Monday, November 9, 2009

Beefy Seitan Cutlets

(pictured: final cooked beefy seitan)

If you read the comments on the posts you know I spent this afternoon working on beefy seitan cutlets. Here is what happened, both the good and the not as good.

I have tried to make beefy seitan before and got frustrated because it didn’t look or taste anything like beef and that was my goal. After brainstorming with Rose I decided to try using a little beet to color the seitan pink, which worked. I also knew I needed a very tender seitan if it was going to be anything like beef. For this I caramelized onions and garlic and then pureed them into the wet ingredients. It added a nice sweetness as well as good color since I used red onion. I also added a tablespoon of olive oil, which added needed fat to the seitan dough.

(pictured: raw seitan waiting to be seared and baked)

As usual I made the wet ingredients by adding things to the blender and pureeing and then tasting and adjusting. This process is tedious and a little annoying but I suppose that is where my tedious and annoying accounting background comes in handy as some brilliant person reminded me today (you know who you are) ;)

The wet texture of these cutlets is much softer than my other versions. I knew right away this would be a good thing in the end and it was. The final texture of these cutlets is amazing, absolutely the best I have made or eaten anywhere (sorry Great Sage). I am thrilled with the texture and may be adding cooked onion to all my cutlets going forward. They are crispy on the exterior (due to the good sear I got on the outside) and very tender on the inside.

The beautiful pink color that I was so happy with when they were raw completely disappeared after they were baked. This was quite a let down, but I reminded myself that the texture was perfect and I shouldn’t pout.

The taste is mild but very nice. I think by using a good bit of Worcestershire and marmite I got an umami that is beef like. I am under no illusion that this tastes like steak. However, it tastes really good, and it is reminiscent of steak so I am happy with that. Enough rambling, here is the recipe.

Beefy Seitan Cutlets
Makes 8


1 red onion, peeled and diced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 large cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 cup water (or what is necessary to make 2 cups of liquid when added to the onion and garlic)
½ tablespoon liquid aminos, or to taste
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce – vegan
1 ½ teaspoons marmite
1 tablespoon raw beet, grated
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion flakes
2 cups fresh whole wheat bread crumbs
2 cups vital wheat gluten


Sauté the onion in olive oil until soft and beginning to brown. Now add the garlic and continue to cook stirring occasionally to ensure the garlic doesn’t burn. Cook until the onions and garlic are nicely caramelized, like you are making French onion soup.

Add the onions and garlic to your blender. Cover with enough water to make 2 cups. Now add the liquid aminos, black pepper, Worcestershire, marmite, beet, garlic powder, and onion flakes. Process the wet ingredients in your blender until the mixture is completely smooth and thoroughly combined.

Pour the wet ingredients into a large bowl and add the breadcrumbs. Stir the breadcrumbs into the wet ingredients. Allow the breadcrumbs and wet to sit for at least 10 minutes. You want the breadcrumb to be thoroughly saturated so they disappear into the seitan dough. Now add the gluten and knead until the wet mixture has absorbed all the gluten. The dough will be softer than you are used to. I think that plays a big role in the tenderness of the finished cutlets.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Form the dough into a large ball and cut into 8 roughly even pieces. Form each piece into a cutlet shape.

Heat a heavy bottomed skillet until very hot. I used a cast iron pan and checked the pan temperature with an infrared thermometer. The temperature was 425 degrees. I added a little extra virgin olive oil (about a teaspoon) and added two cutlets. I cooked each cutlet for 3 minutes on each side until crispy on the exterior. Once the cutlet releases form the bottom of the pan easily it is probably crispy enough to flip over. Move each cutlet (thoroughly crisped on top and bottom) to a half sheet pan. Continue to crisp the remaining cutlets.

Add ½ cup water to the bottom of the half sheet pan and bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes the pan was dry. I added another 1/2 cup of water and turned the pan around (in case the oven has a hot spot) and baked another 20 minutes. Once again the pan was dry. I checked the bottom of the cutlet and it was beginning to firm and crisp but not enough. I turned the oven off and slid the pan back in the oven to finish drying out the bottom of the cutlet and then checked again in 10 minutes. The bottom was crisp and I removed the pan from the oven so the cutlets could cool.

