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If zombies took over tomorrow, meat would become scarce fast, y’all. And while I’m definitely not a “prepper”, I do like to be prepared for emergencies that are actual possibilities. That means I’ve got a first aid kit, a few extra supplies in the storage room, and some food in storage. And, it means I’ve been learning how to use that food storage in our everyday cooking. That way, should zombies take over, we won’t starve. We’ll just be eating a whole lotta seitan…
Wait, what? What’s seitan?
Seitan is pronounced “Say-tan” and it is a ‘meat’ substitute made out of wheat. Because of that awkward pronunciation, many people prefer to call it “wheat meat”.
What is seitan and who can (or can’t) eat it?
Y’all, I gotta admit that I like calling it seitan, because it makes me giggle. Real mature, I know. But since I’m able to keep a straight face while talking about proper anatomy with my kids, I figure it’s fair.
In any case, seitan isn’t going to be for everybody. Because, seitan is pretty much straight up gluten. In other words, if you’ve got a gluten allergy, sensitivity, or prefer a gluten-free diet, then go cook this delicious, easy, gluten-free pumpkin curry soup instead.
Because seitan is gluten (or, for those who can’t eat gluten, gluten is er, seitan.)
Thankfully, my family has no issues with gluten. So we decided to experiment with some seitan – and see how it cooked up in some of our favorite meals.
Intrigued or disgusted… here’s how you make seitan.
Okay, so you’re still here! Fantastic! Although, that pumpkin curry soup really is delicious. Maybe you could make some to go with your wheat meat later.
Seitan is a meat made out of gluten. Depending on how it’s made, it can look like a piece of strange bread or a piece of fried chicken. Or, it can end up somewhere between the two.
But to make things easier, here’s the steps as we followed them.
Making your own gluten:
- Mix flour and water into a stiff dough.
- Knead for 10-15 minutes, or until your arms are burning and feel like they may just fall off.
- Wish you could use an electric mixer like a normal person, then wonder if the original recipe called for hand kneading due to zombies or their preference for living off the grid or just because that’s what’s necessary.
- Add water as needed so that the dough is squishy but bounces back when poked. Forget “leave no trace camping”. This is “leave no trace” cooking.
- Let the dough (and your arms) “rest” by putting it in a bowl, covering it with water, and letting it sit for a few hours. Or overnight, because steps 1-4 took all day.
- Drain the water.
- Keeping the dough in its bowl, begin to rinse it with warm water. Then, knead and squeeze the dough while rinsing it. After about a minute, the water will become cloudy or milky looking. Pour that water (and all that starch) down the drain.
- Rinse and repeat – literally.
- You’ll be done when the starch is gone and the water squeezed out of the dough is no longer milky. Instead, it’s clear. Rinse it one final time in cold water to help the gluten set.
- Now you have ugly dough that feels like clay. Feel free to pick out the white chunks (that’s leftover starch).
- Let it sit for 20 minutes or so so that the little holes in it disappear.
- Now, it’s ready for seasoning and cooking.
So if zombies somehow become a reality, then I could make seitan from scratch. Good to know, right?
The few times we’ve made this, though, we’ve done it the easier way… using vital wheat gluten. If you do a lot of perfect wheat bread baking, you’ve probably got it on hand. So, save your arms three extra workouts and just use that.
Making seitan from vital gluten
Mix the dry ingredients first:
In a separate bowl, mix:
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 3/4 cup chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
Mix the wet and dry ingredients, then knead by hand. It should feel good and rubbery. Yum…
Knead it some more. Let it sit for five minutes. And then knead it again.
Smoosh it flat and cut the seitan into pieces. The recipe we followed recommended making it no thicker than 3/4 inches. My recommendation would be to get it as thin as you possibly can! Otherwise, it doesn’t cook evenly and then it’s all sorts of gross.
Now it’s time to cook the seitan. Add it to a pot (with about 6 cups of veggie or chicken broth in it) and bring it to a simmer. Cover the pot and let it simmer for about an hour. Cooked seitan will expand a ton. It’ll also firm up.
Supposedly seitan stores well. I disagree with other people on this matter. My recommendation would be to use it the same day you cooked it. When it’s fresh it’s harder to tell that it’s a meat substitute. After it’s been frozen or stored in its broth substitute, it looks and tastes less meat-like – at least to me.
Cooking with seitan
Okay, so the finished product looks like a poorly cut piece of chicken, and it tastes like chicken nuggets. At least, they do if you used the chicken broth. I haven’t tried it with the vegetable broth, because when we use it, we pretend it’s ground turkey.
Why? Because once it’s cut up, it could totally pass for minced or ground meat. It’s not 100% the right color, but it’s close enough.
And, in a taco with all the fixin’s, it passed muster. It tasted fine, especially after we cooked the minced-up seitan with some taco seasoning.
Would I use seitan as a steak substitute? Um, no way. But it’s nice to have a substitute for ground turkey.
Or, as our kids get older and eat a ton more, we could add seitan to the ground turkey to make it go a little further. What can I say? We’ve got three boys… and if our daughter is like me, she’s gonna be able to out-eat most boys. I’m just trying to be prepared for the eventuality of teenagers and a crazy high grocery bill… eek!
In any case, it’s going to be something we can add to our food storage recipe repertoire.
Is it expensive?
Using our vital wheat gluten and seasoning supplies, we figure it cost us about $1 per pound to make our “wheat meat.’ The only other meat that comes close in price is TVP: and that’s ‘meat’ made from soy.
So it isn’t free, but it’s a reasonable price. And, it’s nice to know we can eat something besides rice and beans when the zombies attack.
I get that gluten is a hot topic. Really, I do. I’ve got lots of friends who swear it’s of the devil. But… after a quick google search, I discovered some interesting gluten facts.
- Gluten can be healthy – IF your body can digest it.
- Let’s compare a 1/4 pound Seitan patty to a 1/4 pound hamburger patty. Actual numbers may vary depending on the recipe used.
- Calories: Seitan has about 130 while beef has 155
- Fat: Seitan 0-2 grams compared to beef’s 5.7 grams (95% lean)
- Cholesterol: seitan has NONE. Beef has 70 mg.
- Carbohydrates: 3-5 grams for seitan, NONE for beef.
- Protein: both have about 25 grams
- Gluten has been eaten for thousands of years, and is still commonly used across Asia. “Duck” is a favorite flavor, apparently.
- It’s commonly used in macrobiotic cuisines.
In other words, if you’re not sensitive to it, it might be worth at least a taste test.
Would you try Seitan? Or would the zombies have to force-feed you gluten?
Yeah, I know. Zombies and seitan. *snicker*