As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Make our flavorful seitan corned beef! Perfect for Reuben sandwiches, vegan corned beef and cabbage, and more.
A good vegan corned beef is hard to find
I don’t know about you, but every time I’ve tried a vegan Reuben at various vegan joints around the country, I’ve been sorely disappointed. It seems like folks skip the flavor of corned beef altogether and use a simple seitan with the exception of Analog in Oakland. (If you’re ever out there, you must try their sandwiches!)
Our seitan corned beef combines classic pickling spices with salt and vinegar to create a super flavorful mock meat. It’s a bit of a process, but the results yield 6-8 servings perfect for sandwiches, corned beef and cabbage, breakfast hash, and more.
Why our seitan corned beef isn’t pink
As much as I love the extra step of adding beets to this recipe, they’re unnecessary for both the flavor and the taste of the seitan corned beef. Since there are already so many spices required for this recipe, not to mention it takes a long time to cook, I chose to forgo the beets.
Maybe later on down the road, I’ll add a pink variant to this recipe, but for now, you get the flavor and tenderness that’s similar to the real deal.
What ingredients do you need to make seitan corned beef?
There are two main components to this recipe – the pickling spices, and the rest of the ingredients to make the seitan corned beef. If you have the spices on hand, I definitely recommend making your own blend of pickling spices. If not, a premade pickling spice blend will work alright. Do what suits your budget.
For the pickling spice blend
Mustard seeds and coriander seeds: At the heart of every pickling spice lies mustard seeds and coriander seeds. I used yellow mustard seeds for this recipe, but feel free to use whatever you have on hand. Another staple for pickling is coriander seeds. You’ll need about a tablespoon of them for this recipe.
Whole cloves and cinnamon sticks: Both cloves and cinnamon are essential components of seitan corned been. They are responsible for giving it that signature spiced flavor. Don’t skimp on these ingredients!
Allspice berries and whole peppercorns: For some extra added flavor, you’ll need some allspice berries and whole peppercorns. For the pepper, you can really choose any combination of colors you wish. I went with rainbow peppercorns.
Cardamom and ground ginger: I really really love the flavors that cardamom pods and ginger bring to the pickling spice blend. Again, both of these spices add to the spiced flavor of corned beef.
Bay leaves and red pepper flakes: For some nice herbal undertones and a bit of heat, you’ll need both bay leaves and red pepper flakes.
I also want to thank Simply Recipes for providing the spice combinations for this corned beef recipe. Some of the amounts have been adjusted for this recipe, but the inspo for the spices is 100% from them!
For the seitan corned beef
Vital wheat gluten and flour: Sorry gluten-free friends, this is not a recipe for you. The most important ingredient in seitan corned beef is vital wheat gluten. You really can’t really make seitan without it! You’ll also need a small amount of all-purpose flour.
Pickling spices: Naturally you’ll need all of these ingredients listed in the previous section for both making an aromatic brine and coating the seitan corned beef in the last stage of baking.
Water and oil: To make an aromatic brine, you’ll need both water and oil. This serves as the liquid to hydrate the vital wheat gluten and flour into seitan dough.
Salt, miso, and rice vinegar: Since you’re not actually going to pickle the seitan, I need some help to achieve the sour flavor by using rice vinegar and a bit of miso. Salt is also used heavily in this recipe. If you are watching your sodium, this recipe is not your friend.
Garlic and onion powder: Both garlic and onion powder are used to add some additional seasoning to the dry ingredients.
Cocoa powder: To give the seitan corned beef some extra savory flavor, you can add a bit of cocoa powder to the dry ingredients. I’ve made this recipe with and without cocoa powder and find the impact is subtle. If you have some on hand, feel free to add, but if you don’t, it’s ok!
Vegan butter: Lastly, you’ll need some vegan butter. Before the final bake of the seitan corned beef, you’ll brown the sides of the seitan for a few minutes in vegan butter. You will also use a bit of it to add to the ground pickling spices to coat the seitan for the final bake.
How do you make seitan corned beef?
Making seitan corned beef is actually really easy once you get the hang of it. You’ll just need a boatload of patience. I usually make the seitan over the course of two days. Since there is a lot of waiting for the seitan or the brine to reach room temperature before proceeding. I’ll include the places where it’s okay to walk away for the day and come back later to finish.
First, you’ll need some equipment. The only crazy piece of gear you’ll need to make seitan corned beef is a mortar or a spice grinder. If you’ve been wanting a spice grinder for a while, I recommend just buying a cheap coffee grinder and using that. Though it’s best to have a dedicated spice grinder, if you clean your coffee grinder really well, I think it would be ok to use it for this recipe since the spices are on the darker side and won’t be affected much if they come in contact with residual coffee bean oil.
