Mouthwateringly good vegan beef that's perfectly tender and simple to make. Use this versatile beef seitan recipe to make a classic vegan beef roast with all the trimmings, use as a substitute for beef in your favorite recipes, or slice it like deli-meat for sandwiches.
This Vegan Beef has been in the works for a long while and it's finally here! It has a rich, savory flavor and a texture very similar to fall apart, tender, slow cooked beef. And don't worry because it isn't tough like a lot of seitan can be. I develop my seitan recipes so that you don't need to worry about them getting tough if you accidentally over-knead, and this recipe is pretty much foolproof! It's my best seitan recipe to date.
Now this Brit can enjoy her Sunday seitan roast beef with all the trimmings. We're talking sliced, tender vegan roast beef, Yorkshire puddings, the crispiest roast potatoes (or oil-free ones if I'm feeling virtuous), horseradish sauce, red wine gravy and loads of veggies. My mouth is watering...
And then come the leftovers! Just like my vegan chicken breasts, this vegan beef is so versatile. Serve it with your Sunday roast or holiday dinners, cut it into seitan strips and use as a beef substitute in your favorite recipes, pile it in your hot sandwiches (French Dip or Philly Cheesesteak anyone?) or slice it paper thin and use as deli meat. It's such a great high protein meat substitute to add to your vegan meals.
Wondering what vegan beef is made of? Here are the ingredients you will be needing to make this recipe, and a little about why. I'll also include details of any substitutions you can safely make:
All of the ingredients do small things individually but work together to do big things.
- Vital wheat gluten - Absolutely essential in this recipe and you cannot sub anything else. It's becoming available in more and more stores these days. I love to get mine from Amazon though. They sell Anthony's Vital Wheat Gluten and it's a great value for the size. Vital wheat gluten is the main ingredient in most meat substitutes. If you are gluten-free check out my gluten-free seitan recipe instead.
- Black beans - These add tenderness and dark color to the beef. They also have more flavor than most other beans and layers of flavour are important when making seitan as otherwise all you can taste is the vital wheat gluten. I don't recommend you use any other kind of bean in this recipe.
- Tomato ketchup - For flavor, color and a touch of sweetness. I know a lot of people sub tomato paste/puree for ketchup in recipes but I do not recommend that here. The flavor of tomato paste/puree is way too overwhelming in the finished roast.
- Red wine - For amazing depth of flavor, richness and color. Be sure you use a vegan wine. Barnivore.com is a great resource to check. Make my red wine gravy with the leftovers! It's amazing served with the vegan beef. I always get questions about why I include wine in a recipe and I use it for very specific reasons. Mainly though because it is an amazing ingredient for adding depth of flavor that nothing else can. It really will give you the best seitan. If you must you can replace it with a really good quality, flavorful stock but the recipe will not be at its best. The "beef" won't have the same color and it won't have the same flavor.
- Soy sauce - Vegan meats need flavour and soy sauce gives deep "beefy", salty, umami flavor. You can use tamari instead for an even deeper flavor.
- Marmite or Better Than Bouillon No Beef Base - Vegemite and other yeast extract brands are fine to use too. These pack a punch and are full of vegan beef flavor.
- Apple cider vinegar - This magic ingredients stops the seitan tasting to gluten-y. You know that signature vital wheat gluten flavor that often comes through in seitan? It really helps reduce it.
- Dijon mustard - Helps hide any remaining gluten-y flavor and also really compliments the beefy flavors.
- Seasonings - Dried thyme, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and smoked paprika (or chipotle powder). More layers of flavor and a hint of smokiness that add to the beefiness.
- Oil - Adds tenderness. If you are oil-free you can omit it but the beef won't be quite as tender.
Equipment - You will need foil to wrap your vegan beef in and a small baking tray. You will also need a food processor or a blender.
How to make vegan beef
Making this vegan beef is really straightforward and easy. The prep time is minimal and the ingredients are mostly pantry staples. For the very best seitan texture though it is best made in advance, so make sure you're organized. This makes it super convenient when you want to enjoy it though as it's all done, ready and waiting!
