Vegan Seitan Butter Chicken
Yes, you read the title correctly and no, this is not a drill. I’ve been experimenting with my Vegan Butter Chicken recipe for a VERY long time. After dozens of iterations, I’m finally ready and so excited to share it with you.
There were multiple components to get right here; the seitan chicken needed to be firm, pullable and flavoursome without being overpowering or overly spiced. The colour needed to be light inside, not brown. Next, the sauce. Perfect Butter Chicken sauce is the holy grail of modern North Indian cooking and everyone has their own way of doing it. It’s one of the most popular restaurant dishes around the world because of its subtlety and simplicity and it’s not always easy to find that balance.
For me, the tomato sauce has to be silky smooth, lightly spiced, a little bit sour but with a touch of sweetness too. I like using aromatic spices in small quantities – it makes all the difference increamy curries. In my Vegan Butter Chicken, you can pick out heady cardamom, citrusy coriander seeds and caramel-like kasoori methi whilst still enjoying a mild curry the whole family will love.
From start to finish, the dish might seem like a labour of love and that’s because it absolutely is. The stages include mixing the seitan “dough”, pressure cooking it, chilling it overnight, making the Vegan Butter Chicken base sauce and blending it before finally simmering everything together.
I’ve switched the butter in my Vegan Butter Chicken with almond butter which lends a rich, creamy texture to the fresh tomato sauce. You could also use cashew butter if you prefer that. A touch of coconut milk mellows out the spices and finishes the dish perfectly. I’d highly recommend using a high-powered blender, such a NutriBullet to blend the sauce. For the silkiest sauce possible and a true restaurant-style Butter Chicken finish, pass the sauce through a sieve or food mill to strain away unwanted tomato seeds and skin, as well as any coarse spices. You don’t want rogue spices ruining your heavenly Vegan Butter Chicken experience.
If like me, you need a Vegan Butter Chicken experience once a week, you can always double up on quantities and stow it away in the freezer to assemble later. I always keep seitan pieces in a ziplock-type bag in the freezer (you can keep it frozen for up to 3 months). You can also freeze sauce portions. The sauce can also be used for other curries, such as butter tofu or mixed veggies. The protein-packed seitan pieces are great in stir fries, salads, pasta and wraps if you’d like to try something different with them. I’ll be posting some other recipes using it soon.
Kudos goes to the brilliant Skye Michael Conroy and The Seitan Appreciation Society on Facebook who are generous enough to share their wonderful passion, tips and recipes. The addition of beans to this recipe was inspired by the Avocados and Ales Chickwheat recipe. Thank you.
I’m so excited to share this with you. I hope you love it as much as I do. Let me know if you make it, I’d love to hear how you got on.
Vegan Seitan Chicken
This firm, textured vegan chicken is packed with protein and goodness. It’s made using tofu, beans and the magic ingredient… vital wheat gluten. Cube it, shred it and slice it for curries, stir fries, pasta, salad and wraps.
For the vegan seitan chicken
- 300 g extra-firm tofu ((drained))
- 1 400g tin haricot beans, inc. the liquid from the tin ((you can also use any other white beans, such as cannellini beans or butter beans))
- 150 g vital wheat gluten ((I buy mine on Amazon))
- 150 ml cold water
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 2 tsp white miso paste ((you can also use 1 tsp MSG if you can tolerate it))
- 1 tsp fine salt
- 3 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil
In a high-powered blender, combine the tofu, haricot beans in their liquid, miso paste (or msg), salt, nutritional yeast, oil and water until you have a smooth paste.
Add the vital wheat gluten to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the tofu mixture and mix on a low speed until the two come together in the form of a dough.
Switch the paddle attachment to a dough hook and mix on a medium/high speed for 10-12 minutes. Stay close by as the mixer may shuffle across the counter top as the dough is tough to work. You’ll also need to be very careful your mixer’s motor doesn’t burn out. This kneading of the dough is crucial in developing the gluten and proteins in the seitan and shouldn’t be skipped. The longer and harder you work it, the more fibrous and chicken-like the final product will be. I wouldn’t recommend doing it by hand as your arms might threaten to fall off. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger would struggle, seriously. Having said this, you can create seitan kneading by hand – it will not however, have a shreddable, “pulled” quality and you’ll finish up with a spongy end product instead. It’ll still taste good but probably won’t fool your meat-eating friends.
