If you’ve ever tried to cut down your meat intake or looked for a delicious meat alternative you’ve probably tried out seitan or “wheat meat” as it’s also colloquially known. But despite being made from wheat flour, seitan bears no resemblance to flour or bread. When cooked, seitan takes on a startling resemblance to meat in terms of appearance and feel, which is why it’s such a great option as a meat alternative – particularly for those that have a hard time reducing their meat consumption.
Whether you use it to make seitan chicken, vegan steak, or fancy trying a seitan roast – it’s super versatile.
However, one drawback of seitan is that it’s usually quite expensive. So, when you find a good deal on it it’s not much of a surprise if you snag up a bunch of it! Of course, it’s not expensive if you make your own homemade seitan. But, what happens if you make or buy too much? What do you do with all of that seitan before it goes bad? Can you freeze seitan? Yes, you can!
Read on for everything you need to know about freezing this versatile meat substitute.
Can You Freeze Seitan?
Yup, you can definitely freeze seitan. And you’re not limited to just fully cooked or prepared seitan. You can freeze it in pretty much every form!
You can freeze raw seitan dough, cooked seitan, or seitan that’s already been incorporated into a dish.
So, you don’t need to worry about it going to waste if you happened to buy too much of it, or conversely if you happened to make too much of a dish that contains seitan since you can easily freeze it.
How Does Freezing Affect Seitan?
One might think that due to the nature of seitan and the seemingly high water content that it has, that it may not freeze well. Or that freezing seitan would strongly impact the taste and texture of it in a negative way. However, freezing doesn’t affect it too much. Actually, it’s the method of cooking that plays the biggest role in the texture of seitan.
But, it’s not to say that freezing seitan doesn’t have any impact on the texture. Just as when you freeze ‘real’ meats, there is expected to be a slight change. And in the case of seitan, it becomes slightly chewier. This change in texture to make it chewier actually is preferred by some people, however, because it then more closely resembles the texture of meat.
So, unlike other foods, the change in texture may actually be a positive change, which makes seitan somewhat unique in this case. But, the longer you freeze it for, the stronger the changes, which may make it not as enjoyable.
How to Freeze Seitan
As I said before, you can freeze seitan in various forms – homemade, store-bought, or in a dish.
First, I’ll go into how you can freeze homemade and store-bought seitan as the methods can be quite different.
Freezing homemade seitan takes the most effort to freeze compared to if it’s store-bought. Also, how you freeze it depends on if it’s raw or cooked. But both can be frozen. First, let’s look at how you freeze raw seitan.
- First, divide the seitan dough. This step will make your life simpler and easier. Divide your dough into the appropriate pieces and portion sizes for subsequent use (a portion for one or two people etc.). This saves you from having to defrost a large batch and then having to trash whatever you don’t need.
- Then, allow the seitan dough to fully cool. This is a critical step because it ensures that the dough freezes uniformly and fast. Place your pieces on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and store them at room temperature or in the refrigerator. The fridge is the best place as it prevents bacterial growth while it cools.
- Next, wrap each portion in both plastic wrap and then aluminum foil. If you have large cutlets or chunks, wrap each one separately in plastic or saran wrap. If you have smaller bits, chunks, or crumbs, just place them in a freezer-safe resealable plastic bag and lay them flat while freezing to avoid clumping.
- For the big pieces that you wrapped individually, wrap them in an additional layer of aluminum foil for added protection against freezer burn or external smells. If you don’t have a container to put it in, you may write your label information on the foil.
- If you put smaller chunks into a freezer bag then you don’t need to wrap it in aluminum foil as well. However, you could double-bag it for extra protection if you’d like.
- For the big pieces, place the double-wrapped pieces into a freezer-safe bag or container.
- Then, label the bag(s) or container(s) and then place them in the freezer.
If you have already cooked the seitan then you follow the steps above, but instead of separating the dough, you separate the cooked pieces of seitan after allowing them to cool. Then follow all of the other directions above in the same manner.
Freezing store-bought seitan is generally much easier. The amount of work depends mainly on if you want to portion it out first to save on time later on.
If you plan on freezing store-bought seitan in its original packaging, you can place the whole thing directly into the freezer.
