Jan 8, 2012

seitan parmigiana

First off, I would like to extend my heartfelt appreciation to Post Punk Kitchen for naming this blog, yes, the one you are reading!!, Weekly Vegan Menu, on their 100 List. We are so darned amazed, flattered and any other word that aptly describes being slammed to the floor in awe. I love the list and its other contents and look forward to perusing it myself in the coming weeks. Beautiful job, PPK! And not just because we are on it. The list is great and if you haven't seen it, yet, you certainly should.

Chicken Parmigiana is a classic Italian dish of breaded and fried chicken, baked with layers of tomato sauce and cheese. Interesting to note is that Eggplant Parmigiana was the predecessor of the meat version, not the other way around. 
Way to go aubergine! 

Since I have already created the eggplant recipe, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about the meat version. I had a bunch of non-veg teenagers over for dinner and thought this might be a nice vegan dish to make for them. This was also the perfect way to introduce to you all my brand-spanking-new Simple Chicken Seitan Recipe

The Simple Chicken Seitan Recipe uses only 7 ingredients, can be made in any machine or by hand (if you have to) and has no seitan flavor if cooked properly.

What's the catch? 

(1) You have to cook it at a very low temperature. The lower the better, but 225 F works very well. This means that you cook it longer. If you do not care about seitan-y flavor, then by all means, continue cooking it at the regular temperature of 350 F for an hour or using your slow cooker.   
The slow cooker method has turned out to be a success, and I am so excited because of it! It is actually turning out to be the better of the two methods (oven or slow cooker). The trick is to leave the lid ajar, by about a quarter inch, and only cook the cutlets for 3 hours and 45 minutes. Huge thanks to Nonna for getting me to try it even after I abandoned the idea.

(2) You have to sift your gluten flour. No getting around this. In order to pull off the recipe to an exact tee, maintain proper texture and flavor, you have to measure the correct amount of gluten. The best way to do that is to either sift the flour before you measure it or stir it up before you measure it. This is the same procedure that you use for baking with regular flour; the flour granules settle down and make measuring inaccurate by as much as FOUR Tablespoons per cup of flour! That makes a big difference in the final product.

***A little note about the cost of vital wheat gluten flour.*** 

I've seen some comments on different sites about the expense of gluten flour. If you purchase a small box of it from your local health food store, sure, you are going to pay an arm and a leg for the stuff. Been there, done that. But, if you buy it from the bulk section of, say Whole Foods, you are way better off. I buy 25 pounds at a time from WF for around $80. That is around $3.25 per pound. A pound of gluten flour yields more than 3 cups. 1 cup of gluten makes 8 cutlets. 
Therefore, 1 pound of gluten, at $3.50, makes around 30 cutlets of Simple Chicken Seitan.

No Whole Foods or other super-awesome store like that near you? No problem. Hitting Amazon, you would still be paying a lot, around $5/pound for Bob's Red Mill or $6/pound for Arrowhead Mill. But that is still not even close to the $9/pound that you pay at a local health food store. 
(There are other companies that sell on Amazon, but I don't have buying experience with them.)

On the brighter side, Barry Farm , a place I have shopped from, sells vital wheat gluten for $3.50/pound. Discounts for larger (5 pounds or 25 pounds) orders. Great place to get it. I purchased 30 pounds and the total, including shipping, was $85. That is less than $3/pound, including shipping. 

The other ingredients for the Simple Chicken Seitan are chickpea flour (very important), salt, VA Chicken-Style Broth Mix, garlic and tahini. If you don't have tahini, add 1/2 Tablespoon of a neutral flavored oil.    


A note about eggs and binding. What makes the Parmigiana family of classics especially off the menu for vegans (even if you ask for it without cheese) is the egg batter. The consensus still remains that you need eggs for binding crumbs onto things, when all you need is wet flour. It doesn't matter if you use soy milk, nut milk, water, broth or eggs to make your flour wet - it all does the same thing - turn flour into glue (papier mache anyone?) The one difference is that vegan milk, water and broth won't cost you a million karma points. 

There it is. Get cooking.

Cost Breakdown

seitan: $3
panko, breadcrumbs, flour: $1
spices, garlic: $.50
pasta: $3
tomato sauce: $3
Total to make 5 servings:


  1. I can hardly wait for these recipes. And thanks for the tip about sifting or stirring the gluten. I now make most of my own seitan. Fortunately, here in Berkeley the gluten is readily available at a lower prices than Whole Foods. I'm wondering would the crock pot on low work for cooking the cutlets, or do I have to heat up my huge oven?

  2. It is a relief when there is a great place to shop near by! I'm very happy for you, Nonna! I have found that a slow cooker, even on low, cooks at too hot a temp to avoid the seitan-y flavor. If that is what you are looking for. If not, then you can certainly use it, I'm guessing for cutlets, on low, for 2-3 hours?

    I do have an idea that I will try this week, though. Maybe not covering it, or loosely draping it with foil might work. I'll get my slow cooker and my thermometer out and give it a go. I sympathise with not only turning on a hot oven, but the bill that accompanies it.

  3. congratulations. The honor is well deserved.

  4. Can you list the weight of the vital wheat gluten since it is so important to have the amount correct? I like to be as exact as possible to remove any room for error.

  5. Thank you, Tender B!

    Anonymous, great idea. I have changed the recipe to reflect the amount. 5 1/4 ounces for 1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons of vital wheat gluten.

  6. Nonna, Update:

    I gave one slow cooker seitan a go.

    First: the broth was not enough and needs to cover the seitan completely, maybe 5-6 cups worth. I used the listed broth amount in the recipe and the seitan cutlets did not cook evenly.

    Second: Although the temperature of the broth stayed low enough, the seitan still picked up the seitan-y flavor because of the uneven cooking, most likely because of the broth amount.

    Third: It still needed the 6 hours of cooking. Again the broth amount could be the culprit.

    Conclusion: I will retest again this week and use more broth to ascertain whether it will clear up the issue. I'll keep you posted.

  7. I buy 50 pounds of vital wheat gluten; for $99 including shipping. I keep it outside, double sealed, in large tin "popcorn" containers.

  8. Anonymous, if you see this, could you post a link or a name of the store/site where you buy the gluten?

  9. Nonna, Update:

    Success!! I have changed the recipe to reflect the use of the slow cooker. In a nutshell, use 8 cups of liquid (not 2), leave the lid ajar by about 1/4 inch, and cook on LOW for 3 hours and 45 minutes.

    If you try it, please let me know what you think.

    Thanks much!

  10. What size is your slow cooker? Is an oval slow cooker required for this recipe?


    1. Hi Charj,

      I have a 5 Qt slow cooker (a regular sized one, not the smaller ones) and oval is not a requirement. About the only important things regarding the slow cooker method is to leave the lid ajar and use 8 cups of the liquid. If it turns out that you like this seitan, you can freeze the broth for your next batch of seitan.

      Keep me updated if you would (good or bad) :)


Thanks for your comment! I'll check if it's spam and post if it is not. I appreciate your time and effort for commenting! ~ Zsu