Seitan Fajitas with Papaya Habanero Salsa, And My Thoughts

by Spicie Foodie on May 18, 2012

Seitan; meat substitute; meat alternative; gluten; gluten meat; fajitas; vegan fajitas; Tex-Mex; vegan Mexican; recipes; recetas; peppers; onions; Spicie Foodie

Seitan (say-tahn) is a vegan meat substitute made from wheat gluten. The product is created by starting with a basic wheat flour dough that is repeatedly washed until all of the starch is dissolved. The result is an elastic pure gluten dough ball. The end product has a chewy or stringy texture that largely resembles meat. This wheat gluten product is used in vegetarian and macrobiotic cuisines. In fact it was a Japanese macrobiotic teacher whom developed the product in 1962.

Seitan; meat substitute; meat alternative; glutten; glutten meat; fajitas; vegan fajitas; Mexican; vegan Mexican; recipes; recetas; peppers; onions; Spicie Foodie

By now you are probably wondering why anyone would want to eat something having the description above (as I sit here typing this I’m also starting to wonder that myself.) My defense is that since I’m not a big fan of tofu I thought I’d give Seitan a try. Perhaps I was intrigued by the name, it’s kind of funny. Actually it’s always my curiosity that gets the better of me, so most new products that cross my path have to be tried.

Seitan; meat substitute; meat alternative; glutten; glutten meat; fajitas; vegan fajitas; Mexican; vegan Mexican; recipes; recetas; peppers; onions; Spicie Foodie

If you do a quick search on Seitan you’ll also find that Seitan is quite nutritious. It is a good source of protein, iron and selenium. Also you’ll see that the reviews are pretty good. People love that it looks like meat but isn’t, and that it can be used just about any way meat can. Another thing you’ll find is that Seitan comes in several varieties and forms. Unfortunately I ended up with the least appetizing form, the fluffy steamed kind.

Seitan; meat substitute; meat alternative; gluten; gluten meat; fajitas; vegan fajitas; Tex-Mex; vegan Mexican; recipes; recetas; peppers; onions; Spicie Foodie

After opening the Seitan package I took a small taste. Not bad. The taste wasn’t strong, the texture was like a fluffy bland meat substitute. Everything seemed
promising up until the fajitas finished cooking. By the end of the cooking process the Seitan had expanded, probably due to the water content from the bell peppers. The texture now resembled that of a sponge. Appetizing right? Regardless the taste wasn’t bad. Hubby is always up for trying new foods, but this one I feel bad about. As we sat down to dinner the texture was playing mind tricks with our taste buds. A few times I think I even heard a faint voice questioning why we were eating a well seasoned sponge. In the end we picked out the Seitan and ate only the peppers and onions. The salsa wasn’t too bad, it was just overshadowed by the sponge. I’ll definitely give it a try on real meat fajitas soon.

Seitan; meat substitute; meat alternative; gluten; gluten meat; fajitas; vegan fajitas; Tex-Mex; vegan Mexican; recipes; recetas; peppers; onions; Spicie Foodie

So why am I sharing a failed Seitan recipe? To give you a laugh, to show you that we all have kitchen failures, and perhaps to inspire you to improve the recipe. Here’s how I cooked the sponge, er, I mean Seitan.

(If you would like to publish my recipe on your website please quote Spicie Foodie as the recipe creator, and place a link back to the recipe.)

Papaya Habanero Salsa
1 small papaya, peeled, seeded and roughly chopped
2-3 red habanero or scotch bonnet chiles, stem removed (adjust to taste)
1/2 small yellow onion, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves
1 large lemon or lime, juiced
small handful of cilantro
salt to taste

1. Blend all ingredients into a thick sauce/salsa. Taste and adjust as desired. Chill in refrigerator until ready to use. Give it a good stir before serving as it may have solidified a bit.

