Seitan is a food I avoided for a long time since it looked SO VERY MUCH like meat. But then I realized I was eliminating a whole host of meal options, based purely on what the food looked like!
Initially, I used store bought seitan for recipes like stroganoff, stews, and stir-fry.
White Wave is one brand of commercially prepared seitan that is pretty universally available in this area of the US.
But then somewhere along the line I ran across Bryanna Clark Grogan's recipe for homemade seitan. Not only is it delicious, it compares to the store bought version about the way homemade bread compares to store bought bread!! Bryanna's recipe is no longer posted on the web (she has an upcoming seitan based book coming out!), but there are plenty of other recipes out there. See below for some sources.
What is Seitan?
For those new to this vegan food, seitan is made from wheat gluten. Wheat gluten is what gives bread its texture, and seitan uses JUST the gluten (none of the other parts of the wheat grain which make up 100% whole wheat flour, for example) to produce a very dense, chewy, textured food. The basic recipe is to make a dough from vital wheat gluten (which is a powdery product that contains ONLY the wheat grain's gluten) and then simmer that dough (usually for several hours) in a broth. The flavoring ingredients that you use when you make the dough (usually some combination of ketchup, soy sauce, onion powder, garlic powder, and/or nutritional yeast) and the flavor of the broth in which you cook the seitan is what gives it its flavor.
Homemade seitan makes for a
stunning holiday meal centerpiece
Photo by Harris Graber, on flickr
Leftovers can be used anywhere one would use leftover animal-based roast, such as sliced in sandwiches, or chopped up, mixed with gravy, and served over rice or potatoes.
Making your own Seitan
Making seitan is very easy. It is much like making homemade bread ... it takes a lot of time from start to finish, but most of that time it is cooking. The actual amount of time you are actually working with it is probably 45 minutes to an hour, less as you get used to the process. There are many recipes for seitan; most differ only in the flavorings used.
I've found several recipes on-line for seitan: One by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, on her Post Punk Kitchen blog, one by Nava Atlas on her VegKitchen blog, and one by Vegetarian Times. I've not tried any of these three, but I'm comfortable recommending them, since those three sources for recipes (Isa Moskowitz, Nava Atlas, and Vegetarian Times) consistently produce good recipes.
The two recipes I usually use are the one by Robin Robertson in her Vegan on the Cheap cookbook (page 213 ... cooked in a slow cooker ... see picture here), and one by Jo Stepaniak in Vegan Vittles (page 48). This particular recipe includes chickpea flour, which makes for a very tender seitan that can be sliced very thin (like for sandwiches). I've also used Tamasin Noyes recipe that she has in her American Vegan Kitchen cookbook (page 5).
Try various recipes and see which one(s) you like. One tip: use the food processor (with the plastic dough blade) to do your kneading of the dough. The dough does not require lengthy kneading like bread, but seitan is a stiff dough, and I find 30 or 60 seconds in a food processor just makes the whole process a whole lot easier and quicker.
Seitan Dough after being kneaded in a food processor
If you need a good gravy recipe to serve with the seitan, one that I make all the time is a mushroom gravy by Susan Voisin.
If you follow a gluten free diet, or just don't want to bother with making seitan, Soy Curls can be used in any recipe calling for seitan. They come "pre-shaped", so you can't use these where you want a "roast", or slices, but other than those two drawbacks, this product is very tasty. Their flavor comes from the broth you rehydrate/simmer them in, so be sure to use a very flavorful one. Curiously, Butler Foods (who sells the Soy Curls), recommends rehydrating the Soy Curls in water, and then sprinkling them with their "Chik-Style" seasoning. I do not care for the taste of that product at all, and just use my favorite broth (made with Better than Bullion paste) to simmer the Soy Curls for about 10 minutes instead.
Soy Curls are 100% soy, from non-GMO soybeans, textured to have the same consistency of "me*t". So they're great to use as is (once rehydrated) with gravy over rice (one of my routine fallback choices for when I don't feel like cooking!), in stews, as a barbecue dish (either served in buns or not), in cold "chi*ken" salad recipes, etc.