However, if you don’t plan on using it all at once, then it’s better to freeze separated portions.
To do this, simply open the package and separate the contents into the desired amount of portions, and put them into freezer-safe bags or containers. Then, label them and put them in the freezer.
How Long Does Seitan Last in the Freezer?
When freezing store-bought seitan, the packaging may only say that you should freeze it for two weeks; however, many customers say that it may be stored for up to six months and still be okay.
That said, this may depend on the brand or storage conditions of the seitan. Regularly inspect your frozen seitan and make your own decisions. You may need to experience some trial and error to figure out how long exactly it works for you.
For home-made raw or cooked seitan, it can last quite a bit longer. If it’s been stored correctly then you can freeze it for about four to six months.
Freezing Prepared Seitan Dishes
Meals containing seitan can usually also freeze nicely, saving you even more time. As a precaution, though, they should be used within one month of freezing, although they can be stored for up to three months.
While they’ll be safe to eat after this, you’ll likely notice more of a change the longer it’s frozen past three months.
Here’s how to freeze dishes containing seitan:
- First, put the dish in a freezer-safe container. The container should be airtight as well as freezer-safe. Before placing the lid on top, place a layer of plastic or saran wrap directly over the surface of the meal.
- Next, cover the container by placing plastic wrap around the entire container. This will keep liquids and sauces from seeping out if the container falls over in the freezer.
- Label the container with the contents and the date you put it in the freezer so you know what’s inside and how long you’ve had it.
- Finally, place it in the freezer. Try to use it within three months.
Alternatively, another way you can freeze prepared seitan is in a broth. You use the same steps above, but you add your cooked seitan to a broth of your choice at the beginning and then follow the steps.
How to Thaw Frozen Seitan
Thawing frozen seitan is super easy. The best way to do it that won’t have any impact on the taste or texture of the seitan is by defrosting it in the fridge.
To do this you simply need to just place the container or containers in the fridge ahead of time to allow it to thaw before you cook it or add it to your dish.
Depending on how big the chunks are, the time it can take to fully defrost ranges from two or three hours, up to seven or eight. I usually just set it in the fridge the night before I plan on using it and don’t have to worry about the exact time or if it’s not going to be fully defrosted.
Alternatively, however, you can sometimes skip the defrosting step altogether depending on what you’re cooking. If you plan on adding it to a soup or stew, then you could even add it directly to the soup while you’re cooking it.
The only thing to be worried about here is that by adding the frozen seitan, you may cool the temperature of the soup or stew, resulting in perhaps a slightly longer cook time.
There are several methods to reheat seitan. But, the most important thing to keep in mind is that whatever technique you choose, be careful to provide moisture as well, since the seitan will dry out if you don’t.
You can easily fry defrosted seitan or you can use any number of other methods that you’d normally use. However, if you steam seitan you can make it softer and fluffier than by other methods like frying or baking. But you shouldn’t feel limited. You can try different methods such s a slow cooker or instant pot and see which one tastes the best for you!
How to Use Seitan After Freezing
Using seitan after freezing doesn’t have as much to do with the freezing component as it does with how you prepared the seitan. As I said, you can use seitan pretty much in any way you want after it’s been frozen. However, the size and shape of the seitan can determine the best ways it should be used – or at least, my personal preferences.
Sliced seitan is great in stir-fries, curries, and soups. You also can’t beat a delicious seitan steak! On the other hand, crumbled seitan makes for an excellent addition to a vegan bolognese sauce, as well as a host of other vegan recipes that call for a meat substitute.
Can You Refreeze Seitan?
It’s technically safe to refreeze seitan if it hasn’t been sitting out at room temperature, but I would not recommend doing it because it might make the texture of it change more drastically. Don’t take the chance of ruining the seitan and avoid refreezing it if you can.
How to Tell if Seitan Has Gone Bad
It can be tricky to tell if seitan has gone bad.
But the most obvious is the appearance of mold and/or a bad smell.
As a rule of thumb, if it’s been in your fridge for longer than five days then it should be discarded as it might not be obvious if it’s bad, but it’s likely that it won’t be completely safe to eat after that point.