Seitan is easy and affordable to make yourself at home.
Because seitan starts as a kind of dough, recipes call for a wide range of flours, from whole wheat to chickpea to all-purpose. The best flour for seitan is whole wheat flour or bread flour.
This guide will go into more detail as to why these are the best and provide the simplest two-ingredient seitan recipe.
What is Seitan Flour Made Of?
One of the reasons seitan flours are confusing is that recipes often call for two different types of flour.
The essential seitan flour is also called “vital wheat gluten.” It’s made by washing wheat flour until all of the starches and sugars are removed, and all that remains is the wheat protein, called gluten.
You can buy this vital wheat gluten as a powder, or make it yourself.
When making seitan yourself at home, most recipes call for this vital wheat gluten to be added to a recipe, to make the dough for seitan.
Vital wheat gluten alone in a recipe may be too heavy or chewy for the final dish. So a recipe may call for different types of wheat flour, or often chickpea flour, along with the seitan flour.
Pea flours, nut flours, and other non-wheat flours can “lighten” seitan, because they do not add any more gluten.
So when you see a recipe that calls for vital wheat gluten or seitan flour, along with some other type of flour, it’s because the recipe is designed to achieve a specific texture and consistency in the finished dish.
Which Flour is Best for Seitan?
To make your own seitan flour, you need a high gluten flour made of wheat.
The gluten content of your flour must be 10% or higher. Here is a quick ranking of flours by gluten content:
- High gluten flour: 14-15%
- Whole wheat flour: 14%
- Bread flour: 12-13%
- All-purpose flour: 9-12%
- Self-rising flour: 9-11%
Non-wheat flours cannot be used to make seitan flour, and low-gluten flours will not work.
The best flour for seitan is whole wheat flour or bread flour, which are usually affordable and widely available. This is also why many people who make their own seitan get an end result that tastes more like bread.
Whole wheat flour also has some natural fiber and nutrients that will remain after the washing process.
Does All-Purpose Flour Work for Seitan?
You can use all-purpose flour to make seitan, provided it has 10% gluten or more.
Many all-purpose flours will indicate their gluten percentage on the package.
If your all-purpose flour does not give a gluten percentage prominently on the package, you can find out by reading the nutrition facts and dividing the serving size by the amount of protein on the label.
For example, if the label on all-purpose flour says that a serving size is 30 grams, and it has 3 grams of protein per serving, then it is 10% gluten.
Can You Use Self-Rising Flour to Make Seitan?
Self-rising flour is a pre-mixed combination of flour and baking powder, and sometimes salt, so you don’t need to add baking powder to your recipes.
Self-rising flour is not ideal for seitan because you usually don’t want it to rise and develop air bubbles during cooking.
There are a few recipes that call for self-rising flour to make seitan because the recipe calls for a lighter, airier end result in the seitan.
But for most recipes where seitan is intended to mimic the texture of meat (and the taste), self-rising flour isn’t a good choice.
However, you can use self-rising flour to make seitan, if the gluten content is 10% or higher. You may have to do the math on the nutrition label to check the protein/gluten content and make sure it is high enough.
Keep in mind that if you use self-rising flour to make seitan flour, you will be washing away all the additional ingredients in the self-rising flour anyway.
2-Ingredient Seitan (Washed Flour Seitan)
To make your own seitan flour at home, it’s incredibly easy with the washed flour method.
This ancient method of making seitan is time-consuming, but also simple and more affordable than buying premade vital wheat gluten. It requires just flour, water, and time.
To make washed flour seitan, follow these steps:
- Combine 1200 grams or 9 cups of all purpose (or high gluten) flour with 750 ml or 3 cups of water
- Stir well until you form a shaggy ball of dough
- Turn the dough ball out onto a clean counter and knead it for 10-15 minutes. Knead until you have a smooth ball of dough that springs back to the touch
- Place the ball of dough in a large bowl and cover it with several inches of cool water
- Allow the dough to rest in the fridge for 2 hours or more, while the starches separate
- After resting, pour off the water and add more cold water to the bowl to cover the dough
- Knead the fresh water into the dough
- The liquid will become white and thicker with the wheat starch
- Pour the dough into a colander to drain away the starchy water
- Put the dough back into the bowl and cover with cold water again
- Knead again to wash the starches out of the dough
- Drain in a colander, return to the bowl, and wash the dough with cold water again
- It usually takes 3-4 repetitions of straining and kneading to remove the starches. When the water is no longer opaque and white, but just lightly cloudy, you are done.
- Strain off the last of the water and let the seitan rest before cooking
Making your own seitan is more affordable than buying it at the store and allows you to experiment with different flours to find the one you like best.
Seitan can be made with almost any wheat-based flour, provided the gluten content is high enough.
The best flour for seitan is whole wheat or high gluten flour, which will activate gluten more quickly, but use the flour you have on hand to make this delicious, high-protein vegan food.