When I think about the possibility of a zombie apocalypse, one thing that really concerns me is life without tacos or a good hamburger, y’all. Because if zombies took over tomorrow, meat would become scarce fast. So what can we do to keep eating well in an emergency?
So while I’m not a “prepper” (I am a fan of preparedness), it can be fun to use crazy zombie scenarios to help get 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 whole lotta seitan in our tacos and burgers.
Wait, what? What’s seitan?
What is 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”.
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.
Who is homemade seitan good for? Who can’t eat it?
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.
How do 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 substitute 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 are the steps as we followed them.
- 2 cups of water
- 4 cups of flour
- 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.
At this stage, the seitan will still need to be seasoned and cooked - and it has the consistency of tofu.
Amount Per Serving Calories 455Total Fat 1gSaturated Fat 0gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 1gCholesterol 0mgSodium 7mgCarbohydrates 95gFiber 3gSugar 0gProtein 13g
This nutrition data was automatically calculated and they most definitely didn't show me their work.
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.
- 1 cup vital wheat gluten
- One (1) tsp ginger powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 3/4 cup chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
- Mix the dry ingredients first in one bowl .
- In a separate bowl, mix the seasonings (soy sauce and 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.
Amount Per Serving Calories 231Total Fat 1gSaturated Fat 0gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 1gCholesterol 1mgSodium 640mgCarbohydrates 12gFiber 2gSugar 1gProtein 44g
This nutrition data was automatically calculated and they most definitely didn't show me their work.
What does seitan taste like?
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 meat.
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 ground beef.
Cooking with seitan and how to use vital wheat gluten
Or, as our kids get older and eat a ton more, we could add seitan to the ground meat 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.
In any case, baking with seitan is actually pretty easy. Especially when you consider that it’s an ancient food that’s been worldwide in various cuisines.
Want some seitan recipes that are super delicious and full of flavor? Here are a bunch of seitan recipes from various world cuisines.
And if you’d like more, there are tons of easy ground or minced beef recipes you can use it in. Just replace the beef with seitan and there you go – an easy, meatless dinner in less than 30 minutes.
Is this meat substitute “wheat meat” 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 at that price is TVP: and that’s ‘meat’ made from soy. And I don’t know how to make that at home.
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 do attack.
Where do you buy vital wheat gluten?
There are several places to buy vital wheat gluten – the trick is finding a good price on it.
First off, if you don’t have any baking stores (or you just prefer shopping online as I do), you can buy vital wheat gluten from Amazon.
However, our local grocery stores also regularly carry food storage and emergency supplies, so I’ll also check out case lot sales. Why? We go through an insane amount of baking supplies, y’all. I’ve got gluten-loving, bread-craving 4 kids to feed!
Other food storage companies also sell it – both online and in various pop-up stores, especially if you’re in Utah.
Now, if you can’t stomach the prices (vital wheat gluten isn’t cheap, especially if you’re ordering online), remember that you can make your own vital wheat gluten from flour and water. And the recipe is further up in this very post.
So here – I’ll even make it easier for you: I’ll add a jump link back to the top so you can get to it via the table of contents.
Seitan Nutrition and Wheat Meat Facts
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. Even if it is the zombie apocalypse… Yeah, I know. Zombies and seitan. *snicker*
Is vital wheat gluten a gluten-free food?
Seitan is made of gluten. So if gluten isn’t something you can eat or you’re trying to avoid, you’re going to want to try a different meat substitute, like TVP (textured vegetable protein).
More on Seitan:
- Did you know that the world uses seitan? Check out these quick and easy seitan recipes from around the globe.
- Wheat Gluten (Food) – on Wikipedia (because we all use it to look stuff up, even if I’m the only one who’ll admit it!)
- Basic Seitan – Wheat Meat (Vegan Meat Substitute) on All Recipes
- Is Seitan (Vital Wheat Gluten) Healthy? – via HealthLine
- Want more great recipes? Here are all of the favorites – Recipes from Our Table to Yours
- Want more zombie jokes? Be prepared – some of them “fall apart” after a bit. (#rimshot). Even so, here’s the link to all things Preparedness: How to Be Ready for Anything
- Need something delicious after all this talk about gluten? Here’s a recipe for Homemade Cinnamon Swirl Bread
- Or if you want the healthier version (well, without all the cinnamon sugar, anyway!), here’s the classic: How to Make Perfect Wheat Bread – Every Time