Rich, tender, and meaty, this Vegan Corned Beef is delicious for dinner, sandwiches and more. Packed with a whopping 25g of protein per serving, this vegan meat alternative is low in fat, contains zero cholesterol, and is incredibly flavorful and satisfying.
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I experimented with this recipe QUITE a bit while working on my Plant-Based Jewish Recipes e-book, and it’s also the base of my vegan pastrami recipe. The pastrami uses this recipe, but takes it a bit further to get that classic tangy pastrami taste.
Anyway, back to this vegan corned beef. I tested this recipe many different times, working to perfect that crust that you’ll find with corned beef. I also wanted the slices to be super tender, flavorful, and--sorry if you hate this word--moist.
I finally settled on a spice blend and set to work on making this one of the best vegan meat replacements I had ever tasted, and let me tell you: it delivers.
My husband, who went vegan with me a few years ago, often requests me to veganize things he misses. But corned beef (and pastrami) were things we both missed.
I grew up enjoying corned beef at many of the Jewish parties I attended with my mom’s side of the family--lots of extended family so lots of events! My parents often made us sandwiches with it for road trips and picnics.
So it was always on my list to try, and writing my recipe book gave me the perfect impetus to finally do it.
This seitan corned beef is actually very easy to make and highly delicious, so keep reading to find out what you need to buy or might already have on hand!
What You’ll Need
The main component of the seitan is vital wheat gluten. This is flour that has been stripped down to the protein of the wheat. It’s what makes this recipe so high in, you guessed it, protein!
Once mixed with liquid and the other things in this recipe, the vital wheat gluten will form a dough. This is not a dough we knead--actually, the less we touch it the better.
Overworked seitan is rubbery and gross. Let’s not do that.
Unfortunately this recipe is not gluten-free and I do not have a substitute for the vital wheat gluten.
Standard seitan is ALMOST a complete protein, but it’s missing one of the essential amino acids: lysine.
To add lysine to make seitan a complete protein AND to add more of a tender, meaty texture, I like to blend my seitan with beans.
For this corned beef seitan recipe, I used black beans (but any would work), mostly for color, but also for nutrients! Black beans are very high in antioxidants. Kidney beans would also work well in this recipe.
To really make it taste like beef, I highly recommend you use a vegan beef broth. My favorite is Better Than Bouillon Vegan Beef Base--which you just mix with hot water.
The Better Than Bouillon brand is much more economical than prepared broth, has better flavor in my personal opinion, and lasts forever in the fridge.
However, vegan beef bouillon cubes or prepared vegan beef broth will also work.
If you cannot find any of these, just use vegetable broth but you’ll need to go heavier on the other spices--you’ll need to add salt too. I recommend adding a bit of soy sauce for flavor if you use the vegetable broth.
To get that real corned beef tang, I recommend something a little strange: pitted kalamata olives and their brine. This does NOT make the seitan taste like olives, but rather just gives it an extra kick of flavor.
The fat in the olives also helps the texture and mouthfeel of the seitan. Don’t worry, the food processor will blend up the olives so your seitan won’t be chunky.
Maple syrup adds a much needed sweetness to the seitan. Don’t get me wrong; the seitan does not taste sweet. It just balances out the other flavors to compose a beautifully flavored mock meat.
So as far as spices, I used a combination of smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and ground mustard. Like I said, tangy.
I actually order all my spices from The Spice House. You can get your spices cheaper if you order a flat pack (cheaper to ship as well) and refill your existing spice jars. Here’s a link for a discount with The Spice House
For the Spice Rub
The spice rub is completely necessary if you want your vegan corned beef to have that signature rind. Don’t worry, it’s fast and easy to throw together.
There’s more smoked paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder in this rub (taking note from what you added into the seitan itself, but the rub also calls for a few other ingredients.
Coriander, sea salt, brown sugar (or coconut sugar, but the texture of brown sugar is better), and a pinch of espresso powder (coffee grounds also work) do a great job of flavoring this rub.
The espresso powder isn’t enough to get you hyped on caffeine (so don’t worry if you’re feeding this to kids, we’re talking half a teaspoon for the entire recipe), but it adds a richness and an incredibly slight bitterness that the corned beef begs for.
It’s actually common among meat eaters to add coffee grounds to beef rubs, so why can’t I use it for my seitan?
