Seitan is a meat-free, high-protein food that originated in ancient China.
In recent years, it has become an increasingly popular meat alternative for people looking for a healthy, vegetarian or vegan protein source.
But does it taste good? And are there ways to make it taste good? Yes, you can make seitan taste like chicken, beef or bacon.
Let’s learn how to make seitan taste good.
What Does Seitan Taste Like?
Seitan is a paste made by washing wheat flour repeatedly, until you have removed all the starch and soluble fiber, and all that remains is the insoluble, protein-rich, wheat gluten.
As we know when making bread, gluten is elastic and a bit sticky, so the dough-like mass is usually shaped into blocks or sticks for use during cooking.
Seitan doesn’t have much flavor by itself. When pure seitan is simply cooked and eaten, it has a texture similar to mushrooms and almost no flavor.
Instead, like tofu, seitan usually takes on the flavors of other ingredients used in its preparation.
Seitan can also be dried and concentrated into a flavorless powder called “vital wheat gluten.”
This ingredient is popular in many meat substitutes and can also be used in baking, or as a binding agent in a wide range of recipes.
Does Seitan Actually Taste Good?
While seitan itself doesn’t taste like much of anything, it has a spongy quality that makes it readily absorb the flavors of marinades, seasonings, spices, and other ingredients.
For that reason, seitan is often sold in pre-made mixtures with other ingredients, and shaped into a variety of forms.
Pre-made seitan products are often high in sodium, sugar, and other ingredients to compensate for the lack of flavor.
How to Make Seitan Taste Good
Seitan is an incredibly versatile ingredient, and can be used in a wide range of recipes and preparations.
In order to make seitan taste good, it’s important to impart both a good flavor and a good texture.
Here are the key steps make seitan taste good:
Knead the Dough Correctly
If you’re working with raw, unprocessed seitan, it is important to treat it like a dough.
Kneading it will allow some gluten to develop, giving it a meatier, more satisfying texture. However, over-kneading can make it chewy or spongy.
Kneading seitan for 3-5 minutes makes the texture firmer and more enjoyable.
Be careful not to knead the dough too much, or you run the risk of your seitan turning out too rubbery.
Marinate or Cook Seitan Correctly
After kneading seitan, wrap it tightly in cheesecloth so it preserves its shape and texture.
Then immerse the seitan in a marinade for at least 20 minutes, or as long as overnight, depending on your recipe.
If you’re cooking seitan right away, wrap it in cheesecloth and immerse it in a very gentle simmering broth.
An aggressive boil may damage the texture, so cook it very gently for as long as the recipe requires.
Consider Freezing Your Seitan
After the seitan has been marinaded or cooked, consider putting it in the freezer.
Freezing seitan before the final preparation (sautéing, frying, baking, etc.) allows it to hold its shape better and slice more easily in the finished dish.
Consider a Dash of Baking Soda
A ¼ teaspoon of baking soda in your seitan changes the pH, improving the flavor and promoting browning during cooking.
Great tasting seitan is all about the texture. Kneading it, then cooking or marinating it, then freezing it, helps to preserve a meaty, hearty texture, while imparting tons of flavor in your finished dish.
How Do You Make Seitan Not Taste Like Seitan?
Seitan can be grilled, baked, fried, or roasted, and can substitute for meat in almost any preparation.
Here are some tips for making seitan not taste like seitan:
To Make Seitan Taste Like Chicken
Seitan is often substituted for chicken due to their similarity in texture and ability to take on the flavors of the dish.
Mix seitan with poultry seasoning, onion powder, and other seasonings as desired before kneading.
Shape the seitan into pieces, cutlets, or any desired shape, and freeze it for a few minutes.
Steam the seitan in a basket or cook it gently in broth, then allow it to cool.
The cooked seitan can then be used in any recipe that calls for chicken, including making crispy nuggets or cutlets, and is perfect for your favorite chicken sauces.
To Make Seitan Taste Like Beef
To bump up the meaty, beefy effect of seitan, add nutritional yeast to the dough and knead it well.
Form the dough into the shape of a roast or steak, and use traditional steak seasonings to marinade the seitan before cooking or grilling.
To Make Seitan Taste Like Bacon
Boost the flavor of seitan with nutritional yeast and tomato paste, and create the flavors of bacon with soy sauce and liquid smoke.
Consider seasoning with traditional bacon companions like a barbecue sauce or maple syrup.
The most common complaint with seitan is that, no matter what recipe a person follows, the end result is reminiscent of bread or dough.
Because seitan is a wheat gluten dough, it can be challenging for newcomers to overcome this.
Remember that steaming or very gently simmering seitan allows it to cook without active bubbles that can make it spongy or bread-like.
Try using a seitan recipe that combines vital wheat gluten with pureed legumes. Black beans, lentils, and other legumes can help to impart a meatier texture and flavor.
Finally, consider drying seitan completely after steaming or simmering to give it a firm, dry texture that will take a sear or hold grill marks.
Ultimately, seitan is a porous, versatile dough that easily takes on the flavors of the ingredients, seasonings, and marinades used in its preparation.
The best way to make seitan taste good is to simmer it very gently in a seasoned broth that imparts flavor.
Then you can dry the seitan and use it as a meat replacement in a wide range of foods, where it adds texture, flavor, and plant-based protein.
Getting seitan right may take some trial-and-error, but it’s worth experimenting to find out just how delicious and versatile it can be.