Fajita Ingredients
1 package of unseasoned Seitan
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
granulated garlic*
ground cumin*
ground cayenne pepper*
3 small bell peppers
olive oil

*spice amounts to taste

flour tortillas
sour cream and any other sides you like

1. Slice the Seitan into strips, combine with all spices and set aside to marinade for 10 minutes.

2. Heat the oil in a large pan, cook the onions until soft and translucent. Add the peppers and Seitan to the pan, cook until peppers are to desired tenderness.

Serve the Seitan fajitas with flour tortillas and salsa.

Seitan; meat substitute; meat alternative; gluten; gluten meat; fajitas; vegan fajitas; Tex-Mex; vegan Mexican; recipes; recetas; peppers; onions; Spicie Foodie

Any of you out there brave enough to give Seitan a try? Do share your thoughts.

in Fusion,Vegan/Vegetarian

{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Nandita May 18, 2012 at 5:55 AM

Delectable Fajitas. I loved the papaya salsa. I had never heard of this before. Great post as usual Nancy


2 Spicie Foodie May 18, 2012 at 10:29 AM

Thank you Nandita!


3 Michelle May 18, 2012 at 8:27 AM

I eat lots of this during the first day of the Chinese lunar new year.


4 Spicie Foodie May 18, 2012 at 10:30 AM

I’m sure yours is much better than the one I had Michelle.


5 TastefullyJulie May 18, 2012 at 11:01 AM

Omg those look amazing. I love tempeh fajitas but I’ve yet to try seitan. I need to try it soon!


6 Spicie Foodie May 20, 2012 at 11:05 AM

Hi Julie,

Thanks! I haven’t tried tempeh but hope to soon.


7 Viviane Bauquet Farre May 18, 2012 at 11:17 AM

Formidable! Seitan never looked so appealing. Your aesthetic sensibilities are wonderfully displayed in this dish!


8 Spicie Foodie May 20, 2012 at 11:04 AM

Merci Viviane!


9 Priya Sreeram May 18, 2012 at 11:20 AM

lovely post nancy, the fajitas and the salsa has me hooked !


10 Spicie Foodie May 20, 2012 at 11:04 AM

Thanks Priya!


11 Rosa May 18, 2012 at 12:50 PM

That looks ever so scrumptious! A wonderfully summery, tasty and healthy meal. I’d love to cook with seitan.




12 Spicie Foodie May 20, 2012 at 11:04 AM

Thanks but unfortunately looks were very deceiving in this dish.


13 Patty May 18, 2012 at 5:36 PM

Love your spicy marinade and salsa! I will try this with strips of chicken as I am afraid I wouldn’t like the seitan too much;-) Your photos are gorgeous and even you can make seitan look good,lol!


14 Spicie Foodie May 20, 2012 at 11:03 AM

Hi Patty,

Good idea to stick to the chicken:) Thanks!


15 Trix May 18, 2012 at 5:42 PM

I actually quite like seitan (you could call me a seitan worshipper, lol) but I have never seen it in such a dense loaf-like form as what you got. I usually like it almost a little bit shredded, and then it doesn’t seem like a sponge at all but more like a pulled meat if that makes sense? If you ever see “na soy” brand try that – I have used it for fake bbq chicken and it really does work! Or maybe I am just crazy, lol. But truth be told I would rather eat the real thing!


16 Spicie Foodie May 20, 2012 at 11:03 AM

Hi Trix,

I was hoping you’d weigh in on this because I remember you mentioned being a vegetarian. The way you describe yours it sounds really good. That is exactly what I had hoped for but no such luck. Thanks I will keep an eye out for that brand. Lol, yes the real thing does taste pretty good:)


17 Flavors of the Sun May 18, 2012 at 7:25 PM

I’ve never cooked with seitan, amazingly enough. I am married to a vegetarian who would probably love it if I did. This looks like a perfect recipe to start with.


