Making Ground Seitan- Frugal Vegan Hamburger Alternative

Ever since I bought my 50 pounds of vital wheat gluten, seitan has become a bit of a staple in my house. Seitan from scratch is a little time consuming (and I'll have to do a cost comparison to compare its cost to seitan from vital wheat gluten, but it might work out cheaper), but with vital wheat gluten, I'm able to make up a recipe in a snap and use it to make all sorts of low cost "meaty" dishes, from sloppy Joes to "meat" lasagna to rice-a-roni to wontons to tacos to stuffed peppers.
 I even use ground seitan to cut the cost of my ground meat by mixing them together (while the meat is raw), bringing the price of the hamburger down by 46% when I mix it half, half! (If you only mix 1/3 ground seitan with 2/3 ground meat, the price comes down by 31%.)

Making Ground Seitan

Any cooked seitan can be made into ground seitan, but I chose to make it this way to keep it as simple as possible, and it takes the least amount of time, making it much less of a hassle to make.)
2 cups vital wheat gluten
1.5 cups water
1/4 cup soy sauce
6 cups water
2 teaspoons salt

1. Mix vital wheat gluten and 1.5 cups of water on a container. If you find it isn't enough water to make a uniform dough, add another quarter cup of water at a time until you've mixed it all together. Let sit for 5 minutes.

2. In a pressure cooker, combine 6 cups of water with soy sauce and salt. Break seitan into smaller chunks (this will allow it to cook faster) and put them in the liquid.

3. Bring pressure cooker to pressure, and then cook for 20 minutes.
4. Cool the pressure cooker (either by running cold water over the lid, or letting it sit) and open.
5. Take out the seitan chunks and put into a collander. They will be much more spongy than if you make them the usual way, but that's fine- it'll be ground anyhow.

6. Press the seitan chunks to remove as much water as possible. (Pressure cooker seitan tends to be on the water logged side.)
7. Put the seitan chunks into your food processor and whiz until it reaches the consistency you like. I like mine on the larger side, but you can make them however you like them.

8. Use your seitan however you want!

Yeild: approximately 1 pound, 14 ounces of ground seitan.

As for a price breakdown:
I buy my vital wheat gluten in 25 kilo bags. That's a 55 pound bag. I pay $3.78 per kilogram, or $1.72 per pound of dry vital wheat gluten.
To figure out the price of the ground seitan, you multiply the price of the wheat gluten ($1.72) by 0.34, making the price per pound of ground seitan be a mere 58 cents per pound!
Remember my chart where I figured out the true cost of meat? The true price of cooked ground meat (once defrosted and fat strained off) is 1.66 times the stated price, making the $4.38 per pound ground meat here really cost $7.27 per pound!
Comparing that to the 58 cents per pound for ground seitan- its a no brainer- it costs 92% less!

Now of course the numbers where you live will probably be different. But just looking at prices for vital wheat gluten- if you buy from Bob's Red Mill, you'll be paying $4.11 per pound of vital wheat gluten, which makes the cost of ground seitan to be $1.39 per pound.
If you buy it in bulk from through Honeyville Grain, vital wheat gluten will cost you $2.48 per pound, and the ground seitan will cost you $0.84 per pound.
I'm sure shopping around can find you even cheaper vital wheat gluten per pound.

Now before you decide that that isn't cheap enough, remember not to compare the price of the ground seitan to the price you pay for raw ground meat- because from my experience, 40% of the weight of ground meat gets cooked off, making the true price of ground meat be their listed price multiplied by 1.66, so unless you're able to get meat for 83 cents per pound (or 50 cents per pound, if you're comparing to bulk bought vital wheat gluten) or less, the ground seitan works out to be significantly cheaper than ground meat.

Ground seitan is very versatile. It's freezer friendly, much healthier than adulterated soy bean (aka TVP flakes), has a mild but agreeable flavor and absorbs flavors easily, is relatively quick to make, and did I mention, it has the same texture as ground beef? Oh, and that its got a lot of protein as well? (21% protein, in case you were wondering specifics. By comparison, ground meat crumbles has 28% protein.)
Seitan sloppy Joes
Oh, and did I mention it's meat free, which is a benefit for anyone from vegetarians to vegans to economic vegetarians to people cutting their meat consumption for environmental reasons to people cutting their meat consumption for health reasons to people who for whatever reason want to make a dish meat free?
Just a note- this is NOT a recipe you should be making if you're in any way gluten intolerant.

I'm off to eat my ground seitan sloppy Joes.

Have you ever made ground seitan? Do you think this post would convince you to try?
If you've ever bought vital wheat gluten, how much do you pay per pound?
How much do you pay for ground meat usually? How much when it is on sale?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. I am definitely going to try this. And I am also going to start following your blog because your information is relevant to the times.

  2. Great idea, can't wait to try!!!

  3. I make seitan in my pressure cooker but roll in in a log and wrap in in cheesecloth tying the ends. I wait for the water to boil then put in my seitan cook for 25 minutes and let the pressure come down naturally. Then slice and it is not soggy. I fry the slices and use the ends for ground seitan.

  4. I make seitan in my pressure cooker by rolling it in a log wrapping it in cheesecloth and tie the ends with kitchen twine. I wait for the water to boil put in my seitan put on the lid and lock it. When it comes to pressure I lower the heat and cook about 25 minutes then let the pressure come down naturally, let it cool and slice it for frying.It is firm and not soggy this way.I use the ends for ground seitan for spaghetti sauce.

  5. Great post. is there a way to do this without a pressure cooker? i just have an oven and range ....

  6. I've cooked mine in pressure cooker on top of pan with holes in it and steam, comes out firm &good !.

  7. This is so great! I used barebob's cooking method and a no-salt soy substitute. It's not that tasty but was so quick and easy. Will be great both ground and sliced up. Thanks!

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