In addition to the spice grinder, you’ll need a pot to boil the brine in, a small saucepan, a fine-mesh strainer, a large bowl, measuring cups and spoons, heavy-duty foil (or a lot of regular foil), a baking sheet, a whisk, a small bowl, and a silicone spatula. The nice thing about seitan corned beef is that I use the oven to cook it, so no need for pressure cookers, instant pots, etc.
Make the aromatic brine
The first step in making seitan corned beef is to combine your pickling spices together with water to create a brine with tons of flavor. Simply start by adding the pickling spices to a small saucepan on low heat. Adding some heat to the spices will encourage more flavor. It’s crucial not to burn your spices, so I strongly recommend keeping a close eye on them as it will only take a couple of minutes for the spices to warm.
Once your spices are warmed up, Add the cinnamon sticks plus two and a half tablespoons of pickling spice to a small pot filled with water, rice vinegar, oil, and white miso brought to a boil. Let the spices simmer for about 10 minutes, remove from the heat, and add the salt. Stir brine until the salt dissolves, and set aside.
You’ll need to wait until the brine has reached room temperature before moving onward, so if this a good place for you to stop for the day, feel free to leave the brine on the counter until the next day. I usually make this mixture at night and then resume the process the following morning.
Making the seitan corned beef
Once your brine is at room temperature, you’re ready to move on. In a large bowl, whisk together the vital wheat gluten, all-purpose flour, garlic powder, onion powder, and optional cocoa powder. Then, strain the spices out of the brine using a mesh strainer. Use a silicone spatula to mix the It and dry ingredients together until a dough forms. Then, use your hands to gently kneed the dough until all of the dry ingredients are incorporated.
Once you have your dough, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and let the dough rest for about 10 minutes and allow for more hydrating. Now would be a great time to grind your remaining pickling spices using a spice or coffee grinder. You won’t need the ground spices until the final bake of the recipe, so for now set them aside.
Break out your heavy-duty aluminum foil and tear off a few sheets. Form a log with the seitan dough and gently roll the seitan a few times in the foil so it resembles a giant tootsie roll. If you’re using heavy-duty foil, you only need to wrap the seitan 3 times, but if you’re using regular foil, you’ll need to up it to 5 or 6. This step is super important as the seitan can easily explode in the oven resulting in a lot of air bubbles and a dryer seitan corned beef. Be liberal with the foil. You can always reuse it after you’re done baking the seitan.
Next, place the seitan corned beef package directly on the middle rack and bake for two hours. Then, remove from the packaging and let the seitan come to room temperature before moving on.
This is another great place to stop. If you have stuff you need to do and want to finish baking it the next day, simply let the seitan come to room temperature and then store in the refrigerator overnight.
Finishing up the seitan corned beef
If you made it this far, you’re in the home stretch! If you happened to stop at the last step and have a cold log of seitan, remove it from the refrigerator and let it thaw for about an hour until it reaches room temperature (or close to).
Then, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Add a tablespoon of vegan butter to a skillet and brown each side of the seitan corned beef for 2-3 minutes. While the seitan browns, prepare the spice rub. Remember your ground spices? Add them to a small bowl with some rice vinegar, melted vegan butter, some salt, and water.
Add the seitan corned beef to a baking sheet or casserole dish and use your hands to rub the spice mixture on the seitan. You might not need to use all of the spices to get a good even coat.
Tent some foil over the vegan corned beef and bake for 30 minutes. Let the seitan sit for a few to cool before you carve.
This stuff freezes well and holds up in the refrigerator for about 10 days. I know it’s a labor of love to make seitan corned beef, but the results are well worth it.
Serving ideas and more
Once you’ve made seitan corned beef, there are tons of possibilities in serving this delicious vegan meat substitute. Here are some of our ideas.
Make Reubens: I absolutely love a good vegan Reuben sandwich. Combine our Russian dressing, seitan corned beef, sauerkraut, and more to create your very own Reuben sandwich!
Seitan corned beef and cabbage: Make yourself a traditional Irish meal by boiling potatoes, carrots, and cabbage to serve alongside the seitan corned beef. Though let’s be real, boiled veggies are kind of gross and I all know roasted veggies, in this case, would taste 400 times better.
Corned beef hash: Chop up the seitan corned beef into little pieces and add to a skillet with potatoes and onions to make a classic midwestern breakfast.
Corned beef tacos: Check out this idea: tortillas, vegan corned beef, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing. BOOM. Corned beef tacos!
