well. However, from the Song dynasty onwards, mian jin reports what translated means “dough tendon” and thus points in the right direction. In any case, it was served as a meat substitute for vegetarian Buddhist monks, but also for the authorities, who have a vegetarian week every year. Incidentally, also in Japan, but there under the name "Fu" and in a slightly different form.
Came to the west mian jin Incidentally, already in the 18th century and was touted as a healthy food for diabetics, for example.
Nevertheless: Seitan, both the word creation and the product as we know it today, was not coined until the end of the 1960s. With George Ohsawa, who is considered the inventor of macrobiotic cuisine and who coined the term seitan. The syllables “sei” and “tan” most likely simply mean “made from gluten”.
From then on, seitan really went around the world and - who would have thought it - was marketed as a meat substitute for vegetarians in the USA as early as the 1970s.
The best vegan protein source? Nearly.
Gluten is high in protein. A hell of a lot. About 75 g per 100 g. It is not entirely surprising, because we have already learned that it is the gluten in the grain.
Seitan products, regardless of whether they are bought or homemade, differ in their composition, of course, so one cannot generally speak of a certain protein content. A relatively simple seitan made from gluten, water, spices and nothing else is still a good third made up of protein and is even dependent on tofu, tempeh and other soy products ...
... but also meat.
Seitan would be a good answer to the question of where vegans get their protein from. There is a little catch, however, because the protein profile lacks the essential amino acid lysine and the body cannot produce it itself.
Stupid? Just a bit.
It doesn't really matter whether the entire amino acid profile is contained in a single food. As our friend and nutrition expert Niko Rittenau also confirms, it simply depends on the much-cited “balanced” diet. Lysine is particularly well supplemented with legumes, for example.
Does that mean: Seitan slices for breakfast and lentil stew in the evening? Fits! Seitan sausages in the Lentil stew? Even better.
Grains are great foods. In order to complete your amino acid profile, however, it is worthwhile to eat legumes elsewhere during the day in order to optimize your own protein intake. The individual proteins complement each other and are in no way inferior to animal protein. However, it is a myth that this combination must occur within a meal.
Niko Rittenau, B.A. Nutritional advice
However, you can also "perk up" the seitan in terms of the amino acid profile. We have been mixing beans, chickpeas or legume flour into the seitan mixture for years. Originally, because it changes the consistency, but it's also nice when you improve the quality of the homemade sausage in this way.
Buy or do it yourself?
There are definitely very tasty ready-made products made from and with seitan and we would never tell you that you should definitely keep your hands off them.
However, these products have been under constant media bombardment for a number of years. Too much salt, too much fat and therefore not as healthy as vegans like to portray themselves.
In our opinion this is a matter of dispute. Hey, eating only convenience foods is never a good idea. No matter what type of diet you follow. Can you indulge yourself on the supermarket shelf every now and then? Absolutely.
Still: DIY is always better and making seitan yourself isn't nearly as difficult as it might seem. And cheap too. Gluten powder as a basic ingredient costs around € 6 per kilogram as a conventional product and around twice as much in organic quality. Spices and water? Almost negligible when calculating costs. Plus a few cents for the energy required to prepare it. So the bottom line is great for the household budget.
In theory, you just take wheat flour and wash the starch off under running water. Finished.
Let's cross the “theoretical” and the “simple” out of the sentence and you will see me standing in front of the sink more than 10 years ago, very practical and not that easy at all with a lump of dough. Because yes, washing out really works, but it has two major disadvantages.
On the one hand you waste a lot of water, on the other hand it takes a long time to make. Can you spend better.
It is definitely easier with gluten powder or "Seitan Fix" as the basic ingredient. This also has the advantage that spices and other ingredients can be mixed in directly, while the taste of washed-out seitan can actually only be controlled using marinades.
Types of preparation
The raw pamp you have mixed together, like raw bread dough, is not yet edible. The raw mixture must be cooked before further processing - and this also includes roasting or grilling. And there are basically three options.
