This recipe is an homage to my boyfriend, Chris, who grew up eating basically a protein, a starch, and a vegetable with every meal. Him, and many others wanting to cut down on meat or transition to a plant-based diet, still crave that chewy, tender, ‘meaty’ texture in their meals. Now, you can get that awesome protein texture without meat! Today I’ll show you exactly how to make the best vegan ‘beef’. This versatile recipe is awesome in so many dishes from stews to mashed potatoes, or even noodle dishes.
Before we get started, let’s first talk about the base of our vegan ‘beef’. The core ingredients we’ll be using are:
vital wheat gluten,
I ordered a huge 4lb bag of vital wheat gluten for only $15 online, which makes this plant-based beef super inexpensive per serving. The brand I use in this recipe is Anthony’s Vital Wheat Gluten. You can also find vital wheat gluten in most grocery stores.
Vital wheat gluten is the ingredient that gives these ‘beefs’ their chewy, stretchy texture. Wheat gluten is the main ingredient in seitan and is close to 80% protein. You know when you’re kneading dough for bread, and the dough becomes super-elastic? That’s because of all the gluten in the flour. Vital Wheat Gluten is made by washing away all the starch of the wheat and leaving behind the gluten. In this recipe, wheat gluten gives the ‘beefs’ an irreplaceable stretchy, almost sinewy texture, similar to real meat.
In order to get the perfect texture, we don’t want to use only vital wheat gluten. That’s where the rice flour (gluten-free) and chickpeas come in. These two ingredients help add substance and volume to the mixture and they help the ‘beefs’ retain a bit of tenderness.
While we’ll add a good amount of flavorings and spices to this recipe, they’re all intentionally more neutral in flavor. This is so these vegan ‘beefs’ can be used in a variety of dishes. I’ve tried a few other recipes that use very flavorful ingredients like tomato paste, but I’ve found that acidic ingredients like this give the vegan ‘beef’ too much unrealistic tang.
Make the Dough
Step one is to make our dough! To do this we’ll combine all our flavorings and spices into one medium-sized bowl. Then, you’ll mix together the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Making a well in the center of the dry ingredients, pour in the mixture of flavorings and veggie stock, stirring to combine. The mixture should come together into a loose dough ball.
You’ll then knead the dough by hand for just a few minutes. It’s important not to over-knead the dough! Doing so will make the beefs chewier and less tender. You should knead the dough just enough for the ball to no longer feel sticky.
Next is Steaming
After kneading the dough, you’ll divide it into 3-4 equally sized balls. Shape the balls into rectilinear logs or loaves. You’ll then tightly wrap the individual loaves with aluminum foil.
The first step in cooking the beef is steaming. Many seitan recipes recommend boiling the dough, but I’ve found that steaming actually gives the best texture. I use a bamboo steamer basket for this recipe, but any double boiler or steamer will work. You’ll want to place your tightly wrapped loaves into the basket and steam them for 20-25 minutes, flipping them halfway.
The loaves will be done steaming when they feel firm and no longer feel wet on the outside. I recommend steaming them for 20 minutes if you like a more tender texture, and closer to 25 minutes if you prefer a chewier texture.
Shaping and Baking
The next step is to shape your beef. In this recipe, I cut them into 3/4 inch to 1-inch cubes, but you could cut them into strips or any other shape you’d like! It’s important to note, that the smaller you cut the pieces the less baking time they’ll need. If you cut them into pieces smaller than 1/2 an inch, I’d recommend only baking them for 21-22 minutes instead of the 24-25 minutes in the recipe below.
You’ll then spread the cubes evenly in a baking dish, and pour the marinade on top. Make sure all of the cubes are covered in the marinade. This helps give the vegan beefs even more flavor, gives them a crispy crust and helps keep them moist while baking.
You’ll pop these into the oven and bake them at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for a total of 24-25 minutes. Halfway through, it’s important to flip them for even baking. After about 20 minutes, you can add a tablespoon of soy sauce on top to help keep the beef even moister.
Above you’ll see an image of the seitan beef cut into cubes. Below is an image of how you could cut the seitan into strips (perfect for stir frys!).
How to Make the Best Vegan ‘Beef’
And that’s it, really! Now you know how to make the best vegan beef! This recipe is awesome to make in bulk and to keep in the freezer. That way you can always have this awesome plant-based protein on hand and ready to add to any dish.
Here are a few amazing dishes that you can add these homemade seitan ‘beefs’ to!
- ¼ cup canned chickpeas, drained
- ¼ cup yellow onion, minced
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- ½ tsp onion powder
- ¼ tsp ground mustard
- 3 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp yellow mustard
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tsp molasses
- 1 ¾ cup vital wheat gluten
- ¼ cup rice flour or chickpea flour
- ½ cup + 3tbsp veggie stock *
- 1 tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp molasses
- 3 tbsp + 1 tbsp soy sauce, divided
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- In a high-speed blender or food processor, add the chickpeas and onion. Chop until they are a finely minced texture, but not a blended paste. They should still have some texture.
- Mix the chickpea and onion mixture with the spices and liquids (garlic powder, nutritional yeast, paprika, onion powder, ground mustard, soy sauce, yellow mustard, pepper, olive oil, Worcestershire, and molasses.)
- In a large bowl stir together the vital wheat gluten and rice flour. Make a well in the center of the mixture and add the veggie stock (see notes below) plus the chickpea and spice mixture. Stir to combine.
- Transfer the mixture to a surface that's lightly floured with some more rice flour and knead for 2 minutes until the dough feels elastic and no longer sticky. Do not over-knead.
- Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Shape them into rectilinear loaves or logs, and wrap them tightly with tin foil
- Steam for 23-25 minutes flipping the pieces halfway through.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Cut the steamed “beef” into cubes (about 1”), or cut them into strips (about 1/2" wide and 2-3" long). Spread them evenly in a baking dish.
- Mix the ingredients for the marinade together and pour on top of the cubes or strips. Make sure they are evenly coated in the marinade.
- Bake the seitan for 20 minutes, flipping halfway.
- After 20 minutes, sprinkle 2 more tablespoons of soy sauce onto the seitan, stir to coat. Bake for 4-5 more minutes. The seitan should be slightly caramelized and browned. They may still feel soft but once they cool slightly, they will firm up and become chewier.
- Remove from the oven, and add these plant-based beefs to your favorite dishes!
*The amount of veggie stock you use depends on how much moisture your chickpeas and onion have. I recommend starting by adding the 1/2 cup, then mix everything together. If the mixture isn't moist enough and isn't forming a ball, incrementally add 1 tbsp at a time.
*This recipe makes about 550g of seitan. Each serving is about 91g.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 193Total Fat: 2gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 106mgCarbohydrates: 36gFiber: 6gSugar: 5gProtein: 8g
Nutritional info is an estimate.
Want to know how to make other plant-based meat alternatives? Check out these recipes below!How to Make the Perfect Vegan Chick’n
How to Make Easy Flavorful Baked Tofu
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