How To Make Seitan from Whole Wheat Flour

How to make Seitan from Flour

When I stopped eating meat about fifteen years ago I relied, like many new vegetarians, on processed meat substitutes: frozen soy burgers, fake “riblets,” and “chik” nuggets in brightly colored packages. For many people these products ease the transition to a new way of eating, but using them can also become an additive-laden crutch. Over the years I’ve transformed my own diet and, I have abandoned the freezer section for the kitchen with delicious, simple, unprocessed results.

The meat substitute I make most often is a batch of spicy black bean burgers, so tasty my omnivorous husband requests them regularly. But he also enjoys (and has even made) seitan.

Seitan. Mock duck. Wheat meat. Whatever you call it, seitan originated in Asia where vegetarian Buddhists used it in place of meat for centuries. Its spread in popularity is credited to the macrobiotic food movement which began in Japan. The word is not actually Japanese, but based in it, which is why I pronounce it “say-TAHN,” not “Satan.”

What is seitan?

Seitan is simply wheat gluten, spiced and simmered. My previous method used store-bought vital wheat gluten as a shortcut, but Andrew learned that the process to make vital wheat gluten is not replicable at home. Undeterred and not without a little spite, I set out to make it from scratch: Flour and water, here I come! After reading mopey stories about how time-consuming the process was, I was pleasantly surprised that the actual hands-on time was little more than the “shortcut” method, and I enjoyed the end product more than previous batches.

Gluten is the protein found in wheat which, when mixed with water, forms into long stretchy strings that give bread its structure. When you develop those strands, rinse off the starch, and cook the gluten bits, you get seitan. The chewy texture is quite similar to meat — I’ve definitely had seitan-based dishes that I’ve had to double-check that they were actually meat-free.

How to make seitan at home from whole wheat flour

The process is simple, but does take some time. Make a large batch and freeze the extra.

Mix whole wheat flour and water into a stiff dough to develop the gluten. I used my stand mixer.

How To Make Seitan: Flour Dough

Cover with cold water and let soak for a few hours or overnight. This both allows the gluten to develop and the starch to “loosen up.”

How To Make Seitan: Soaking the Dough

Knead the dough and rinse with cold water until the water runs clear. It takes about 10 minutes. I used a mesh sieve to help.

How To Make Seitan: Knead and Rinse the Dough

You’ll be left with only the gluten, which is considerably smaller in volume than your starting mass of flour. This was a smaller batch than the recipe lists, and 12 ounces of flour yielded just over 5 ounces of seitan.

How To Make Seitan: Strain the dough

Those stringy strands are exactly what we want.

Form the gluten into a ball; squeeze out as much water and air as possible. The smaller you can shape the piece of gluten, the firmer texture your finished seitan will have. Cut the gluten into pieces using a bench scraper or sharp knife.

How To Make Seitan: The finished homemade Seitan!

Bring a pot of broth to a boil and drop in the pieces of gluten. Simmer the gluten for about half an hour until the broth is almost gone.

I like to sauté my seitan before using it, or you can store it refrigerated, covered in the broth (add more water if needed) for about a week.

This is a very basic recipe, but you can add spices to the dough when mixing, or play with your broth ingredients to add flavor components at any stage.

My favorite ways to eat seitan are on BBQ mock duck pizza, curried mock duck banh mi, in stir fries and fajitas. Leave the packaged “strips” on the shelf and with just a little effort, make your own unprocessed seitan.

How to make Seitan from Flour
4.7 from 55 votes
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Homemade Seitan from Whole Wheat Flour

Vegan, the opposite of gluten-free. Yields approximately 10 ounces seitan, drained (4-6 servings).

This is a very basic recipe. Add spices to the flour before mixing, or change-up the broth for different flavors. You can use homemade or store-bought vegetable stock, or mix up the quick broth outlined below.
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American, Vegan
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 8 hours 45 minutes
Yield 4 servings
Calories 250 kcal
Author Stacy Spensley

Ingredients

Dough

  • 6 cups whole wheat flour 24 ounces / 900 grams
  • 2 cups cold water

Broth

  • 4 cups water
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce or Braggs liquid aminos
  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • 1 tablespoon miso paste
  • 1 medium tomato cut in quarters
  • 2 cloves garlic

Instructions

  1. Combine flour and water. Mix until a stiff-but-cohesive dough is formed. Use a dough hook and a stand mixer if possible.
  2. Form dough into a ball, place in a bowl, and cover with cold water. Cover and let stand 4-8 hours.
  3. Knead the dough and rinse until water runs clear, about 10 minutes. Squeeze dough and press out as much liquid and air as possible. Use a sharp knife or a bench scraper to cut the gluten into bite-sized pieces.
  4. Combine ingredients for broth (or use your preferred vegetable stock) and bring to a boil. Drop gluten pieces into boiling broth and return to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, turning gluten pieces occasionally, until the broth is mostly absorbed and reduced, about 30 minutes. Discard onion and tomato pieces.
  5. To use seitan right away, drain and sauté in a little oil. To store, cover with broth and keep refrigerated up to a week, or frozen. Thicken and reduce broth as a gravy if desired.

About the Author

Stacy Spensley is a healthy life coach who supports overwhelmed men and women to integrate sustainable, step-by-step diet, mindset, and lifestyle changes so they can feel awesome and kick ass at life. She is professionally bossy and an ardent supporter of the Oxford comma, and you’ll easily find her on Twitter and Facebook. She co-wrote the Official Guide to October Unprocessed, and if this post resonates with you, try Stacy’s free 5-day jumpstart e-course.

