It seems like every month there’s a new food trend amidst the pandemic, and the most recent is one that might not be completely new to a lot of vegans, and that’s seitan.
Seitan is a vegan protein made from wheat. It dates back hundreds of years to ancient China, but has had recent popularity in the last few years with vegans who buy vital wheat gluten from producers like Bob’s Red Mill.
There’s also a famous seitan producer based in Chicago called Upton’s Naturals, who if you’re in the windy city, also have a fantastic casual restaurant worth taking a stop in at their factory called Upton’s Breakroom.
Despite its popularity and a variety of options to obtain it produced, many are finding that it’s easy to make seitan on their own by filtering the flour with water on their own.
TikTok user @futurelettuce made the first recipe video, starting with a ball of dough and ending with a fried piece of vegan chicken.
“Plain flour and water,” the TikTok said. “Knead until smooth, let rest [covered] one hour. Knead again but underwater. Wash, wash, wash. The water should run clear-ish but not clear. Add seasoning, I used salt, pepper, garlic, and paprika. Rest 1 hour. Twist & knot.”
They then take this and fry it with veggie stock to crispy perfection. @futurelettuce notes that it’s even better the next day.
Of course many responded with complete shock to this simple recipe, especially after seeing how meaty the texture becomes.
“I’m sorry, this has to be addressed,” TikTok user @naturekimberly said while pointing to each step of the process. “How, how did this, become this, become this?”
Another user named @sciencebyashley points out how the food science works.She points out that this happens because of the fact that flour is only starch and protein. When you wash flour in water while letting the gluten bond to itself, it washes all of the starch away and you’re left with the protein in wheat.
All told, seitan is having a resurgence for good reason. As more and more meat substitutes like beyond meat and impossible become popular, alternatives to tofu like seitan really scratch the itch for people looking for that pre-industrial vegan experience.
Daniel Johanson (he/him) is a journalist and digital media specialist living in Chicago, Illinois. He serves as Editor-in-Chief at Scapi and in that capacity manages all things content, including writing and editing articles and producing digital content. His most recent work includes the docuseries Heart of a Nation: Tracking Socialism in the Midwest and co-hosting the podcast Scapi Radio. He spends his free time with cats.