Nutritional Information (per cutlet):

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 219.11
Calories From Fat (16%) - 36.03

Total Fat - 4.06g
Saturated Fat - 0.64g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 260.44mg
Potassium - 168.36mg
Total Carbohydrates - 18.52g
Fiber - 2.48g
Sugar - 2.12g
Protein - 27.67g


This little kitchen experiment was much more successful than I expected. I adore the texture of these cutlets. I have already emailed a photo to my husband to tell him what I made today. I can be such a food geek! In fact I love the texture so much I don’t know that I will actually remove the beet in the next batch since I don’t know what role that plays in the texture and I think it adds a certain background earthiness that I might miss if it were gone.

Nutritionally this is seitan so it doesn’t have much going on except protein. However it does have almost 23mcg of selenium per cutlet so that is a benefit.

You can expect to see more beefy seitan cutlets in future posts. Rose had suggested a vegan version of braciole before Vegan MoFo. My husband was thrilled with this idea since he used to love my braciole (yes my Italian is showing again). I have promised to make that later this week.

I am now off to make dinner for tonight. If I don’t get that posted tonight I will be back with the recipe tomorrow morning.


  1. the raw seitan looks just like raw meat, i had wondered if i could put onion in the seitan that i make but thought that it would go bad quicker? like it might freeze weird?

  2. Congratulations on your kitchen success.

    I'm going to put his on my list to try.

    Have a yummy dinner.

  3. Michelle,

    We will find out soon enough how it freezes because I have the extras in the freezer now. BTW, the hubby thinks this is my best seitan yet and I agree with him.


    Thanks. :) I am very happy with the results. Thanks for all your input. Dan walked in the door saying it smelled like meat in the house.


    Thanks. :)


  4. Congrats on your successful experiment, Alicia!
    I am so happy for you and thank you so much for sharing this priceless recipe. I'm just a novice at cooking but I'll definitely give it a try:)

  5. Hi Alicia! How are you? This recipe looks delicious. I will try to make some next week I think. My bro is coming to stay tomorrow so I won't be around much until he leaves (and we'll be eating lots of curry, yum).

  6. Oraphan,

    Thanks! :)

    Even if you are new to seitan I think this will work out fine for you. Make certain you use fresh bread crumbs. I put fresh bread into my food processor to make the crumbs. The fresh bread gives the seitan the tender texture. I got the bread idea from making meatballs since Italians use fresh bread soaked in milk to make their meatballs tender. If you have any questions let me know.

    talk to you soon,

  7. Hi Alicia,

    I think, but don't count me on it, that your loss of the red beetroot colour upon cooking of the seitan occurred because of the lack of anything acidic in your receipie- I seem to remember reading somewhere of a cook desperately trying to keep the red colour of the beetroot to remain when baking a red velvet cake. They finally found out that if they added lemon juice this prevented a colour change. Also, if you added lemon/lime juice to your seitan, you may get an increase in the absorption of any calcium present in your meal- I know you posted recently about the formation of acrylamide during cooking, and one of the provisional recommendations for the food industry is to include an antioxidant, e.g. vitamin C upon baking to reduce this occurring (Malliard reaction which I think you mentioned is pH dependant?) Hope that helps, and I also wanted to say that your blog is great- a good mix of creative and very useful recipes and health information from reliable sources. As someone with a background in Biochemistry and Medicine, it is lovely to see someone taking the time to check out their sources, and weigh up the evidence! I really hope that doesn't sound condescending or too bookish! I have been meaning to ask whether you would like me to email/post to you about other, fairly well proved dietary risk factor/pointers and the mechanisms behind them- or not!!
    Hope the lemon juice tip helps ;) have a good day!

  8. Anonymous,

    That is an interesting idea about adding something more acidic to maintain the red color. While I don't think I would like the taste of lemon here, balsamic vinegar may work. I thought worcestershire was mildly acidic, but since I am not a chemist that is only a guess on my part. Thanks for the idea I will definitely play around with it and see if it works. :) I love a good experiment.

    I would love to read any research you have. Thanks for the offer. Please email anything you have. My email address in on my profile page. I am a bit obsessive about nutrition as you noticed.

    Thanks for the compliment on the blog. I am glad you enjoy it.