Once your seitan has been kneaded long and hard, remove it from the mixer and cut it in half so you have two pieces. Wrap each “loaf” very tightly in 3-4 layers of heavy-duty foil. You want it to be nice and compact inside to stop it expanding inside as this will promote sponginess rather than the shreddable texture we’re after. The multiple layers of foil will also stop water getting inside.
Next, fill a pressure cooker with plenty of water (about 3/4 of the way full) and bring to a boil. Carefully drop your seitan into the cooker and put the lid on. Cook on a medium/high heat for 40 minutes. Once the time is up, switch off the heat and leave it to cool completely. If your pressure cooker is too small to hold both parcels, you’ll need to cook them separately.
Once cool, remove the seitan parcels from the cooker and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or up to 48 hours.
Unwrap and check out that amazing texture when you pull it apart. Your seitan is now ready to cube, shred or slice, season and use in your favourite vegan chicken recipe.
- You can freeze the seitan pieces in a ziplock-style bag for up to 3 months. Defrost at room temperature, keep refrigerated and use within 48 hours.
Vegan Seitan Butter Chicken
I’ve veganized one of North India’s most famous curries, Butter Chicken. Also known as Murgh Makhani, it’s known for having a lusciously-smooth and aromatic sauce laced with mild, fragrant spices. Seitan pieces replace the chicken in this recipe for a high-protein main course that pairs perfectly with roti, laccha paratha or garlic naan.
- 1 kg seitan ((cubed))
- 3 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil
For the seitan chicken marinade:
- 1 1/2 tsp Kashmiri red chilli powder ((you could also use paprika for a milder flavour))
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 2 tsp garlic ((minced))
- 2 tsp ginger ((minced))
- 1 tsp fennel seeds ((ground))
- 150 ml full-fat coconut milk
For the vegan butter chicken sauce:
- 1 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil
- 1 large onion ((chopped))
- 1 tbsp garlic ((chopped))
- 1 tbsp ginger ((chopped))
- 1/4 tsp nigella seeds
- 2-3 thin red chillies ((chopped))
- 1 tbsp concentrated tomato paste
- 400 g fresh tomatoes ((chopped))
- 1 tbsp ground coriander seeds
- 2 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp ground cardamom seeds
- 1 tbsp smooth almond butter
- 200 ml full-fat coconut milk
- 2 tsp kasoori methi ((rubbed between your palms until fine))
- 1 tbsp light brown sugar or agave
- Salt ((to taste))
- 2 tbsp fresh coriander ((chopped))
To marinate the seitan pieces:
Combine the ingredients for the seitan marinade until smooth. Add the seitan chicken pieces and gently mix until coated. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan and carefully add the seitan chicken pieces. Cook until golden on all sides. You might need to do this in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan. Place the pieces onto a plate and set aside whilst you make the sauce.
To make the vegan butter chicken sauce:
Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan. Add the nigella seeds and chopped onion. Sauté until translucent. Next, add in the ginger, garlic, chillies and tomato paste. Cook for 2 minutes.
Add in the fresh tomatoes, ground coriander seeds, garam masala, ground cardamom seeds, almond butter, coconut milk, kasoori methi and brown sugar or agave. Give everything a thorough stir and cover with a lid. Cook for 10-15 minutes on a medium heat. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Transfer the tomato mixture to a blender and blend until very smooth. Strain the mixture through a sieve, back into the same pan. Season with salt to taste. Switch the heat back on and add the golden seitan chicken pieces. Bring to a gentle boil and simmer for 5 minutes with the lid on. Garnish with fresh coriander, more kasoori methi and a splash of coconut milk, if desired.
- You can freeze the sauce for up to 3 months. Defrost and room temperature, keep refrigerated and use within 48 hours.
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