Instant Pot Seitan “Philly Cheesesteak”

Seitan is a seriously underrated food, and I’m starting to understand why. For all of its nutritional punch (75g of protein per 100g of seitan, basically a protein shake in delicious food form), it’s not readily available in stores (and when it is, it’s incredibly overpriced), and making it from scratch is daunting.

First of all: What is seitan? Seitan is a meat substitute that is basically steamed bread, just with everything but the protein removed. That might sound scary, but early renditions of seitan were made by soaking and kneading bread in water until only the high protein component remained. Nowadays, you can just buy vital wheat gluten flour, which does most of the work for you.

Because it’s made kind of like bread dough, it’s very easy to season and soaks up a lot of flavor during cooking. Besides that, cooked well it’s tender, chewy, and a great substitute for most meats. I especially like it lightly pan fried so that its edges get crispy, which is a version I’m going to share with you today!

Typically, to cook seitan, you need to steam or boil it for at least an hour. I’ve made it this way a few times in the past, and while it always turns out well, having an instant pot or pressure cooker can greatly accelerate this process. I used my instant pot for all but the last step of this recipe, though I recon you can use is for the entire recipe if you only want to dirty one pot total.

While this recipe is for a “philly cheesesteak” (all in quotes because it contains neither cheese nor steak…oh and I’ve never actually tried a philly cheesesteak (but I can promise regardless of authenticity that you will love it)), I want you to dream bigger!

At the heart of it, this recipe contains a method for easily cooking seitan in an instant pot. What the seitan is used for is completely up to you! Glaze it with terriyaki and serve it with sushi rice? Japanese(ish) terriyaki “beef’. Brine it in a beet and vinegar mixture? It’s reuben time! Add it to curry? Delicious vegan beef curry. If you’ve noticed, I’ve used it as beef in all of the substitutions, and I think that works well because of it’s amber color. I have yet to make “chicken” seitan, but you betcha that’s next.

Generally when you make seitan, you cook it by boiling it in broth, which in this case of the instant pot means pressure cooking it in broth. The leftover broth can be reused in any recipe calling for broth, but in the case of these sandwiches, I add sliced onions and a dash of maple syrup and reduce it down to a thick jam which is used to glaze the seitan slices. Seriously delicious.

One of the complaints I’ve heard about seitan is that it can be dry, which is a totally valid observation. I’m not a huge proponent of serving seitan plain, but a little sauce or glaze can make all the difference. By itself, you’re probably never going to mistake it for meat, but it fills the niche wonderfully.

As a side note, I’ve met various people who’ve asked “why do vegans try to replicate meat/eggs/milk? If they’re vegan, shouldn’t they just stick with naturally vegan foods?”. I can’t speak for all people who eat vegan, but I do think this question is important nevertheless. My answer is, in general, people don’t become vegan because they don’t like the taste of meat, they made the transition to a plant based diet for ethical, and/or environmental, reasons. For people who are used to eating meat at most meals, meat substitutes can fill the same niche that other plant based protein sources don’t emulate as well.

The last part of the philly cheesesteak–the cheese–is a recipe I’m still playing around with and hope to share soon. It’s a deliciously gooey mozzarella based off of this recipe. While my rendition is still a work in progress, in the meanwhile I highly recommend Violife or Chao cheese slices. While Violife melts the best, is only available in select stores in the US, so Chao or Daiya are good as well. And if you’re trying to avoid cheese substitutes altogether, this sandwich is also truly delicious without it. I’m a total sucker for the taste and texture of caramelized seitan, and this recipe really hits the mark.

Luke and I both loved this recipe (we made it once, exclaimed “oh my god, so good”, and prompted made it again the next weekend) so I hope you will too! He had never made seitan before, and I had only made it a few times in the past using the traditional boiling method, I think both of us were surprised by how easily the recipe came together.

While I think both Luke and I could eat these sandwiches for every (and any) meal, we also decided to use some of the seitan and gooey mozzarella to make “steak” pizza, and wow, what a great decision that was. While we ate that pizza too fast to photograph, I’m definitely planning to make it again so that I can share the recipe.

I hope you’ll try out this recipe and let me know what you think!

P.S. I think I’ve posted way too many chocolate chip cookies already, but last weekend I was in New York and tried a chocolate chip pecan cookie at By Chloe. It was so good that as soon as I got home, I immediately started googling copycat recipes. Hopefully I’ll have perfected and be able to share that one soon!

Seitan “Cheese”steaks

I find this recipe makes the perfect amount of food for 2 people (4 servings total), but I would double if you’re serving more than 3 hungry people, or, if you’re using a 6 quart instant pot. I used my 3 quart (smaller) instant pot for this recipe. Also, having an instant pot speeds up the seitan cooktime, but is by no means necessary!


Seitan

Cooking broth (double if using a 6 quart instapot)

Caramelized Onions

Sautéed Peppers and Mushrooms

For Serving

  1. In a bowl, combine all the seitan ingredients besides the vital wheat gluten.
  2. Add the vital wheat gluten and stir together with a spoon until a ball of dough forms.

3. Knead the vital wheat gluten for about 3-5 minutes, or until feels dense and is not sticky to the touch. Shape into an oval, and set aside while you prepare its broth.

4. Set your instant pot to “sauteé” and add the broth ingredients. I used my 3 quart instantpot and found 3 cups of liquid was perfect, however I would double the broth ingredients if using the regular 6 quart size. The liquid won’t completely submerge the seitan ball, but that’s alright.

5. Set your instant pot to “manual” or “pressure cook” (identical settings) for 25 minutes. Allow it to natural release for 10 minutes (let it relax for 10 minutes after the 25 minute timer finishes), and then quick release any remaining pressure. Remove the seitan from the broth and set aside to cool. Once no longer hot, set aside and cover with plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out. Note: If you don’t have an instapot, boil the seitan in a covered pan for 1 hour, flipping occassionally. The rest of the recipe is the same.

6. If you doubled the broth recipe, measure out 2 cups to keep in the instant pot. Any excess can be used for any recipe calling for vegetable broth.

7. Add the onion, shiitake mushrooms, and maple syrup to the instant pot. Set to “sauteé” and cook until the onions are thick and jam-like, and nearly all the liquid has evaporated. This step took 35 minutes for me, but for the most part I only had to stir it towards the end.

8. Remove the reduced onion mixture from the instant pot and set aside.

9. Add a tablespoon of oil into the instant pot, and add the sliced crimini mushrooms. Cook until no longer watery.

10 .Add the red bell pepper, and continue cooking until soft. Set the mushroom and bell peppers aside.

11. Cut the seitan into thin slices. In this case, the thinner the better. I used a sharp knife to achieve this but I’m curious if a mandolin might also work.

12. In a large sauce pan (alternatively, you can use the instantpot, but I wanted a larger cooking surface), heat up 2 tablespoons of oil. Fry the seitan slices until their edges are brown and crispy.

13. Add the reduced onion mixture to the seitan slices, and continue cooking until the slices are well glazed.

14. To serve, spread the hoagie buns with a thin layer of vegan mayonnaise. If desired, broil for a minute or two to toast. Top with seitan pieces, bell peppers and mushrooms, and a slice or drizzle of vegan cheese. I used a vegan mozzarella recipe that I will share soon!

15. Take a big bite, sigh contentedly, and enjoy!

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