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Odette
Odette
November 4, 2013 11:13 pm

I’m a vegetarian and VERY allergic to soy so to date I’ve just been using beans / legumes to make my meat subs. But I’ve heard good things about seitan and want to give it a go.

Just one question, do I have to use whole wheat flour? Will this work with high protein bread flour?

Regards,
Odette

Sam
Sam
November 5, 2013 12:42 am
Reply to  Odette

Hi Odette,

I’m almost certain this will work ok with any high protein flour – after all, you’re trying to get rid of the rest of it (bran and all) anyway. I’d say give it a shot ::)

Ron
Ron
December 25, 2013 6:31 am
Reply to  Odette

5 stars
I have been a vegan vegetarian for many years. I often make mock chicken, turkey, duck, pork, and beef using vital wheat gluten, which is available at about any health food store, or Online. Using vital wheat gluten is much easier than the time consuming mess of using wheat flour. Following is a You Tube video that will help you make mock meat using vital wheat gluten:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JwsLl3uQ0ms

To make fake chicken, turkey, duck, pork, or beef, you simply use different meat flavor powders and seasonings. Add a TBSP of vegetable oil to the dough for mock duck. I also add a 1/4 cup of tapioca to my dough to help make the end product moist like meat instead of like a clump of rubber. 🙂

Sam
Sam
October 24, 2013 10:57 am

5 stars
Thanks so much for this recipe! It was my first attempt at seitan and it’s made my vegan life a lot better.

Couple of things for anyone who’s trying it:

1) As others have said, whole wheat flour is just fine – the one I used was about 14% protein – didn’t turn out rubbery and I got about 350g seitan from 850g flour (or thereabouts)

2) I didn’t leave it soaking for 4-8 hours. I left it for 1 hour

3) For the ‘cooking in stock’ stage, I simmered it for 1 hour with the lid on, so it was nowhere near absorbing all of the stock.

Anyway, I recommend this recipe!

Kathleen
October 10, 2013 2:10 pm

There is absolutely no point in using whole wheat flour to make this, as the bran gets washed out along with the starch, for the most part. Save yourself some time, and just use a high protein white flour, or better yet, vital wheat gluten flour, though you would have to use a different method altogether.

Susan
Susan
December 22, 2020 5:23 pm
Reply to  Kathleen

I used whole wheat flour and it was like a ball of wet sand even after I soaked it over night. When rinsing it, it all just shrank and then washed away

cindy
cindy
September 14, 2013 12:42 pm

The reason pastry flour is pastry flour is because it is low gluten. Pastry should be light and flaky not dense and stringy, so they remove the gluten.
Bes, probably a good idea to try again with bread flour.

George Deane
George Deane
September 5, 2013 4:49 am

Only one person addressed a serious issue in making home made seitan- the rubbery texture of the final result. Some have suggested mixing vital wheat gluten with regular flour – somewhat successful. Who out there has encountered this problem and what did you do to overcome it?

Robert Madewell
September 10, 2013 2:44 am
Reply to  George Deane

I think using unbleached all-purpose flour might result in a better product than using the whole wheat. It has more gluten, is not as branny, and is still fairly inexpensive.

Jodie
Jodie
August 3, 2014 9:28 pm

I use whole wheat flour but sift the bran out of it before using it for seitan. Works very well!

Robert Madewell
September 3, 2013 11:48 am

The flour I used had way too much bran in it for my taste(Hodgson Mill). I think next time, I’ll cut it with all-purpose flour. I like bran, but this stuff was washing out of the dough with the starch. I strained some of it out and toasted it. Got about 2 ounces of toasted wheat bran as a by-product. Also, maybe next time I should press the raw seitan like cheese to get it to be a little more firm. It was very gelatinous after I cooked it. It’s workable, but looks more like dog food than steak and has the consistency of Jello Jigglers. Interesting texture, though. It still has a very heavy bran flavor, but that’s probably because of the flour I used.

Aliaa Hashm
Aliaa Hashm
August 25, 2013 11:48 am

5 stars
Love this recipe. Made half this amount the other day and it came out significantly better than store bought seitan. I’m making the full amount today in order to freeze some.

What’s the best way to freeze it? You mentioned keeping the broth, but I was wondering what would happen if I just put the cut up seitan in ziplock bags (without any broth).

Bes M.
Bes M.
July 5, 2013 3:17 pm

I made half the recipe. I had to use whole wheat pastry flour as I ran out of wheat flour. I hope it will work. If it does, then good bye supermarket brands…$5 a box and I usually buy two when making seitan gyros….and those really come out delicious! You would never know it wasn’t meat! Will let every know how it worked out. Brew, I used season-all salt, parsley, oregano and garlic powder.

Montina Portis
June 2, 2013 7:20 pm

5 stars
I just made this recipe today and used half of the recommended ingredients and it turned out PERFECT! Yes, perfect! Thank you so much for the step-by-step instructions and pictures. The pictures helped a TON!

Hojo
Hojo
May 18, 2013 7:21 pm

4 stars
Just made this today using high grade flour (as it contains higher gluten than plain flour).I was rather impatient; rather than leaving it stands for 4-8 hours,I just leave it for an hour.Not sure if this has affected the end result.I boil it in BBQ sauce (LKK brand) diluted in water.This is my first ever attempt making seitan.It turns out rather satisfactory.Definitely a keeper.