Crafting Seitan for Homemade Plant-Based MeatsMar 31, 2021 ● By Skye Michael Conroy
Photo Credit Skye Michael Conroy
Many people that embrace a plant-based diet do so for ethical reasons and not because they dislike the flavor and texture of meat. But finding satisfying meat alternatives is not always easy for those that once enjoyed the flavors and textures associated with meat-based dishes, or for individuals that grew up with these dishes as a traditional part of their family or ethnic heritage.
Seitan (seasoned and cooked gluten and pronounced say-tan) is not well known to most nonvegans, so name and appearance associations are very helpful in tempting people to try these new foods. Most vegans are not looking for something entirely new; they’re simply looking for the familiar done differently and compassionately.
Meat analogues, or imitations, are generally understood within the vegan context to mean 100 percent plant-based foods that mimic or approximate certain aesthetic qualities such as the texture, flavor and appearance of specific types of meat. This differs from meat substitutes or alternatives.
For example, a grilled piece of tofu can serve as a substitute or alternative to meat, but when it’s used as an ingredient and transformed in some way to replicate the texture of chicken or pork, it becomes a meat analogue. Many modern, commercial meat analogues are made from textured wheat protein derived from gluten and isolated soy protein, and these products closely approximate the texture of real meat.
Former meat aficionados may remember that we can only approximate the aesthetic qualities of meat with plant-based ingredients and home kitchen equipment. Because we’re working with plant-based ingredients and not real meat originating from animals with different diets, there’s only so much we can do to create distinctly separate and unique flavor profiles in the analogues. These recipes should more than satisfy the desire for meat-like appearances, textures and flavors compassionately.
Seitan, or wheat meat, is an amazingly versatile, protein-rich meat analogue made from vital wheat gluten, which is not itself a complete protein (lysine is the missing amino acid). Additional ingredients such as tofu, tamari, nutritional yeast or bean flour must be added to complete its amino acid profile. Lysine can also easily be obtained by consuming other plant protein sources in the daily diet.
For preparing meat analogues, high-quality, vital wheat gluten is essential to develop the proper elasticity in the dough. Be sure it’s labeled as having a minimum of 75 percent protein. Bargain and bulk gluten may be a lower quality and could contain a significant amount of starch, which will yield a bread-like texture in the finished analogue.
Yield: 4 to 6 burgers
At last, homemade, plant-based burgers with
the appearance, flavor and texture of real ground beef burgers. The best part
is they’re 100 percent cruelty-free. Serve them on plates or buns along with
favorite condiments. A four-inch ring mold is helpful for shaping the burgers,
but not essential.
2 Tbsp textured vegetable/soy protein granules
2 Tbsp boiling water
¾ cup (180 ml) water
2 Tbsp tamari, soy sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce or commercial vegan equivalent
1 Tbsp olive oil
½ tsp browning liquid (color enhancer)
1 cup (150 g) vital wheat gluten
1 Tbsp garbanzo bean flour
1 Tbsp dried minced onion
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp mushroom powder
1½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp coarsely ground black pepper
¼ tsp ground rosemary
¼ cup water
2 tsp hickory liquid smoke
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce or commercial
Put the protein granules in a small bowl.
Add the boiling water and let the granules rehydrate for 10 minutes.
Place the remaining wet ingredients in a
separate small bowl. Add the rehydrated granules and stir to combine.
Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Put a stainless-steel cooling rack on a baking sheet
and line the rack with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. The cooling
rack is not required, but is recommended, as it will prevent excessive browning
that would occur from direct contact with the hot baking sheet.
Put the dry ingredients in a large bowl and
whisk until well combined. Give the wet ingredients a quick stir and then pour
all at once into the dry ingredients. Fold the mixture together with a sturdy
silicone spatula, just until all the ingredients are incorporated and a soft
dough begins to form. Do not knead the dough, as this will make it elastic and
difficult to shape into patties.
Flatten the dough evenly in the bottom of
the bowl and divide it into 4 to 6 equal portions (depending upon how thick or thin
you prefer them) with the edge of the spatula. Pick up a piece of dough, form
it into a ball, and then press it flat in the palm of your hand. Put the ring
mold on the lined baking sheet and put the flattened dough inside the ring
mold. Press the dough to fill the ring.
Remove the ring and repeat with the
additional pieces of dough. If you don’t have a ring mold, form the dough into
a ball, press it flat on the baking sheet, and then continue to press and shape
Drape a sheet of foil over the baking sheet
and crimp the edges to seal the foil. Bake on the middle oven rack for 45
Remove from the oven and let cool for 30
minutes with the foil cover in place. When cool enough to handle, but still
warm, transfer the burgers to a food storage bag. Add the ingredients for the
finishing marinade (or use plain water if you don’t care for smoke seasoning),
press out as much air as possible and seal the bag. Refrigerate for several
hours or until most of the marinade has been absorbed before grilling.
To grill the burgers on the stove, oil a nonstick skillet or grill pan and place over medium heat. Pan sear the burgers until heated through and nicely browned on both sides. For outdoor grilling, brush or spray the grill grates with cooking oil or use a nonstick grill mat. Brush the burgers with cooking oil before broiling or outdoor grilling. Grill until heated through and grill marks appear. Avoid over grilling, since the burgers are already cooked.
Other Tips from Chef Skye
Once the burgers have absorbed the
marinade, they will keep in the storage bag in the refrigerator for one week.
Alternatively, the uncooked burgers can be
frozen for up to three months. Simply wrap them between layers of waxed paper
or parchment paper and put them in a freezer storage bag. Thaw the burgers in
the refrigerator before grilling.
Recipes adapted from Crafting Seitan: Creating Homemade Plant-Based Meats, by Skye Michael Conroy, published this year by BPC. For more information, visit BookPubCo.com.