Seitan (say-TAHN), lovingly called “Buddha’s Food”, has originated from the diets of Chinese Buddhist monks who were looking for meat alternatives other than tofu. It is said that they were making dough out of wheat and water when they noticed that the starch from the water-dough mixture turned a texture more similar to meat.* It has been around Asia for a long time, even called “Mock Duck” in Asian grocery stores in the US, but only started becoming popular among Americans due to the discovery made by the macrobiotic diet community (a community dedicated to eating whole, organic, and season-based foods).** It’s made from whole wheat gluten and is very high in protein but low in carbs and fat.***
Similar to the döner kebabs of Turkey and shawarma of the Middle East, what distinguishes gyro meat is that it is made from minced meat that is slow roasted into a loaf and shaved off and wrapped in pita. It is claimed that gyros became popular in the US in the 1960s, when a Greek restaurant owner started serving gyros in Chicago. By the 70s, they were being mass produced to be roasted on rotiserries to meet the demand for this flavorful and exotic dish. Kronos, the world’s largest manufacturer of gyro meat, claims that it’s the pressure and temperature that makes the meat stay in a solid mass, rather than falling apart.****
Chopping and mixing: 20 minutes
Cooking: 1 hour
- 1c Vital Wheat Gluten
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp thyme
- 1 tsp dry parsley
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp rosemary
- 1/2 yellow onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 5 3/4 cups vegetable broth
- 3 tsp soy sauce/paste
- 1 tsp chili sesame oil
- fresh pita bread/pockets
- fresh spinach/lettuce leaves
- diced tomatos
- plain, greek yoghurt
- lemon juice
- baba ghanouj
- pickles, pickled banana peppers (optional)
- slices red onion
- feta cheese
First, preheat your oven to 400F.
Then, in a pot, add in 5c of vegetable broth (leave the other 3/4 for later), and the minced garlic and chopped onion into a pot on medium high heat to bring to a boil.
In a large bowl, mix the wheat gluten, garlic powder, oregano, thyme, dry parsley, cumin, paprika, and rosemary. I use this wheat gluten:
In a separate bowl, mix 3/4c vegetable broth with hot chili sesame oil and soy sauce/paste.
Slowly mix the liquid mixure into the bowl of wheat gluten and spices until you get a firm, elastic-like ball. It will look lumpy, but that is how it is supposed to look.
Keep mixing until you get this:
Shape it into the shape you want it to be, usually a loaf shape, so you can make slices out of it. The mixture will be stiff, so don’t be afraid to get a little rough with it to get the shape you want.
Then, once the broth is boiling, put your loaf in the boiling broth and let boil for 45 minutes. Halfway through, you will need to flip it.
This is what mine looked like after the 45 minute mark:
Then, once you are done boiling it, put it in a dish with 2 tbsp of the veggie broth from the pot and put the loaf in and bake for about 15 minutes. This will make it a little more crisp on the outside and juicy on the inside. This is after baking:
And then I sliced it:
And then, before serving, I pan fried a few slices for my gyro, so it would be crispy but tender in the middle:
And then it’s time to assemble the gyro:
Should I buy local or organic?
The wheat gluten is hard to find, so buying Non-GMO is the best I could do. Also, it is the only brand I could find near my area. Garlic and onion can be bought locally, but otherwise, do the cheapest option.
The spinach leaves you can find locally at the farmer’s market, but if using lettuce, I recommend just buying organic.
Go to your local Mediterranean/Arab store for freshly made pita bread. In Raleigh, NC, there is a restaurant called Neomonde’s and they are local and make the best pita I have ever had! Over there you could also pick up hummus, baba ghanouj and any other sides you want to add.
How many does it serve?
This recipe makes one large loaf of seitan that can be thinly sliced and serve many people when making gyros. I would say it could feed up to 5-6 people.
What does this pair well with?
Seitan gyros pair well with any greek/lebanese/mediterranean side dishes. My favorites are hummus, baba ghanouj, a turkish dip called ezme, and tabouleh…oh and FRENCH FRIES- this is fusion, afterall.
How long can it last?
Seitan can last for weeks in the fridge, but I recommend slicing thinly and freezing it for when you want it- it will last way longer. When using it from the freezer, let it defrost, and then pan fry to make it crispy.