Monday, February 1, 2010

Seitan Chicken - It's What's for Dinner

When my husband's under the weather, he turns into a very small, needy child who reminds me every couple minutes, "I'm sick! I'm sick!" When I'm confronted with a needy sick child-husband, I can't do anything other that suggest, "Uh, chicken noodle soup?" This means I can: 1) spend time away from the sick one while I make the soup, which I do not so much because I'm mean as because he's exceedingly cranky when ill, and 2) get credit for being such a caring person that I make chicken noodle soup from scratch. There's a reason why I have two large retrievers, but no actual human children. So I spent an hour this afternoon making some seitan chicken noodle soup, which isn't really a big feat by any means, and I started thinking about much how seitan chicken has become a staple part of our diet.

I'm beginning to see why Americans eat more chicken than any other kind of meat. It's so ... easy. And versatile. And off the menu, if you're a vegetarian. I think this simplicity is why I've been whipping up batch after batch of seitan chicken breasts lately ... to make it is even easier (and somewhat less time consuming) than if I had to get dressed, get into the car, and drive to the grocery store for some Perdue, were that my wont.

Seriously, though, seitan chicken is so simple. It takes about three minutes, plus a little time on the stove during which many other things (the rest of the chicken noodle soup prep, putting together shelves from Target, playing with the dogs in the frozen tundra that is our backyard) can be accomplished.

I made a double batch last time, which then became Southern Fried Chicken Tenders and Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Brie and Caramelized Onions ... something casual, something all fancy.

The tenders were easy: cut into pieces, then bread as you could any nugget (seasoned flour, followed by beaten eggs, followed by panko breadcrumbs, followed by a healthy bath in boiling oil). This is pretty much the same way I've made seitan buffalo wings, skipping the eggs and panko. I lightly coated the seitan pieces in flour and deep fried them before tossing the batch in a bowl with buffalo sauce ... which is, by the way, disgustingly unhealthy, even to me. (Hey, I may not be a super healthy eater, but I'm a fan of using delectable fats like really good cold pressed olive oil, truffle oil and European butter ... but all in normal quantities. The sauce for buffalo wings actually makes me feel like I'm doing something wrong and unsavory, as if I should be checking into a sleazy motel to eat them ... but maybe that's just my own issue I should work on.) Anyway, it's this: half a cup of melted butter, half a cup of Frank's hot sauce. Voilà! Heart attack on a plate ... even before you factor in that bacon ranch dip, packets of which are now available from J&D's, the folks that gave us baconnaise.

For the stuffed breasts, I made the stuffing while the seitan cooked. I caramelized onions in olive oil, then stirred in about a third of a small wheel of brie, sans rind (which went straight into my mouth) and some fresh oregano. All of this got thrown in the fridge for dinner, when I slit the breasts, filled them with stuffing, and sautéed them for for a few minutes on each side, till they were browned nicely. Accompanied by wild mushroom couscous, spinach and a sauce suprême with mushrooms, the stuffed breasts were a big hit.

So, the point is this: seitan chicken is super easy. Seitan chicken is super fast. Seitan chicken is super versatile. And, seitan chicken is super yummy. Here's the recipe:

Stir together, then kneed for a couple minutes:

1 cup vital wheat gluten
4 T vegetarian chicken bouillon powder
2 tsp garlic granules
1 cup water

Cut it into four pieces (for breasts) and add to:

4 cups water
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
2 T vegetarian chicken bouillon powder
2-3 tsp poultry seasoning

Bring it close to a boil, then reduce and simmer, covered, until the liquid is absorbed. Flip the breasts over every so often, making sure they aren't sticking. And that's that.

This makes what looks like an enormous amount of seitan because the pieces swell up in the pan while they cook. But, I've found, it doesn't last long afterwards. I've halved it when I just wanted something quick for dinner that night, but I wished afterwards I hadn't ...

*simmering liquid*

*seitan chicken breasts taking up the entire pan*

*yummy, easy dinner: stuffed with basil & mozzarella, served over orecchiette*


  1. I'll definitely try the seitan tenders! I've had a box of seitan in the fridge, wondering how to turn it into chicken fingers or hot "wings". I use all kinds of fake meat products but wasn't sure what to do with straigh-forward seitan. Thank you!

  2. Glad to help! I also tried baking the hot wings, and that works just as well ... they have a different kind of crunch, but still yum ... and healthier.

  3. Hooray!!! My son has soy allergies, so we have not been able to enjoy boxed seitan as a family. With this recipe I can make it at home WITHOUT the soy. Thank you!

  4. You're most welcome - hope you enjoy it!!

  5. Thanks VC, I'm off to make my second batch. Do you have any pointers for shaping seitan? My first batch was tasty, but not pretty.
    Also writing in to say that I made the seitan dough, refrgerated overnight, then boiled in the spiced broth the following day. It works!

  6. Let's see ... not so much for shaping, but I will say it seems the less kneading, the more tender the seitan. I've gotten to the point that I barely knead it at all. I generally end up with a sort of flat-ish log form, but when it is that tender, it is easy to cut into variously sized pieces. I don't know how to get a mini-chicken leg shaped piece, although I wish I did!

  7. I was web browsing when I stumbled across your post. Luckily so, I might add! This is a truly wonderful way to use seitan. Thanks!

    I made my first batch of seitan a couple of nights ago and don't think that I'll ever look back. My wife and I have gone goo-goo gaw-gaw over the heavenly stuff.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your recipe!

  8. WOW. I actually have these on my stove right now, but how long should they simmer? Until liquid is absorbed yes, but is it one hour or three? They have cooked for about 40 minutes now, and it doesn't look like much of the liquid is gone.

  9. Mine are finished now, they came out very "mushy"? But the taste is delicious. Think I'll let them cool, before I try to squeeze out some liquids and then fry them up in a pan. :)

  10. Cathrine, did all the liquid absorb? cooked how long?

  11. I'm sorry I didn't see your comment before, pastano. I love these seitan-chicken-things!
    All the liqid did get absorbed, yes. I cooked them for about an hour, and they didn't get so mushy when I made them the second time, because I made the dough very firm. Here are my blog entry from when I made them, you can google translate the page to get it in English:

    And I made skewers with them for lunch today:


  12. I tried making this and it didn't work out so well. It was way to salty. What type of vegetarian chicken bouillon powder do you use?

  13. I'm sorry to hear that! I have found that the sodium content of some broths is way to high for me, as well. I use Frontier veggie chicken, which is powdered. I like Better than Bouillon brand, as well, but sometimes the paste seems a little overpowering.

  14. I made these today and used better than bouillon vegetarian no chicken base, comes in a jar. it was very salty! also it was rather mushy to shape into breasts. and it absorbed very little liquid after 45 minutes.
    I looked at the instructions for Frontier broth powder no chicken. It says to add 1 1/3 tablespoon to one cup hot water to make broth. So 4 tablespoons would be like making 3 cups of broth but this recipe only uses 1 cup water.
    Instructions for better than bouillon vegetarian no chicken base add 1 teaspoon to one cup hot water to make broth. So 3 teaspoons (about 1 tablespoon) would be like making 3 cups of broth but then only use the 1 cup of water.
    I may try again but use 1 tablespoon better than bouillon no chicken and less water and then shape breasts.