Tummy Thursday: Making Saitan

I think I mentioned before that I’ve reduced our meat consumption drastically over the last year or so. I’m not trying to become vegan or vegetarian (and no, I don’t want to hear why I should or how I should. This is not your post. Go somewhere else), but I think that meat should be a special treat.This is also possible since meat replacements have become so good that the family will eat them, when a few years ago they still tasted like underseasoned cardboard. One problem remains, though, and that is that many alternatives are based on soy and I’m allergic to soy. But I can totally eat gluten, so I tried making saitan.

You can just buy gluten by the pound, but you can also make saitan from scratch. add one part water to two parts flour and knead for 5 minutes. Let it rest for 30 minutes and then wash out the starch, This is messy and will lose you most of your mass. There are apparently people who then try to recover the starch from the washwater but not me.

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This is the gluten left from 2 kgs of flour and yes, it looks like a pig’s stomach used for wrapping roasts. At this point you can add seasoning and some salt and then you have to cook it. It can be baked or steamed, but I like to cook it in a mason jar with spices in a salty brine.

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Each jar contains about 500 ml in total, so you see that it’s not much, but one is also a good size serving for us. It needs to cool completely to get to the meat like consistency. This time I made pinchos. They were nice, I just used a little too much salt.

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It is pretty neutral in taste, which is why it’s often compared to chicken, so you can season it to your heart’s desire. Enjoy your meal.


  1. Jazzlet says

    I guess if you were really organised you could use the starchy water for a thickened soup or stew, but it is more effort. How does the cost of home made compare to the cost of boughten?

  2. says

    I actually never found any in stores. Gluten powder is like 6 bucks a kg, I think.
    Cost is pretty cheap. I think you’d need about 2 kgs of flour for a kg of Saitan, water, spices and energy to cook it for an hour.
    It needs time, though.

  3. says

    This does look interesting. I am going to try it, for research’s sake. Including trying to recover the starch.

  4. Ice Swimmer says

    Uncooked and unseasoned beef is also quite tasteless. Cooking and spicing makes it tasty. Why would it be any different for plant-based protein raffinates.

    Three questions arise: Do the purines in wheat stay with the protein or dissolve with starch? (Gouty old bastards are like myself are interested in this topic.) How much water/kg of flour is used for washing the starch off? At what concentration can the most of starch be recovered (without evaporation)?

    It seems wheat starch has weaker thickening properties than corn starch or especially potato starch, so recovering it at higher concentrations is probably beneficial.

  5. says

    Ice Swimmer, I can only answer one of them : I estimate 5-10l per KG of flour. I used less water the second time. I don’t feel bad about it, since the production of a pound of chicken needs many times that amount and the waste water is quite toxic.

  6. says

    @Ice Swimmer, Giliell.
    I cannot speak directly about this, obviously, since I have no experience (yet). But in chemistry, we were taught that if you have 10 l of water to clean something it is better to rinse it 10 times with 1 l of water than once with all 10 l of water. The general rule being to use as small amounts of the rinsing solvent as possible many times over instead of just a few bigger amounts.
    The math of that is clear -- if you rinse something 10 times with a small amount, removing just let’s say 50% of the unwanted thing each time (starch in this case), after ten steps you end up having removed 99,9%. One big rinse will always remove less than that, sometimes barely more than what the first small rinse would.

    I am really curious about this, I can’t wait for when I will have the time and energy to try it. I do expect to have a lot of fun trying to separate starch from protein and purifying them.

  7. Jazzlet says

    Good point Charly, and rinsing using small volumes would make it easier to recover more of the starch too.

    Ice swimmer wheat may have comparitively weak thickening properties, but it is what is traditionally used to thicken bechamel and all of it’s derivative sauces, as well as gravies, soups and stews that don’t invove potatoes in a lot of Europe.

  8. Ice Swimmer says

    Jazzlet @ 7

    True, wheat flour is the traditional thickener for savoury soups, gravies and sauces. It’s used here for soups, which don’t even have a French or English name. My thought process was more on the sweet side and also, I’m not sure how the gluten works in thickening with wheat flour.

    Potato starch (a white, tasteless flour made from potatoes) is used here for sweet desserts such as berry/fruit soups or kissels (a thicker form of the former, can be very thick). It’s used because a small amount does a lot and unlike cornstarch and it’s quick and easy to use, as it can be used a bit like wheat flour is used for thickening savoury soups, mixing with cold water, pouring the mixture in to the boiling pot and stirring a bit. Potato starch thickens the hot liquid immediately and doesn’t make it cloudy.

  9. Ice Swimmer says

    Giliell @ 5

    Thanks. 5 -- 10 litre/kg could result in up to 45 -- 135 g starch/litre of water. I have no idea how much residual starch is retained by the gluten and what happens to the dietary fibre.

    The concentrations could be sufficient for savoury soups (lower end) or even some sweet fruit/berry soup to be eaten with porridge or breakfast cereals (higher end).

  10. says

    I cannot speak directly about this, obviously, since I have no experience (yet). But in chemistry, we were taught that if you have 10 l of water to clean something it is better to rinse it 10 times with 1 l of water than once with all 10 l of water.

    You also won’t see if the water gets clearer if you use it all at once.

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