Make strata: Make some rye bread croutons. Then, soak with some corned beef cubes, sauerkraut, Just Egg, and vegan mozz. Bake and serve with Russian dressing. YUM.
Want more recipes?
If you enjoyed this recipe for seitan corned beef, you might like some of my other recipes like…
- Vegan Russian Dressing
- Vegan runzas
- Cheese and onion cornish pasties
- Spicy seitan sausages
- Chicken seitan pieces
- BBQ chicken sandwiches
In this segment, I suggest a song for you to listen to while you make seitan corned beef! You can even stream it right here in your browser. Today’s recipe jam is Road to Nowhere by Talking Heads.
If you try this recipe, I want to hear about it! Feel free to post your creations to Instagram or Facebook and tag Hell Yes It’s Vegan or #hellyesitsvegan. I look forward to seeing what you make!
Seitan Corned Beef
- measuring cup and spoons
- small saucepan
- small pot
- large bowl
- mesh strainer
- silicone spatula
- aluminum foil (heavy-duty works best)
- spice grinder
- small bowl
- baking sheet or casserole dish
- 1 Tbsp mustard seeds
- 1 Tbsp coriander seeds
- 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
- 1 Tbsp peppercorns, (I used rainbow but use whatever you have on hand)
- 1 Tbsp ground ginger
- 1 Tbsp whole cloves
- ½ Tbsp whole allspice
- 5 cardamom pods
- 5 bay leaves, (crumpled)
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 ¼ cup water
- ⅓ cup rice vinegar
- 2 ½ Tbsp pickling spices
- 1 Tbsp white miso
- 1 Tbsp canola oil
- 3 tsp sea salt
Seitan Corned Beef
- 2 cups vital wheat gluten
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 Tbsp garlic powder
- 1 Tbsp onion powder
- ½ Tbsp cocoa powder, (optional)
- 1 ½ Tbsp vegan butter, (melted & divided)
- 1 Tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 Tbsp water
- ¼ tsp sea salt
- reserved pickling spices, (ground)
Prepare the Aromatic Brine
- In a small saucepan, add all of the pickling spices and heat on low for a few minutes until fragrant. Be careful not to burn the spices!
- Bring water, rice vinegar, oil, and miso to a simmer. Add 2 ½ Tablespoons of pickling spice plus the two toasted cinnamon sticks. Simmer for 10 minutes, add the salt, and set aside until the brine reaches room temperature.
- Add the remaining pickling spice to a spice grinder pulverize until the spices are finely ground. (Note: If you are breaking this recipe up into a two-day process, this is a great place to stop and resume the next morning.)
Corned Beef Seitan
- In a large bowl, whisk together the vital wheat gluten, flour, garlic, onion, and cocoa powder until combined.
- Using a fine-mesh strainer, pour the brine through to remove the spices and add to the bowl. Use a silicone spatula to mix and then knead a bit with your hands. The dough should be completely hydrated. If it isn't, add a tablespoon of water one at a time until no dry spots remain.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and let the dough sit for 10 minutes to fully hydrate. Break out your heavy-duty aluminum foil and tear off a few sheets. Form a log with the seitan dough and gently roll the seitan a few times in the foil so it resembles a giant tootsie roll. If you’re using heavy-duty foil, you only need to wrap the seitan 3 or 4 times, but if you’re using regular foil, you’ll need to up it to 5 or 6. This step is super important as the seitan can easily explode in the oven resulting in a lot of air bubbles and a dryer seitan corned beef. Be liberal with the foil. You can always reuse it after you’re done baking the seitan.
- Place the foil package directly on the rack and bake the seitan for 2 hours. Once the seitan is done baking, remove from the oven. When the foil is cool enough to handle, unwrap and allow the seitan to come to room temperature. (Note: If you are breaking this recipe up into a two-day process, this is another great place to stop and resume the next morning. Simply let the seitan come to room temperature and store in the refrigerator over ight wrapped in foil.)
Finishing the Seitan Corned Beef
- If you chose to refrigerate your seitan, remove from the refrigerator and bring it back to room temperature.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add 1 tablespoon of vegan butter to a skillet and brown the seitan for a few minutes on each side.
- Meanwhile, add the remaining ground pickling spices to a small bowl along with the remaining rice vinegar, water, vegan butter, and salt.
- Transfer the corned beef seitan to a casserole dish and coat with the spice rub. You can use a pastry brush but I think it's easier to use your hands.
- Tent the seitan corned beef with foil and bake for another 30 minutes. Let sit for 5-10 minutes before carving.