Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Could it be ... Seitan?

Although the name sounds a little bit evil, seitan is a good thing for vegetarian cooks. Also called "wheat meat" or gluten, seitan is a handy meat substitute made from the protein in wheat.

It can be flavored in many ways, and has a satisfyingly chewy texture. Prepared seitan is available in health-food stores, and it is the basis for many pre-packaged meat substitutes. But it can also be made at home easily and at a lower cost.

Many years ago, I made a batch from scratch, starting with plain flour. This required seemingly endless kneading and washing, kneading and washing, kneading and washing. The final product was fine – but so labor-intensive that I've never done it again.

It's much easier to start with vital wheat gluten flour – the bran and starch are already mostly gone, so you don't have to wash it. Isa Chandra Moskowitz has an excellent recipe in her cookbook Vegan With a Vengance, and it's also available on her Post Punk Kitchen Web site at

The resulting seitan can be stored in its broth in the refrigerator for a few days, or frozen for longer storage.

The ever-reliable Vegetarian Resource Group has an article here on making and using seitan More good recipes for making and using seitan – including such treats as seitan "pepperoni" can be found in Joanne Stepaniak’s cookbook Vegan Vittles.

Although seitan has Asian roots, it can be used in recipes from around the world, as the seitan recipes collected at Gourmet Sleuth,, suggest. It has recipes for Seitan Ropa Vieja; French Country Stew, Sukiyaki, Boston Baked Beans with Seitan, and more.


At 4/10/2007 10:43 PM, Blogger Elbows said...

I've been cooking with wheat gluten powder for a couple of months now. It's easy to mix, simmer and fry. Then the pet food scare has my friends worried. They remember 'wheat gluten kills' from the stories, and the other links they find when they look up 'wheat gluten' are the stories put out about celiac conditions, and again they remember 'wheat gluten kills'. Now they don't feel comfortable with my food again. (This game is hard!) Are there any ways to track the source of the flour or wheat gluten powder any more? I don't exactly live near too many wheat farmers. Oh, and I'm canadian, so I know there's a lot of wheat here in North America.

At 4/11/2007 4:02 PM, Blogger Julie said...

Hi, Elbows,

This is a very good question, and I don't have a complete answer.

Part of the answer is that it appears your friends don't need to worry about this case - The contaminated gluten that has caused the pet-food problems has not entered the human food supply.

Earlier this month, the AP reported that "None of the contaminated wheat gluten that led to the U.S. recall of pet food went to manufacturers of food for humans, the importer of the ingredient said ..." More of the story is available online at several newspaper sites, including

But your larger question, of whether it is possible to track the source of flour and wheat, is more difficult. I usually buy gluten flour in bulk, which gives no indication of where it comes from. I don't know whether packaged gluten offers any clues. My sense is that it would be very difficult to track this.

I would welcome any suggestions and comments from readers who have concerns about this issue.... And if I'm able to learn any more about this that might be helpful, I will post it right away.

Best regards,


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