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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Kentucky fried seitan

March 11-12, 2012
On the long weekend we had time for a more extended cooking session, and Michael was kind enough to humour me with a Kentucky fried seitan project. (You might already know that I have this weird nostalgia for KFC, though my memory of what it actually tastes like is now rather dim.) Michael may himself have perked up at the prospect of mashed potato and gravy on the side. I planned on some leafy greens, too, for the sake of our vege crisper and our health.

Michael's kindness extended to preparing the seitan on Sunday night, using this recipe I'd bookmarked on Yeah, That "Vegan" Shit (originally from Viva Vegan). As he attempted to knead the dough he commented that it seemed too wet and sticky. Lacking much seitan savvy, I assured Michael that Lindyloo and Terry both know their stuff, we should probably follow their orders and he should go ahead and keep jabbing his fingers in it like that, it's how to make gluten strands. We wrapped up and steamed those globs as directed and refrigerated them overnight. Alas they were rather jelly-ish, even once battered and fried, and I barely enjoyed them at all. Baking leftovers later for half an hour provided a bit more chew but this is hardly efficient - I imagine that for the texture I'm after we need to reduce the liquid in the recipe and/or steam the seitan for longer.

We fared better with the crumbing on Monday though I was less loyal to the recipe, which I found on vegansaurus. I reduced the amount of salt involved and instead of adding powdered tomato soup mix to the crumbing, I mixed some tomato paste into the dipping liquid. This worked out fine, except that the gelatinous seitan nuggets, slimy with pink batter, bore a disturbing resemblance to raw diced chicken. (Blergh.) Failing to read properly (or at all), I didn't grind up the herbs and spices, nor did I double-dip my seitan. The texture of my batter was fine anyway, though perhaps not very KFC-y. Yet it was all still really salty! So long as there's stock powder involved, the straight-up salt probably isn't needed at all.

We ended up with lots of crumbing to spare, so I dusted up some tofu squares a few days later and rather liked those. I'll chalk this Kentucky fried seitan project up as a useful pilot study. Next time I'll use firm tofu, no salt, try double-dipping with the batter and I reckon I'll come close to something that's finger lickin' good.

Kentucky fried seitan
(slightly adapted from this recipe at vegansaurus)

1 quantity of this seitan "chicken", chopped into nugget-sized pieces
vegetable oil for frying (dry/shallow/deep as you wish)

1 tablespoon ground sage
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon rosemary
1 tablespoon oregano
1 teaspoon marjoram
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 1/2 teaspoons thyme
1 tablespoon salt (I'll skip this in future)
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
3 tablespoons dried parsley
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons "chicken" stock powder
1 cup plain flour

3 tablespoons no-egg powder
4 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup soy milk

In a small-medium bowl, combine all the crumbing ingredients except for the plain flour. If you want a smooth batter, grind them to a fine powder in a food processor. Stir in the plain flour and transfer the flour to a shallow bowl.

In a small bowl, gradually whisk the water into the no-egg powder to form a smooth paste. Stir in the tomato paste, vegetable oil and soy milk until well mixed.

Heat as much vegetable oil as you want in a frypan or saucepan. Line a tray or plate with absorbent paper.

For each seitan nugget in turn, dip first into the liquid then roll in the herby flour to thoroughly coat. (I use my left hand for the liquid and my right for the flour to keep this marginally tidier.) The original recipe says you should dip each nugget a second time into both the liquid and the flour! I didn't, it's worth a try. When the nugget's well coated, drop it into the hot oil and fry until golden brown, turning it as needed. Transfer cooked nuggets to the paper-lined tray/plate to rest as you continue with the rest of the batch.


  1. Putting aside the torment dolled out to me by Kentucky Fried Chicken in my teens, I agree the tofu seems more akin to it than seitan. I think that you would want to perhaps marinate the tofu a bit. I make tofu nuggets a lot and find the tofu inside can be a little flavourless. Last time I made them I left the tofu in the seasoned dipping milk for a while before starting and I think that helped - though of course the more you press them the more flavour they soak up and I am not very rigourous at pressing.

    1. Thanks for this marinating idea, Johanna! I'll keep it in mind.

  2. Oooh, I see a Saturday night feast of mash, gravy and spicy battered tofu in my future! (and maybe even a salad on the side :)) We have a KFC at the end of our street and the smell makes my mouth water all the time - even though just the thought of actually eating it makes me feel ill ...

    1. CheezyK, I think I would similarly be very unimpressed if I actually returned to eating the real thing!

  3. The closest thing I"ve ever had to something as delicious as KFC (but not really the same), was the panko-crusted cutlets from Vegan Diner. They are *so* worth the effort (which isn't actually that much). They're amazing.

    1. Mattheworbit - oh, don't tempt me further to buy that book! What were the cutlets made from? Seitan, tofu, something else...?

  4. I just found out this blog and love it. I've been exploring a lot of vegetarian and vegan friendly restaurants here in the US as well. It's always an adventure and I'm often amazed with the new flavors I discover. Thanks for posting! :)

  5. I reckon seitan can be tricky to get right. I had a similar jelly-ish experience with one of Vegan Dad's hot wings recipes last year, the boys didn't mind them but I found it a bit gross to eat. I haven't made the white seitan from Viva Vegan but the red seitan turns out a bit softer than other seitan recipes I have tried.

    During recipe testing I found it interesting that a tester from the UK said that the gluten flour they get over there doesn't require as much liquid as the US recipes state which has made me wonder if our gluten flour is similar. I have been reducing the liquid by about 1/4 cup recently which gives it a firmer texture.

    1. Mel - thanks for sharing your own seitan-making experiences. I have never been confident about the gluten flour/vital wheat gluten correspondence and it looks like there is some variation from country to country. I'll go easy on the liquid in future!