It’s easy to make your own seitan chicken! Simply make dough, form it into a loaf, and steam it. It’s a great protein-packed addition to sandwiches, pot pies, or soups. With a savory mild flavor, it’s a terrific vegan alternative to chicken.
Seitan is one of my favorite vegan proteins. I love its toothsome texture, and the way it adds bite to tacos, burritos, and fajitas.
Sometimes people are confused as to why vegans eat things that taste like meat. There are lots of reasons, but one is that it’s satisfying to eat foods with chewy textures, something you can really sink your teeth into.
It feels hearty & satiating to have that extra bite in tortilla soup or grilled skewers. It’s delicious, and no chickens are harmed in the making of it. So why not?
Plus, seitan is packed with protein, which makes for a substantive lunch or dinner that helps you stay full for longer.
It’s easy to buy seitan at the grocery store, and I often do. But it can also be fun & cost effective to make your own.
What is seitan?
Seitan (pronounced say-tan) is also known as wheat meat, because it emulates the flavors and textures of meat.
Seitan has been around in various forms since the 6th century in China, where it was popular with vegetarian Buddhist monks. The earliest written reference to it was in the year 535!
People are sometimes wary of seitan because it is unfamiliar to them. But the ingredients and process of making it aren’t a world away from bread.
It’s basically a dense, savory bread. Where bread is light and fluffy, seitan is toothsome. It has bite. It’s also the “meat” of a meal, as opposed to being the container.
When it was originally invented, making seitan involved taking regular flour, making dough, and rinsing it until you were left with the protein dense remnants. But nowadays, you can make it much easier on yourself by using vital wheat gluten, a flour that is made with the main protein in wheat.
Where can I find vital wheat gluten?
Vital wheat gluten is available in most natural grocery stores. You can find it by the other flours.
I usually buy Bob’s Red Mill, which is in a purple package. Or you can sometimes find vital wheat gluten in flour bulk bins. If you can’t find it locally, it’s also available online.
How to make seitan chicken
Here’s what you’ll need to make seitan chicken.
Combine the following dry ingredients in a mixing bowl:
- Vital wheat gluten
- Chickpea flour (also known as garbanzo bean flour)
- Nutritional yeast flakes
- Dried spices/seasonings: oregano, basil, paprika, onion powder, granulated garlic, salt & pepper
Create a well in the dry ingredients. Then add the following:
- Water mixed with bouillon (or vegetable broth)
- Extra virgin olive oil
Use a spoon to combine. Once it starts to become dough, use your hands to combine everything. Be sure to get any dry flour from the sides of the bowl. Form the dough into a loaf.
It should feel moist to the touch. If it’s dry or flour-y at all, incorporate another Tablespoon of water.
(Some seitan recipes require a lot of kneading of the dough, but that isn’t necessary for this recipe. To keep the vegan chicken light and bouncy, not too much kneading is required.)
Moisten a tea towel or cheesecloth under water. Then wring it dry with your hands, so that it’s just damp. Loosely wrap the dampened towel or cheesecloth around the loaf.
Put a couple inches of water into a steamer pot with basket. Bring it to a boil.
Put the wrapped loaf into the steamer basket & cover with a lid. Steam for 40 minutes.
Carefully remove the wrapped seitan from the pot. It will be firm and bouncy to the touch. Let it cool.
It’s now ready to use. You can use it right away. Or put it into a covered container in the refrigerator. It will continue to firm as it cools.
Pro-tip: When slicing seitan, I recommend using a serrated or bread knife. Since it’s in the same general wheelhouse as bread, it slices easier with a serrated blade.
Make it your own
I use less pronounced spices in this seitan chicken, so that it can easily go into a variety of flavored dishes.
But if you’d like stronger Thanksgiving-style flavors, I’d recommend doing what I do in my vegan fried chicken recipe. Replace the oregano, basil, and paprika with herbs de Provence, rosemary, marjoram, and thyme.
Do I have to wrap the loaf before steaming?
No. If you’d rather not wrap the loaf in cloth before steaming, you can leave it off. However, I prefer to steam with a dampened cloth wrapped around it for a few reasons.
- It keeps the loaf from sticking to the steamer basket.
- The final loaf is smoother and more uniform in appearance.
- It disperses the steam for better even cooking.
- It keeps the inside a little juicier without drying it out as it cooks.
Ways to use it
Seitan chicken is a fully cooked product. It is ready to go right out of the steamer pot. You can slice it or chop it, eat it plain, toss it with barbecue sauce, brown it, or fry it.
- Chop it in a food processor with celery & mayo for a vegan chicken salad sandwich (shown above).
- Cover browned slices in a lemon white wine sauce for seitan piccata (shown below).
- Add it to vegan tortilla soup with a finish of crispy tortilla strips.
- Spear it onto vegan skewers for the grill with potato and mushrooms.
- Put it into a vegan pot pie with carrots, potato, and peas in a creamy cashew sauce.
- Marinate it & pile it into a Chicago Diner-style vegan reuben sandwich.
- Add slices to bread for a cold cut sandwich, along with pickles, mustard, and onions.
How to store it
Keep leftover seitan in a covered container in the refrigerator. Pyrex is my go-to option. It will keep for about a week in the fridge.
Can you freeze it?
Absolutely! Seitan freezes beautifully.
Put it into a freezer proof container or freezer bag. It will keep for 3 to 6 months in the freezer. Then when you’re ready to use it, move it to the refrigerator to thaw.
For vegan chicken
- 1 cup vital wheat gluten
- 1/4 cup chickpea flour
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
- 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Dash pepper
- 3/4 cup water plus 1 Tablespoon, if needed, and more for steaming
- 1/4 teaspoon Better Than Bouillon, no chicken base
- 1 1/2 teaspoons tamari
- 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- In a large mixing bowl, combine vital wheat gluten, chickpea flour, nutritional yeast flakes, dried oregano, dried basil, paprika, onion powder, granulated garlic, salt, and a dash of pepper.
- In a small bowl, combine 3/4 cup of water with 1/4 teaspoon of Better Than Bouillon no chicken base. Stir with a fork until it dissolves. (If you'd rather, you can replace the water & bouillon with vegetable broth instead.)
- Create a well in the center of the dry mixture. Add water & bouillon mixture, tamari, and extra virgin olive oil. Combine by stirring. Then once it becomes a dough, start using your hands to knead the dough and combine everything, making sure to get any dry flour from the sides of the bowl. (You don't need to knead the dough a lot. Just enough so that it's uniform with no flour-y spots.) Form the dough into a loaf.The dough should feel moist to the touch. If it seems flour-y or dry at all, add an additional Tablespoon of water. Incorporate it with the dough.
- Run a tea towel or cheesecloth under water. Wring it out with your hands until it's just damp. Then loosely wrap the dampened towel or cheesecloth around the loaf like a gift.
- Put a couple of inches of water into a steamer pot with basket. Bring to a boil. Put the wrapped loaf into the basket. Cover with a lid. Steam for 40 minutes.Be sure to watch that the pot doesn't cook off all of the water. You want enough water that it will keep steaming for the full amount of time, but not so much that the water touches & boils the seitan. Once the water is at a boil, you can lower the heat to medium, and it will keep steaming the whole time. (If you don't see steam pouring out the top, turn it up. If the water looks too low, add more.)
- When the seitan is done, it will be firm and bouncy to the touch. Carefully remove it from the steamer basket, unwrap it from the towel/cheesecloth, and set it aside on a plate to cool slightly. You can use the seitan chicken right away, or put it in a covered container in the refrigerator. It will continue to firm as it cools.