18 Spicie Foodie May 20, 2012 at 11:00 AM

I’m surprised to hear that Victoria. But I don’t think your hubby is missing much ;)


19 Suzanne Perazzini May 18, 2012 at 7:25 PM

Many years ago I was vegetarian for a while and found a product like this which I used a few times but it was even less refined back then. You would think by now they would have come up with a decent meat substitute. Your dish looks pretty even if it tasted a little suspect.


20 Spicie Foodie May 20, 2012 at 11:00 AM

Hi Suzanne,

That actually does surprise me, how a decent meat substitute hasn’t been created. One day perhaps so that we can stop eating cute animals. Thanks!


21 cookingrookie May 18, 2012 at 7:40 PM

I have not found any meat substitutes that taste like the real thing. I have to admit, I was not looking too hard ;-). And I am glad you shared this recipe even though it did not taste good -it looks great, and I can imagine that I see beef :-)


22 Spicie Foodie May 20, 2012 at 10:59 AM

Thank you Elana! Yes, beef would work well with these flavors.


23 Liz May 18, 2012 at 7:52 PM

Yeah, I don’t think I could have pulled this one off either….though it looks delish! I’ll just have to try your dish with chicken. I don’t think I’ll get any complaints :)

Have a great weekend, my friend!!!


24 Spicie Foodie May 20, 2012 at 10:58 AM

Hi Liz,

Thanks, and yeah stick to the chicken:) You too sweetie!


25 Ramona May 18, 2012 at 11:06 PM

I have always said I could be a vegetarian because I can live off of rice and vegetable curries. However, I can not wrap my mind around eating seitan. I don’t particularly like the “fake” meats either. Tofu is hit or miss with me… but seitan is a no go. I was eagerly awaiting to see your opinion about it… glad to know I’m not the only one that thinks it’s a bit dodgy. Flavored sponge…. how true.


26 Spicie Foodie May 20, 2012 at 10:57 AM

Hi Ramona,

I could be a vegetarian by eating only curries and many Asian foods. Tofu is also hit and miss with me. There are a couple of things that I love with tofu but generally I’m not a fan. Thanks:)


27 Eha May 19, 2012 at 2:23 AM

Well, I DO love tofu, both firm and soft and I have as yet to meet this ‘seitan’. Somehow I have absolutely no need to find ‘meat substitutes’. Yes, I am basically a healthy carnivore, but there are SO many delicious vegetarian dishes [and I keep vegetarian about 2-3 days a week without needing 'substitutes'!] that, together with tofu, I have absolutely no need to look further – just enjoy new and different and exciting recipes!


28 Spicie Foodie May 20, 2012 at 10:56 AM

Good for you! I may not have the need for them either but I do love trying new things:)


29 Judy@Savoring Today May 19, 2012 at 12:36 PM

I decided a while back that life was too short to eat something that was trying resemble something else, primarily meat and cheese substitutes, I’ve never found any that really tasted good. I’ll have the real thing or pass all together. Kuddos to you for giving it a whirl and even sharing the things you didn’t like (I consider that as a good warning signal for others). As always, the photos are gorgeous!


30 Spicie Foodie May 20, 2012 at 10:55 AM

Hi Judy,

I like your logic:) I’ve never had cheese substitutes, they just don’t interest me for some reason. Thank you:)


31 Lea Ann May 19, 2012 at 8:07 PM

I’ve never heard of Seitan … think I’ll stick with meat for my fajitas. :) However, this salsa sounds wonderful. One of these days I’m going to stop being afraid of habanero. And ditto to everything Judy@savoringtoday said.


32 Spicie Foodie May 20, 2012 at 10:53 AM

Hi Lea Ann,

You’re wiser than I :) Don’t be afraid of Habaneros, just add a tiny little piece and work your way up. They taste really good.


33 Hester @ Alchemy in the Kitchen May 20, 2012 at 7:04 AM

Well, I won’t be rushing out to buy Seitan, Nancy. I love your description of a ‘well seasoned sponge’ – The salsa sounds good and I’d certainly give this dish a whirl with chicken.


