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amazing seitan burgers

June 2, 2013

Makes 6 burgers
Prep time: 45 minutes

Seitan burger main picVeg*ns everywhere: if you ever had one of those shameful dreams about eating a greasy meat cheeseburger, and woke up feeling all dirty and wrong, then this recipe will ensure you never have to go there again.  They’re healthy, they’re chewy, the texture’s spot on, they’re amazingly tasty, and they’re animal-free to boot.  Hurrah!

I know that burger taste preference among veg*ns is an intensely personal thing.  It can become a bit of a sensitive area: I’ve seen several debates online where vegans have taken issue with the idea that veggie burgers should be judged by how well they resemble their meaty counterparts.  I get the politics of it, really I do.  Which is why I haven’t called this a veggie burger.  It’s not a veggie burger.  It’s a seitan burger.

(Incidentally, my personal favourite veggie burger is this one, by Angela Liddon at Oh She Glows.  It’s bloody lovely!)

I had the idea for these burgers when I made merguez sausages the other week, using the technique made famous by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, which is to roll pieces of seitan into tinfoil and steam them – the seitan expands in the heat and forms a satisfyingly uniform sausage shape.  I wondered if you could do the same kind of thing with patty shapes, to make similarly toothsome burgers.  Well, it turns out you can.

The technique is this: form your burgers, sandwich them between two baking trays lined with tinfoil, then bake in the oven.  When they emerge they are ready to be finished off however you prefer.  Frying or griddling works brilliantly.  I can’t wait to try them on the barbecue!

Seitan burger with accompaniments

How do you eat yours? With vegan cheese, ketchup, mayo, lettuce, red onion and avocado

The basic recipe is a complete rip-off of Isa‘s but I altered the flavourings to get that tinny, iron-rich taste.  You could change it however you wanted, adding harissa or chipotle for example, as long as you keep the basic ratio of dry and wet (don’t omit the oil though, unless you want your burgers tinfoil-plated).

The great thing about this recipe is that you get to control the thickness of the burgers, depending how heavy the topmost baking tray is.  The seitan has got so much body that, if you want, you can easily achieve ultra-thin patties that closely resemble those you can buy in certain popular fast food burger outlets that shall remain nameless 😉 without the slightest risk of them falling apart.

So, without further ado, here is my technique for amazing seitan burgers.  Just in time for summer too.

Seitan burger, side view

Amazing Seitan Burgers

Vital wheat gluten, 1 1/4 cups
Nutritional yeast, 1/4 cup
Vegetable stock, 1 cup
White beans such as cannellini, 1/2 cup
Tomato ketchup, 1 tbsp
Olive oil, 2 tbsp, plus extra for frying
Soy sauce, 2 tbsp
Capers, 1 heaped tbsp, finely chopped
Garlic, one large clove, crushed
Herbes de Provence, 1 tsp
Smoked paprika, 1/2 tsp
Black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Get out two big bowls.  Tip the beans into one bowl and mash with a fork until no whole ones are left.  Add the vegetable stock, ketchup, 2 tbsp of olive oil, soy sauce, capers and garlic.  Stir to combine.

Into the other bowl tip the vital wheat gluten, nutritional yeast, dried herbs, paprika and pepper.  Stir to combine.

Pour the wet into the dry and give it a good stir, then a good knead, for 1-2 minutes.  The dough will be quite wet and loose.

Tip onto a chopping board and cut in half, then cut each half into thirds, so you have six equal pieces.

Take your first baking tray and lay a sheet of tinfoil on it.  Take a piece of seitan and roll it into a ball.  Lay it on the tinfoil and squash it slightly – remember that it will flatten and expand considerably during cooking, so don’t overdo it, especially if you’re going to be using something heavy on top.

Do the same for another two pieces, so you have three on the tray with plenty of space between them.  Don’t be tempted to crowd more on otherwise they will all join up during cooking and you will end up with one big rectangular burger.

Lay another piece of tinfoil over the burgers, then gently lay your second baking tray on top.  If you want thin burgers, use something cast iron.  If you want thicker ones then use a light aluminium tray or sheet.

If you have a million baking trays hanging around your kitchen you may be able to bake all six at the same time.  Personally I only own two baking trays, so I cooked mine in two batches.  You could try adding a second layer of burgers on top of tray two, so you’d only need one extra tray, but bear in mind that it all adds to the weight and you may get thinner burgers on the bottom layer than you bargained for.

Gently slide your tray sandwich into the oven and bake for 20 minutes.  When the burgers emerge they may have stuck to the tinfoil – that’s fine, just wait until they’ve cooled a bit and they should come away smoothly.

You can freeze these as they are, or you can get on with finishing them off in your chosen fashion – I used a cast iron griddle as you can see from the pics.

All you need to do is fry them in a small amount of olive oil over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes each side, until crispy and totally gorgeous.  This will give you the exact texture you are looking for, I promise.

Serve in a fluffy bun with all your favourite accompaniments.

Seitan burger, bitten

  1. I have to admit that sometimes I just want a burger patty that acts like it’s meat alternative. That’s where seitan comes in. It gives that all-together meat feel that a regular patty has minus the moo. Love this recipe, love Isa, love the world when I can make something like this 🙂 Cheers for a great idea for “what’s for tea tonight?” I get to do this every day because what you posted yesterday, is in my inbox this morning 🙂 Talk about personalised service girl! 😉

  2. Jennie you are an absolute genius, I will have to try these ASAP (not today though as we still have a couple of merguez sausages in the fridge). I just need to figure out a way of making the same recipe into meatballs, that would be amazing.

    • Thanks MrsVeg! I have been eating these all week (including all the not-quite-right ones I made while testing the recipe – waste not want not I say!)

  3. Monique permalink

    Wow!!!!! My second batch is in the oven now, and I can’t stop nibbling from one of the patties that is cooling off. Looking forward to supper!!! Thank you!!!

  4. Monique permalink

    My absolute favorite burger!!!!! So easy to make but so hard to stop eating the first batch while the second one is in the oven!!!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!!!!

  5. Monique permalink

    OK, I feel super silly right now!!! I just noticed that I already sent you a comment about these fabulous burgers. How embarrassing! 🙂 🙂 🙂

  6. Steven permalink

    I just have to salute you, these are the greatest vegan burgers. Thank you so much for sharing.

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