Here's how to make it:
- Process all of the ingredients except the vital wheat gluten until smooth and liquidy.
- Add the vital wheat gluten and process until a ball of dough forms.
- Remove and knead for 4 minutes. Pictures before and after kneading are below. Notice how much more fibrous it looks in the second picture? That's the gluten development which gives the seitan it's meaty texture.
- Shape, wrap, bake then allow to cool in the foil.
No food processor? If you don't have a food processor, you can use a blender to blend everything but the vital wheat gluten together, then pour it into a large bowl to mix everything together. Stir it up to combine then knead as instructed. Knead it for an extra minute to make up for the time it would have been kneaded by the food processor. Don't try adding the vital wheat gluten to the blender as it will be too tough for it to work with.
THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP is to let the vegan beef rest and cool. Although you can eat it soon after cooking it, the flavor and the texture gets better and more meat-like once it's been refrigerated. I like to make it at least the day before I want to eat it.
Once the vegan beef is cooked, you can chill or freeze it until it's needed. Serve just as it is, reheat it, or sear it in a hot pan to get the outside beautifully colored and crispy.
How to sear seitan
To sear - Prepare a large skillet and place over medium heat. Add a little oil and when it’s hot sear the vegan beef on all sides for a couple of minutes. Use tongs to turn it safely. Whilst you’re searing you have the option of brushing sauce/marinade of your choice over the top. Vegan garlic butter, mustard, BBQ sauce are all great. Just be careful with sugary sauces/marinades as they will burn very quickly in the pan. Once golden and gorgeous, pop the skillet in the oven for 15 minutes on 350 °F (175 °C) just to heat the vegan beef through to the centre.
For the best results when making this seitan beef recipe take note of these tips:
- Follow the recipe closely, and as always with recipes that involve flour, I highly recommend using a digital scale to weigh the vital wheat gluten. Cups are a very inaccurate way of measuring and you can easily end up with up to 30-50% more than is intended depending on how you fill the cup. A scale gets it right every single time.
- Knead the seitan for the full amount of time. I get questions all the time from people scared of kneading my vegan roast recipe for the specified time in case it gets too tough. You don't need to worry. My recipes are tested well and my seitan recipes are developed so that over-kneading won't happen. I've even purposely over-kneaded this recipe while testing it for 30 minutes and it was fine and perfectly tender. You aren't going to accidentally over-knead it and make it tough. It's all to do with the balance of vital wheat gluten to other ingredients. If that balance is right your seitan will be perfectly tender. Another reason to use a digital scale ;o)
- Be sure to turn the roast half way through the cooking time so it cooks evenly.
- For the best texture make the vegan beef in advance. Seitan is always better once it's been refrigerated.
And now the fun starts. You've got your vegan beef seitan all ready and waiting. Just imagine that moment when you carve thick, juicy, tender slices. But what should you serve it with? Here are some ideas:
- A proper British seitan roast beef dinner with your seitan roast beef and all the trimmings. I've even got a Yorkshire Pudding recipe and this vegan beef recipe is just incredible with horseradish sauce!
- My creamy, herby, garlicky, buttery mashed potatoes, scalloped potatoes or mashed sweet potatoes, vegetables such as my air fryer carrots and red wine gravy.
- With roasted red cabbage or green bean casserole.
- Slice to make hot sandwiches like French Dip and Philly cheesesteak
- Slice thin like deli-meat and serve in sandwiches with crusty bread for a quick lunch or packed lunches.
- Cut into seitan strips or chunks and use in your favorite recipes like stir fries, noodle soups, tacos, curry, beef and broccoli, beef stroganoff, ginger beef and beef and noodles.
- Use as a topping on pizzas.
- Make beef wellington! I can't wait to try this. Make the vegan beef and cook it as directed then go on to make your wellington with it. it should be fine being baked again inside the pastry crust.
- Add to your salads.
I could go on and on. The list of things you can do with this vegan beef is endless!
IMPORTANT NOTE: When adding beef chunks to sauces like curry, stews etc add them in the last few minutes of the cooking time so they don't get too soft.