Boil in the stock
Often in preparation instructions it is advised to cook the seitan in a (very) strong brew. The seitan takes on a lot of taste from the brew, but the taste of the spices that have been processed directly into the dough is also washed out a bit. In our opinion, the consistency takes some getting used to, "spongy" and rather soft.
In contrast to cooked seitan, baked seitan becomes firmer and is great as a cold cut. For almost everything else, the seitan becomes too tough in the oven.
Our favorite method. This is the perfect middle ground when it comes to steaming. The taste of the spices that are already used in the preparation of the dough is retained and the pieces of seitan do not become too soft, nor do they dry out and become tough.
We simply use a large saucepan with a suitable steamer attachment, but of course you can also use a steamer.
Important: For all types of preparation, the seitan should be cooled down urgently and, if possible, should be allowed in the refrigerator overnight. The consistency just gets better.
Consistency is everything
While we're on the subject. The quality of homemade seitan stands or falls with the consistency.
Oh, horrible memories of the creepy, spongy lump that came out of the pot come back? Or the age-old shoe sole that “this vegan friend from the flat share, who always smells of patchouli or that herb that you are not allowed to smoke” served up and which could only be gotten down with a liter of ketchup?
Been there, done that.
But because I served my in-laws too tough, homemade mock ducks, you don't have to and you can learn from my mistakes.
The consistency of your homemade seitan depends largely on five factors:
- We have already learned about the cooking method.
- About the cooking time and the time you give the seitan to cool. Sure, a larger seitan roast simply takes longer.
- The correct liquid content for the type of preparation. And you can only find that via trial and error out.
- From the good old handicraft.
- And the Seitan Fix product itself. Some powders simply need more liquid to be easy to handle. We have only had good experiences with the one that has already been linked, if you use a different one, you may have to feel your way to the correct proportions.
Sausages, for example, tolerate the addition of water more than a cold cut that simply gives up when slicing without a certain degree of firmness and thinks: "Spending the short life as a blob is okay too".
As a rule of thumb, remember that the liquid you add to the dry ingredients should be about 60/40. This applies both to preparation in the steamer and to baked seitan products, which are already firmer. Incidentally, the liquid content also includes ingredients such as beetroot or the legumes already mentioned, which you usually puree during preparation.
And then there is the handicraft thing (which luckily you can also hand over to a food processor).
In order for the seitan to get a good bite, it has to be kneaded well. Strands are formed in the gluten, which then form the fiber-like consistency. But be careful: Seitan can also be "kneaded over". As with bread, the rule of thumb here is that you should really work hard for about 10 minutes. Or just press the button on your food processor.
The end product is then shaped. Sausages and cold cuts are wrapped in plenty of cling film or very strong “sandwich paper” and tied with tight knots on the sides. A lot helps a lot here, because due to the high moisture in the dough, it can quickly happen that the good sausages fly around your ears or at least burst open when you steam them.
You can also beat roasts. Here you can also use a clean kitchen towel to avoid waste. Simply wrap it up, tie it up well and put it in the steamer.
With strips of meat and Chunks for skewers, I completely save the hammering. Here, too, it is an advantage if you already have bread-baking experience. The dough is shaped and then folded inwards several times. In this way you create a lot of surface tension, which makes for a slightly fancier end result.
If the dough is a bit rough and difficult to shape, it can help to give it a break of about 15-30 minutes. The gluten strands that are formed relax slightly, making shaping easier.
The right seasoning
Seitan is a blank canvas
The gluten powder as a base initially tastes like very little, not to say nothing. The perfect basis for seasoning the stuff exactly to your taste.
You can mix in whatever you feel like adding basic spices that bring umami to the table, such as soy sauce, miso, yeast flakes or tomato paste. Dried herbs? Spices? Always in with it. It always makes sense to mix dry ingredients directly into the gluten powder and add liquid condiments to the water with which the dough is mixed. So nothing clumps and everything is evenly distributed.
By the way, seitan also accepts marinades well. So there is nothing wrong with preparing a basic recipe in advance and then marinating it as you please.
