Seitan, wheat meat, or whatever else you call it, is extremely delicious. It’s a great source of plant-based protein, too. But when making your own seitan, it can get be tricky to fine-tune the texture.
Personally, I kept running into this problem where my seitan was turning out rubbery and spongy rather than meaty and firm. Luckily, I figured out what I was doing wrong!
In this article, I’ll share with you the results of my lengthy culinary trials on how to make seitan less spongy. There are six specific tips you can implement. Let’s dive in!
1. You Don’t Need to Knead (as Much).
Seitan is a dough. Like any other dough, kneading determines a lot about the final texture.
As you knead, more gluten develops. This is what gives the seitan a chewy or potentially spongy texture. If you’re going after a more meaty seitan, cut down on the kneading.
I can’t really give you an exact time that you should knead, though. It depends on the exact recipe you’re using. Some recipes suggest 3 minutes while others suggest only 2.
Here’s what I recommend doing: Keep using the same seitan recipe, and gradually decrease the kneading time until you get the perfect texture.
2. Use a Plastic Wrap to Cover the Dough.
Then, toss it in the pot and let it cook, with the plastic wrap on. Don’t remove the wrap until after the simmering is finished and the seitan is ready to be served. This video shows exactly what I’m talking about:
The plastic wrap will limit the amount of broth penetrating the seitan dough. This way, it’ll maintain the meaty and dense texture.
This also preserves the oval shape of the seitan. This allows you to serve it as beautiful, neat slices. When you do it without the wrap, you’ll end up with more random-looking seitan chunks.
If you’re uncomfortable with using plastic, you can use cheesecloth instead. On the downside, the cheesecloth will be quite harder to clean up after you finish.
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3. Freeze It Before Cooking.
Briefly freezing your raw seitan dough before cooking can hinder the gluten development, which again, can result in a meatier texture.
However, this step may not work for every recipe. Sometimes freezing can separate the ingredients a bit, even if they were thoroughly mixed. So again, try this—some people swear by it—but your results may vary.
I mentioned this in my post “Can You Freeze Seitan?” (Hint: Yes, you can!)
4. Fine-Tune the Simmering.
Alright, now the most challenging part. The broth must cook at the perfect temperature, or else your seitan can get alllll messed up.
Start with boiling the broth as you normally would. Then, gradually turn the heat down until it starts simmering. Your goal is to have no surface disturbance at all. You should just see tiny bubbles coming into the surface.
Vigorous bubbles are bad because they poke large holes into the dough. This will literally give it a spongy texture.
Here’s the tricky part, though: You don’t want to lower the temperature too much, or your seitan won’t cook properly. That can also mess up the texture of your finished seitan.
So find that nice balance: Tiny bubbles—but not a big rolling boil.
5. Wait Before Removing It from the Pot.
After the seitan finishes simmering for about 1 hour, don’t remove it right away. Let it swim in the broth for something like 15 minutes more.
Removing it from hot water directly into cool air can mess up the texture.
Worst of all, with this mistake, it impacts different parts of the seitan unevenly. So you’ll find the exteriors tasting spongy, while the interiors tasting more meaty.
6. Store It for a Day Before Eating.
Many people will tell you that seitan tastes better the next day. And this actually makes sense. Storing gives time for excess water to escape, converting the seitan into more of a dense mass.
Put your seitan in the refrigerator together with its cooled broth to maintain the flavor. After 24 hours, you’re free to eat it cold, fry it, or warm it inside its broth.
Perfect Seitan Texture
Knead it less, wrap it in plastic, freeze it, simmer it, and store for a day. These were my tips on how to make seitan less spongy!
If none of these work… don’t worry. You can still enjoy seitan with the proper meaty texture by getting a pre-cooked seitan from your local store (that’s a link to my guide on where to find seitan).
Then all you have to do is toss the seitan in a pan with your favorite seasonings, let it warm up for a few minutes, and eat up!
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