Storage & reheating instructions
Store leftover vegan beef in an airtight container in the fridge. If using for sandwiches and salads it can be sliced and eaten cold. Or cut into chunks/strips and add to your favorite recipes as you would beef. You can also slice it up super thin, and cover with hot gravy. The heat from the gravy will warm it through. Or microwave individual slices for around 30 seconds.
To reheat the entire joint, sear in a hot pan or reheat in a low oven wrapped in foil, until warmed through. More detailed instructions are included in the recipe notes.
Can you freeze seitan?
Seitan freezes really well. Wrap your vegan beef seitan (or the leftovers) thoroughly and freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge.
This recipe cannot be made gluten-free but I do have a gluten-free seitan roast recipe that you can use instead.
I don't recommend using anything in place of the foil. The seitan doesn't cook as well without it. If you are concerned about it touching your food, wrap the seitan log in parchment paper first before wrapping in foil.
- 1½ cups (1 x 15 oz can) black beans , drained and rinsed (1 x 400g can in the UK)
- ½ cup (120 ml) red wine , (can use good quality stock instead but "beef won't be as tasty or the same color)
- ⅓ cup (80 ml) tomato ketchup
- ¼ cup (60 ml) water
- 3 tablespoons (45 ml) soy sauce , or Tamari
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) Better Than Bouillon No Beef Base , or Marmite/Vegemite
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil , omit for oil-free and add 2 tablespoons more water
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder , or 2 cloves fresh garlic
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika , or 1½ tsp chipotle powder
- 1¼ teaspoons dried thyme
- 2 cups (256 grams) vital wheat gluten
Please note that seitan is best and meatier, when made in advance and refrigerated overnight.
- Preheat oven to 400 °F (200°C).
- To a food processor add everything except the vital wheat gluten. Process until pretty much smooth. You will still see some little tiny lumps of black beans in there and that's fine. If you don't have a food processor you can do this in a blender instead.
- If you used a food processor, add the vital wheat gluten to the food processor and process for a minute or so until a ball forms. Once you see the ball flopping around inside, turn off the food processor. If you used a blender instead of a food processor, pour the blended mixture out and into a large mixing bowl, making sure to scrape every last bit out with a spatula, then add the vital wheat gluten. A blender won't be able to handle the dough. Give it a good stir to combine everything then bring it together into a dough with clean hands.
- Tip the dough out onto a clean surface and knead for 4 minutes (5 minutes if you did not use a food processor to make the dough). I find that I don't need to flour my surface, but if it gets a little sticky you can sprinkle a little vital wheat gluten on it to make it easier. As you knead you will feel the dough getting tougher to handle and visibly see it becomes more fibrous.
- Shape the dough into a log shape roughly 8½ inches long and 4 inches wide.
- Cut a generously sized piece of foil (about 20 inches long) and grease the centre of it (where you'll sit the seitan) lightly with some oil. Pick up your seitan and put it in the middle of the foil then wrap it thoroughly but not too tightly as it will expand as it cooks. Try to have all edges sealed up so it traps the steam in as it cooks. Once done, wrap it again in another piece of foil. This protects it and stops it getting too brown while baking.
- Sit the wrapped seitan on a small baking tray and place in the centre of the oven. Bake for 70 minutes, flipping once half way through the cooking time.
- Leave in the foil and allow to cool. Seitan is best and meatier, when made in advance and refrigerated overnight.
Or sear it in a hot pan while basting with vegan garlic butter or your favorite sauce/marinade. Use tongs to turn it safely. Just be careful with sugary sauces/marinades as they will burn very quickly in the pan. Once golden and gorgeous, pop the skillet in the oven for 15 minutes on 325 °F (160 °C) just to heat the vegan beef through to the centre. IMPORTANT NOTE: When adding beef chunks to sauces like curry, stews etc add them in the last few minutes of the cooking time so they don't get too soft. Storage & freezing Store your vegan beef or leftover vegan beef in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 7 days. It also freezes really well. Wrap the whole vegan beef joint (or the leftovers) thoroughly and freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge.
Nutritional information is provided for convenience. The data is a computer generated estimate and should be used as a guide only.