Home-made seitan can be kept in the refrigerator for about seven days if it is tightly closed. It is best to make sure that the seitan is always covered with some liquid, so it doesn't dry out.
Seitan can also be frozen wonderfully and does not lose its taste, texture or appearance when it is thawed. It is therefore worthwhile to prepare a large amount in advance and then freeze it.
And how do I use the 5 kg seitan supply now?
How. You. Want.
Roasted, as chunks on skewers (for example our souvlaki skewers from Vegan Street Food) and grilled, thinly sliced on freshly baked sourdough bread: Seitan also behaves like the perfect "meat substitute" in further processing.
Sliced seitan is super sweet and sour in the wok, shaped into patties, seitan becomes the perfect burger and hey, our seitan chorizo is even award-winning. In earnest!
Let's get to the preserves (yes, theoretically you can also preserve seitan this way, but we prefer the frozen food compartment), the recipes. And I even have two of them for you today.
One is a relatively simple basic seitan, which uses just a few ingredients and actually goes well with everything, and a chickpea seitan, which is perfect as a sliced or as an alternative to jackfruit in our pulled jackfruit sandwich, as it turns out very nicely into fine, fibrous ones Schnetzel can be plucked.
Seitan - simple basic recipe
Ingredients for 1kgTo press
Preparation 45 minutes
Total 55 minutes
- Mix the dry ingredients together. Stir vinegar into 500 ml of water and fold into the gluten mixture.
Knead together well for 10 minutes, then let rest for 10-30 minutes. Halve the dough and flatten the dough pieces slightly. Fold tightly inwards from all sides, turn over and shape into a round shape. Make sure that the surface is nicely taut and evenly shaped.
Put the end down in the steamer and cook over a medium heat with the lid on for 45 minutes.
- Then let cool down completely. Place in the refrigerator overnight for the best consistency.
Seitaneschnetzeltes - Chicken Style
Ingredients for 1kgTo press
Preparation 45 minutes
Total 1 hour
- Puree all ingredients except the seitan fix with 500 ml water.
Add the liquid to the Seitan Fix and knead well for 10 minutes, then leave to rest for 10-30 minutes. Halve the dough and flatten it slightly. Fold the dough pieces tightly inwards on all sides, turn them over and shape them into a round shape. Make sure that the surface is nicely taut and evenly shaped.
Put the end down in the steamer and cook for 45 minutes over medium heat with the lid on.
- Let cool down completely and pluck into schnitzel. Place in the refrigerator overnight for the best consistency.
You can use white beans or tofu instead of the chickpeas. With beans or chickpeas the seitan becomes "more stringy", with tofu a little more tender.
Ingredients for 1kgTo press
Preparation 45 minutes
Total 1 hour
- Mix the dry ingredients together. Stir tomato paste, yeast extract, rapeseed oil and vinegar into 500 ml of water and fold into the gluten mixture.
- Knead well for 10 minutes (preferably in a food processor with a flat beater), then leave to rest for 10-30 minutes.
- Halve the dough and flatten the dough pieces slightly. Fold tightly inwards on all sides, roll up and shape into loaves. Make sure that the surface is nicely taut and even.
- Put the end down in the steamer and cook over medium heat with the lid on for 45 minutes. Then let cool down completely. Place in the refrigerator overnight for the best consistency.
The cocoa provides the dark color and a slightly bitter aroma, which together with the yeast extract actually tastes "meaty". When steaming and cooling, the seitan can actually smell a bit like “cake”, but the chocolatey smell and taste evaporate after a few hours.
You might notice now that the recipes don't match the pictures, right? Correct! We are such teasers. Unbearable, isn't it? You can find the meatballs here, ribs here, the roast is still to come.
You can find another recipe for really wonderful ribs with a secret ingredient in our book Everyone can grill vegan, other meatballs for perfect sandwiches in vegan street food. And our long-running sausages, the sausages, are already available here on the blog.
Which questions about seitan I have not yet been able to answer and which seitan recipe do you want to use? Eat this! see? We're holding a request concert in the comments and I'm really excited to see what you absolutely wanted to prepare with seitan.
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