Tips for Making the Perfect Vegan Corned Beef
There’s a few steps to making this seitan, but I wouldn’t call it difficult. Don’t worry, I’m going to break it all down into a few easy steps for you.
A lot of the time required is cook time--and most of it you don’t need to babysit the pan so you can go do other things while it’s doing IT’S thing. Sorry, I had to.
Making the Dough
- Add beans, maple syrup, pitted olives and brine, spices, and broth to your food processor and blend until mostly smooth. Some black specs of the bean skin may remain and that’s OK.
- Now add the vital wheat gluten and pulse until mostly combined. It may still be a little powdery. We’ll fix that.
- Add the dough to a medium bowl. You should be able to pick it up.
- Press it into one lump that kind of looks like meat. If it looks a little powdery still, wet your hands and smooth the areas. Don’t knead the dough.
Steaming the Seitan
An Instant Pot is NOT required for the first half of the cooking process--you can steam it on your stovetop, but an Instant Pot saves time and having to babysit the pot.
Instant Pot Instructions:
- Place the Instant Pot steaming basket in the pot and add 1 cup of water.
- Add the seitan to the basket, close the lid, set the pressure valve to “sealing” and cook on high pressure or manual for 45 minutes.
- After the cooking is done, let the pressure naturally release for 10 minutes, then carefully switch the pressure valve to venting and release the remaining pressure, which shouldn’t be very much.
- Preheat your oven to 400° Fahrenheit (or 205° Celsius) and skip to the next section.
- If you do not have an electric pressure cooker, you can easily make this on the stovetop.
- Grab a large pot with a large steaming basket and a lid. Add 2 inches of water to the pot, then insert the steaming basket.
- Place the seitan into the basket, add a lid to the pot, and steam it on high for about 1 hour, 15 minutes.
- When it’s done, preheat your oven to 400° Fahrenheit (or 205° Celsius) and skip to the next section.
Adding the Spice Rub and Baking
- Let the steamed seitan rest for 10 minutes after removing it from heat.
- Mix together the rub ingredients in a small bowl while you wait.
- Then place the seitan in a large bowl or on a large plate. If the seitan is dry now, get a little water on your hands and pat it all over (or use a spray bottle) to moisten the surface.
- Add the spice rub using a spoon and your hands, crusting the entire hunk, even the bottom, lightly pressing the rub into the seitan. You may have leftover spice rub--we’ll use it in the simmering liquid (if you’re making pastrami).
- Place in a deep baking dish with a cover (you can use a covered baker, a dutch oven, or cover a dish or pan with aluminum foil, though the rub may stick if you do this, so I’d spray the inside of the foil with an oil spray if you don’t have a lid).
- Bake for 15 minutes, covered, then remove the cover and bake for 10-15 more minutes until the outer layer has become hard, like a crust.
- Remove from the oven and let it rest for 10-15 minutes before carving. I recommend a serrated blade, sawing through the vegan corned beef instead of just pushing your knife down, which can “mush” it.
- You’re done! Serve it up and enjoy.
- Store leftover seitan in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. If you’re making pastrami, head on over to my vegan pastrami recipe for the last step (not too much longer, I promise!).
More Seitan Recipes
I’m really enjoying making seitan. It’s fun to see what I can come up with, and that high protein, delicious meals don’t need to contain animal products.
Here’s a few awesome seitan recipes I’m loving right now:
- Vegan Philly Cheesesteaks (these happen to be the most popular recipe on my blog!)
- Vegan Drumsticks
- Seitan Chicken Nuggets
- Vegan Schnitzel
- Seitan Turkey
- Vegan Pastrami
- Vegan Gyros
- Instant Pot Seitan (the basic beefy recipe for any application)
As always, I hope you love this recipe–I know I do, and Mr. Zardyplants does too. I definitely got the coveted reaction from him when he first tried it: eyes closed and “Mmmmpppphhhh” while chewing. I just love that.
This vegan corned beef is:
- Moist (sorry)
- Meaty (but without the cruelty!)
- And perfect for a satisfying lunch, family dinner, or even just high protein vegan meal prep!
Let me know in the comments below if you make this recipe or tag me @Zardyplants on Instagram so I can see your beautiful recreations! If you tag me on IG, I will share your post in my stories :)
Also, one quick request: if you love how this recipe looks or tastes, please leave me a 5-star rating and a nice comment–ratings help more people find my recipes which helps me keep providing them! Thank you!