If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, you’re familiar with “tastes-like” chicken, beef or turkey products — often made of seitan. Lovingly known as “wheat meat,” seitan is made from the gluten, a protein, found in wheat. Gluten is rather bland on its own, but flavorings such as soy sauce, nutritional yeast, ginger, garlic and kombu — a type of seaweed — give it a hefty, meaty flavor. Whether you have purchased a package from your local health food store, or toiled in the kitchen to make your own, you can keep it long term in the freezer with no significant change in taste or texture.
Homemade seitan can be kept in the refrigerator three to four days; purchased products have an expiration date printed on the package — usually about two weeks from purchase. If you’ve got a batch that you’d like to keep beyond these deadlines, freezing is a natural alternative. It’s so effective, some stores keep seitan in the freezer section. Commercial seitan can be placed in the freezer in its packaging. Freezing homemade or opened packages of seitan is a snap.
Step 1: Divide It
Separate the seitan into portions suitable for individual meals so you don’t have to thaw more than you need in any given sitting.
Step 2: Cool It
If you’ve made homemade seitan, cool it to room temperature or refrigerated before freezing.
Step 3: Wrap It
Wrap the cutlets or pieces in plastic wrap, then in aluminum foil. Place the seitan in zip top bags or plastic containers suitable for the freezer. If you’ve got chunks or crumbles of seitan, simply place them into a freezer bag or plastic container and pop in the freezer.
Prepared seitan dishes also freeze well. Simply place into a well-fitting, sealed container and freeze.
Step 4: Use It
Thaw seitan before using. Simply allow it to sit in the refrigerator for an hour or two. Seitan crumbles thaw much more quickly than cutlets.
For quicker thawing, place frozen seitan — still in its package — in a bowl of cool water until thawed.
Keep seitan frozen for as long as six months. An alternative way to freeze seitan is in a sealed container, topped with vegetable or “not chicken” broth. The broth method is best for seitan you plan to use for sautes or casseroles, not deep frying or baking.