34 Spicie Foodie May 20, 2012 at 10:52 AM

Haha, thanks Hester ;)


35 Kim Bee May 20, 2012 at 2:11 PM

I love your sense of adventure. I have not tried this stuff to date but this actually looks pretty good. But since I read the description you gave I’m more afraid than ever. Lol. I have a part of me that wants to go vegan so bad but I just don’t think I could do it long term. The salsa looks incredible.


36 Spicie Foodie May 21, 2012 at 9:00 AM

Haha, sorry to have ruined Seitan for you. I’ve also given a vegan or at least vegetarian lifestyle a thought. Like you I’m not sure about the long term and also proper nutrition. Thanks!


37 Magic of Spice May 20, 2012 at 4:26 PM

“A seasoned sponge”…I am cracking up! I am not a fan of Seitan, but I have cooked with it a few times. But then I am not really much for the “meat substitutes” really. The fajitas do look fantastic though and I am sure this recipe would be wonderful sans the sponge ;)


38 Spicie Foodie May 21, 2012 at 9:08 AM

Lol! Oui sans sponge:) Thanks Alisha!


39 Frank @Memorie di Angelina May 22, 2012 at 12:01 AM

Lol! A well-seasoned sponge— I love it! Just shows you what food photographer can do. This looks delicious!


40 Spicie Foodie May 22, 2012 at 11:37 AM

Hehe, great mental picture right? Thanks Frank!


41 Holly May 22, 2012 at 10:40 AM

I love seitan – but I always make my own from scratch because the stuff in the jars looks so unappealing. I can also decide what seasonings to add and how big I want the slices. Maybe you should try making your own from the wheat gluten?

The salsa sounds delish! I always say I’m going to make non-tomato based salsa and never do.


42 Spicie Foodie May 22, 2012 at 11:42 AM

I really should try making it like you said. Who know I may end up liking it after all:)


43 Lilly May 22, 2012 at 5:24 PM

You are so brave for trying new kinds of food!

I have never heard of this meat substitute before. If it is like a sponge it might be tasty if you fry it before you add it to the veggies? Who knows it might taste better then.


44 Spicie Foodie May 23, 2012 at 9:43 AM

Hi Lilly,

Good tip! Thanks!


45 Nami | Just One Cookbook May 23, 2012 at 5:53 AM

Very interesting! I ended up reading more about this macrobiotics in Japanese! Haha. There are so many recipes sites available. Interesting, I never knew this whole “macrobi” world… Your fajitas look delicious! Looks more delicious than some of the dishes I just saw. ;-)


46 Spicie Foodie May 23, 2012 at 9:48 AM

Really? I’m sure there is a lot of great information in Japanese. Thank you!


47 Julie April 18, 2013 at 2:49 AM

I’ve only eaten seitan once, in a spicy orange “chicken” recipe. It came in smaller pieces instead of the loaf form. Dredged in flour, pan fried, and tossed with the sauce, it tasted like chicken so maybe it’s worth another try :)


48 Spicie Foodie April 18, 2013 at 4:09 PM

I would definitely give it another try to make a better judgment. Thank Julie!


49 onegreendoggy July 30, 2014 at 2:11 PM

I know this post is old, but I really wanted to add a comment. I used some store-bought seitan for this recipe and got the kind that was already shaped like stew meat. Instead of cooking as directed above, I cooked all of the veggies in the pan as directed above, and I cooked the seitan in a separate pan with a little bit of olive oil. I “browned” the seitan the same way I would have done chicken. The seitan did not get soggy because it wasn’t with the vegetables, and I added all of the spices that I had added to the vegetables to the seitan pan also. The habanero sauce was delicious, and the seitan made some amazing fajitas! Great recipe!


50 Spicie Foodie July 30, 2014 at 8:51 PM

Hi, thank you for sharing your cooking method. It is great advice and something I’ll try next time I get the chance to cook with seitan. Thank you:)


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