  9. Hi Alicia,
    I just made these and must have done something wrong, as they are extremely rubbery and tasteless. The only ingredients I didn't have were beets and garlic powder, and I used half breadcrumbs and half red quinoa. My final mixture was very wet (maybe because the quinoa was still a bit wet), so I added more wheat gluten along with some wheat germ. I mixed the rubbery mixture until well blended, made 9 good-sized patties, and cooked as directed. I just removed them from the oven and they look great, nice and crispy outside. But it's another thing when I bite into one. Please help -- what did I do wrong? How long do you knead the mixture? Does kneading affect the rubberiness (if that's a word)?

  10. Laura,

    Since I wasn't there I am going to have to guess at what went wrong but here goes.

    Since you said they were rubbery that sounds like early seitan I made that was mostly gluten. It sounds like you altered the proportion of gluten in the entire mixture. I initially added the bread crumb to get away from the rubbery texture. By adding more gluten you were throwing off the percentage of gluten in the recipe.

    When I use quinoa I cook it until it is dry. That may have been the reason you ran into trouble at the beginning.

    Beets add an earthy flavor as well as color to the setain. Also, the garlic powder adds a lot of flavor. However, all the flavor components are for the amount of gluten and bread crumbs. By increasing the non-flavor components you were diluting the overall flavor resulting in the bland taste.

    Since your cutlets came out rubbery. If you don't want to throw them away I would suggest you cut them into chunks and use them in a stew or sauce. By simmering them the texture should soften.

    I don't think the kneading was the problem. I knead my seitan dough until it comes together in one mass. My seitan dough is soft when raw. It doesn't have a rubbery texture when raw.

    When I am not writing a recipe but making seitan for home I don't usually measure. I make the wet mixture and season it so that it has a very strong flavor. I then add gluten 1/4 cup at a time and continue to knead until if feels right. I texture should be similar to pizza dough. It should form a mass but you should be able to work with it easily.

    If I need to explain this differently let me know and I will try to find other words to help it make sense.


  11. I meant to ask - what brand of wheat gluten do you use? I think I'll try something other than Arrowhead Mills in the future.

    Can you think of any way to tenderize my seitan? I hate to throw it out. I'll search the internet for ideas.

  12. Laura,

    I was just in the kitchen making seitan so that may help me to respond better to your questions. My dough is definitely sticky and somewhat wet. In order to form it into patties I need to keep my hands wet with water. That stickiness is what keeps it tender, at least that is what I think.

    When your seitan cools you will be able to slice it thinly on a diagonal and use it like lunchmeat. If that doesn't appeal to you try to simmer chunks of it in a sauce (mushroom or tomato) which should tenderize it.

    I am currently using Bob's Red Mill in the 22 oz bag, but have used Arrowhead Mills in a box, and another brand in a small brown box whose brand may be Hodgson Mill.

    If you find a way to tenderize it please let me know what it is. I would be interested to know what works.


  13. Alicia,
    Your last comment about leaving it "sticky" and "wet" might be your best clue. The recipe instruction saying to "knead until the wet mixture has absorbed all the gluten" and to "form into a ball and cut into 8 pieces" might have led me astray. (And your pizza dough must be wetter than mine!) I didn't need wet hands to form my patties, so now I'm sure I must have added too much gluten.

    I've cut some of it into chunks for simmering in pasta sauce. I might try marinating some strips in something else, in the fridge. I'll let you know if we're able to eat it. Thanks so much for your help.

  14. Laura,

    The seitan I made today used all quinoa (no bread crumb). That is a more sticky mass (I forgot which recipe we were on). The all bread crumb version will form into a ball, but not a tight ball. Since I haven't made the half and half version I am just guessing that the texture will be somewhere between the two (sticky but not too sticky).

    You are right my pizza dough tends to be much more wet than say french bread. That was how I was taught at a cooking school in Italy and I always make it that way now. When I see people with pizza dough on tv it always looks too dry to me. I tend to forget that cooking is more art than science.

    Can't wait to hear how tenderizing your seitain works. Please let me know.


  15. I cut two patties into small chunks and simmered them in leftover Thai chili sauce (from takeout the other night) for about 15 minutes and they became much more tender. I'll probably freeze the remainder and use them in a similar way. It's always nice to know how to salvage something!

  16. Laura,

    Thanks so much for letting me know that simmering worked to alter the texture. I will definitely keep that in mind when I have a batch of seitan come out too firm. When I am experimenting with seitan I never know when it will work, or not. ;) Making seitan is something that takes practice. My first 5 or 6 batches years ago were edible, but that is about all I can say for them. After a while it is like bread baking. You just get a feel for it.



Related Posts with Thumbnails