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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Erin Greene
Erin Greene
March 24, 2015 7:19 am

5 stars
I just printed this recipe last week, and I’ve already made it 4 times. I fell in love at first bite! 🙂 This is so easy to make, and my husband couldn’t tell the difference between this seitan, made as oven-fried chicken, and the oven-fried chicken I used to make (we have very recently began exploring vegetarianism). I can’t believe anyone still buys frozen or canned. I can’t wait to make more! (and I haven’t eaten all that I’ve made yet!)

Jenny
Jenny
March 18, 2015 12:52 pm

5 stars
I love this recipe. Thanks so much for posting it. I’ve been a vegetarian for 33 years and have volunteered in Central America for the past 17. Can’t find many vegetarian “meat” ingredients here (like firm Tofu and miso) so I was SO excited to find this recipe. I made a Peruvian dish called Lomo Saltado.

Sarah
Sarah
February 14, 2015 12:55 pm

5 stars
I love this. The children are really in to it too, which is a result!

Ever after the simplest way to do stuff, I have been experimenting. When I make dough for pizza I make extra then just float that in warm water. The yeast is merrily chomping away at the starch for me. The bubbly dough also acts like a sponge, allowing the water to get all around the gluten fibres. It takes very little rinsing and has a great flavour. It does look worryingly gloopy, but a fine sieve sorts that out.

Ta dah! Yeast. It does the hard work, so you don’t have to!

Joe L
December 21, 2019 11:28 am
Reply to  Sarah

Tell me more about the yeast.

Shannon
Shannon
January 15, 2015 10:13 pm

OK wow wow wow. And wow. This recipe is the bee’s knees. I think the secret is soaking overnight because I never did that before and this is superior to any other seitan I have made in the past. My husband couldn’t believe how much better it was. I made some chick’n fried seitan with some of it and served with sawmill gravy. This will be my go to recipe from now on…thank you for sharing.

Laura
Laura
September 1, 2020 12:40 am
Reply to  Shannon

Mine still tastes very branny? I think maybe I didn’t rinse it long enough after the soaking stage?

Mike
Mike
October 21, 2014 9:54 am

I did this using straight-up whole wheat flour, let it soak for almost five hours, then went to work on it… it was my first time trying to make it myself, so I was a little wary. After a few minutes, everything came together!

After about ten bowls of water and some squeezing, I ended up with just under 10 ounces of super quality seitan! I’ll never, ever buy it at the store again.

My 8 year old even ate some and approved after I cooked some in a little veg oyster sauce.

Erica
Erica
May 31, 2014 6:42 am

Love it

Eboni
Eboni
May 10, 2014 5:52 am

Is it possible to bake the gluten after it is extracted and grind it up into a powder to have it work like the store stuff?

Eli
Eli
July 11, 2014 6:18 am
Reply to  Eboni

5 stars
If you bake it, it won’t work. But if you put it in a dehydrator after the seive step (where it’s all in small bits), and then grind it when it’s dry, maybe it would work.

Char
Char
May 8, 2014 12:44 pm

I would like to make this from scratch as vital wheat gluten is a bit expensive. Do I had the spices to the flour before making it a dough or after when all the starch is taken out?

George Deane
George Deane
June 1, 2014 11:23 am
Reply to  Char

Char:

If you want to buy a large can of vital wheat gluten go to website of HONEYVILLE. This is a company which sells vital wheat gluten at a reasonable price.

Jill
Jill
April 30, 2014 7:30 am

5 stars
Thanks for this recipe and for the photos which reassured me when I had doubts. I used strong white bread flour and mixed it and the water in the bread maker on the pizza dough setting and stopped it half way – it made a lovely smooth dough. I then left it overnight in water in the fridge. After the rinsing stage I’m now cooking the seitan in a slow cooker in a Persian inspired broth. I tend to use seitan for tagines after we had one in Eat and Two Veg years ago – it will be interesting to use one that hasn’t got a background flavour of mock duck…

Sue
Sue
November 23, 2013 10:57 am

I was recently turned on to Seitan and love it. The stores around here don’t usually carry it as they told me ” no one buys it”. I am trying your recipe and hope to be eating some homemade Seitan for dinner tonight.