Seitan or otherwise known as wheat gluten has been around for years. It’s used in a lot of Asian countries as mock meats. For people who are vegan and vegetarian, seitan is a known meat substitute. But for others, it wasn’t so well known until the viral video was posted on TikTok a couple of years ago.
I had been wanting to try to make it for a while but I just couldn’t fathom how flour and water could turn into something that looked like meat. But after I saw the video and saw it wasn’t wizardry, I got the confidence to try it myself.
My seitan Journey
My first try was a fail, the texture was all wrong, and it turned out quite spongy, not what I was after at all.
But I didn’t let that dishearten me. I wanted to try it again. I was determined to try until I had what looked like shredded chicken as my end result.
So I did my research, watched many videos, read many blog posts, and this is what I got.
I used a combination of recipes that I found online and my second time was a success!
I wanted to write up a detailed step-by-step on what worked for me as I found the recipes out there were pretty vague
For the flavouring of this “chicken”, I only use a stock cube to add a little something. This doesn’t make it taste like chicken but adds a little flavour to it. Through my research, people add a mix of flavouring and spices to their seitan after it has been washed and before cooking.
My experiment with seitan hasn’t gotten as far as that so would love to know if anyone has a good spice mix to add to their seitan!
A detailed how-to:
Through research, I found that people were using 1 cup of water for every 3 cups of flour. So for this recipe, I used 9 cups of flour with 3 cups of water. Now this feels like a lot of flour, but after washing you’ll end up with enough seitan for a meal that will feed 4-6 people.
Using a wooden spoon, mix the flour and water in the bowl.
Turn the flour onto a clean worktop and knead until it all comes together to make a smooth ball. It may feel as if it’s very bitty and not enough water but be persistent and keep pushing the flour and kneading it and I promise it’ll make a smooth dough ball!
After kneading, place the dough in a bowl and cover it with water and let it rest for 1 – 2 hours. According to the Seitan Society, we do this for the gluten strands to come together. However, we don’t want to leave it for too long as the gluten strands will fall apart and will become mushy.
After resting the dough, it’s time to start washing! Discard the water the dough was sitting in and fill the bowl with cold water to start washing. To wash the dough, I kneaded and stretched it. Don’t be alarmed when the dough falls apart and looks stringy, this is what we want!
When the water becomes opaque, it needs to be discarded, use a colander to catch the dough ball and any strands.
I personally like to save my starch water to make other recipes. You just have to google “starch water recipe” to find various things to try such as, bacon, cheese, tortillas and noodles to name a few.
You can keep the starch water in the fridge for a few days before using it in any recipe.
You will need to repeat washing the dough a few times.
Some people only save the starch water from the first wash but I saved the water after each wash. You will see the dough change from dough to stringy dough and then bitty and mushy like the picture on the right.
This is the point when I thought I had done something wrong on my first try at making seitan. I thought I had maybe washed it too much.
However, it’s actually the opposite. You need to keep washing it until it forms a ball.
Once the dough looks like this, you can stop washing. You’ll need to get it out of the water and try and squeeze any excess water using your hands.
This is the stage where people add spices to give it more of flavour.
Then place the dough in a colander and leave it to drain for 20 minutes.
Twisting and knotting the Seitan
After letting the Seitan rest, flatten it out on a worktop and use a knife to cut three strands, making sure to leave the top connected. Plait the Seitan, then stretch the plaited seitan to knot it. I managed to knot it two times.
The plaiting and knotting process is what gives it the “shredded chicken” look.
Cooking the Seitan
When researching, some poached the Seitan in a broth straight away and others pan-fried either side first before poaching it.
I decided to pan-fry both sides to give it a bit of colour and then poached it in 500mls of water with an oxo vegetable stock dissolved in it. If you want to give it more of a chicken flavour, I’m sure there is a vegan chicken flavouring out there.
I left it on low heat and let it simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
After simmering, I let it cool down and used two forks to shred it. It can be eaten straight away but for the best possible results, let it chill for 4 – 8 hours for the texture to develop.
How to eat it
The possibilities for how to eat this Seitan chicken are endless. I can be pan-fried, grilled, and in so many different dishes.
Here is a recipe I created using Seitan chicken. It made a wonderful fajita filling with a great meaty texture.
What you will need:
Jugs (if you are going to keep your starch water)
Mixing apparatus of your choice
- 9 cups of flour
- 3 cups of water
- 500 MLS of vegan broth (enough to cover the seitan)
Making the dough
- In a bowl add the flour and water and combine using a wooden spoon
- Turn the flour and water mixture onto a clean surface and knead until it combines into a small dough ball. It’ll take approximately 10 minutes.
- Once a smooth dough ball is formed, place it in a bowl and cover it with water for 1 – 2 hours.
Wash the flour (WTF)
- After the rest, drain the water and fill it with fresh cold water.
- Knead and stretch the dough to wash the starch out. When the water becomes opaque, it needs to be discarded, use a colander to catch the dough ball and any strands. Save the starch water for other recipes.
- Repeat washing the dough a few times, saving the water after each wash. Keep washing until the water is lightly cloudy instead of opaque.
- Squeeze the water out using your hands, then let it sit in a colander and drain for 20 minutes.
Knotting and cooking
- After the seitan has been left to drain, flatten it out using your hands. Use a knife and cut 3 strands and plait it.
- Stretch out the plait and tie as many large knots. I managed two knots.
- Add oil to a pan and pan-fry both sides to add a bit of colour.
- Add in your broth of choice and cover. Simmer for 45 minutes to an hour.
- After simmering and leaving out to chill, use two forks to pull apart the seitan to make the chicken shreds.
- Let it store in the fridge for 4 – 8 hours for the texture to develop.
- Enjoy by marinating, pan frying or adding in dishes.
I am by no means an expert in making seitan but this is the method that worked for me. I found the whole process quite fun, (especially as you are able to make different products with the ‘waste’ starch water), it felt as if I was conducting an experiment and I really enjoyed that.
If you’re beginning your seitan journey, hope this has been helpful for you!
Are there any recipes you’d recommend for me to try next? Let me know in the comments below!