Smoky, sweet, and satisfying yet healthy, this Vegan Ham is the perfect holiday centerpiece or family dinner. It’s moist, packed with flavor, has a great meaty texture and is also great for meal prep or leftovers (hello, sandwiches!).
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Hey Internet, I mentioned it in the Roasted Apple Brussels Sprouts I made to go along with this, but this vegan ham is a main I’m super excited to share with you today.
Though this is great for meal prep or any nice family dinner, this seitan ham is the perfect centerpiece for your holiday meal! It’s surprisingly easy to make and incredibly delicious.
I know you’re thinking, how could I possibly achieve that delicious ham flavor and color? I’ve got a few simple tricks up my sleeve, and a well-rounded spice profile to create the perfect vegan ham.
But also, like, why?
I often get questions about why vegans try to make food that tastes like meat when the point of being vegan is not to eat meat.
Well, the point of being vegan is to cause as little harm as possible (it’s impossible to cause no harm, even the computer I’m typing on involves animal products somehow), not necessarily what you eat, as long as that does not include animal products.
I’ll say there are some things about eating meat that I miss, and most of that is flavor. Sometimes I miss the ease, considering that there are many restaurants with zero options out there (though that is changing!) and sometimes family members are not understanding.
So replicating the flavor and texture using plants is actually a great way to obtain some of those delicious flavors, without any animal cruelty.
It’s also great for people who are transitioning to vegan or vegetarian from a meat-heavy diet. Showing people that there are swaps so they don’t have to give up their favorite foods is a great way of helping them transition. I should know, I helped my husband through it!
I was not your biggest meat eater before going vegan. There were certain things I liked, but I always always more addicted to dairy
My husband Paul (affectionately referred to as Mr. Zardyplants on this blog) transitioned to veganism at the same time I did in 2017, but was more of a meat and potatoes type of guy. Well he still eats lots of potatoes, haha, but together we enjoy making mock meat whenever he has a craving.
I’d have to say this vegan ham recipe is definitely the result of one of his cravings. He was very happy to help me test this recipe multiple times, as I worked to get the flavor, texture, and color just right.
You could also serve this seitan ham with any number of my festive holiday sides such as mashed potatoes, pomegranate orange salad, vegan creamed kale, roasted apple brussels sprouts, or vegan challah stuffing.
Additionally, I’ve got a nice section below on what to do with the leftovers, as well as other vegan meat alternative recipes you may enjoy.
So if you’re ready to learn how to make this delicious seitan masterpiece (I mean, vegan ham recipe)--just keep reading.
Alright, enough talk, let’s cook!
What You’ll Need: The Seitan Base
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 ham seitan recipe, I used kidney beans (but any would work), mostly for color, but also for nutrients! Kidney beans are some of the most nutritious beans, especially for their antioxidant properties.
Let’s Talk Flavor
You’ll need some liquid to blend this, and for a rich and meaty flavor I highly recommend vegan beef broth. I love to use vegan Better Than Bouillon No Beef Soup Base, which is a concentrated broth paste.
The Better Than Bouillon brand makes many other vegan flavors (vegan chicken, vegetable, mushroom), keeps better, and is more economical than carton vegan beef broth. It lasts a while in the fridge too. You can absolutely use prepared vegetable broth (I recommend adding extra spices to taste if you do this).
Speaking of spices, I recommend a bit of onion powder and garlic powder, a touch of smoked paprika (another great vegan cooking hack for adding a meaty or smoky flavor), and salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
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. <>
For richness, I recommend adding a fat like tahini. It doesn’t really flavor the ham, but it adds a MUCH needed richness and fatty texture and mouthfeel.
I also added tomato paste for color AND flavor. It really helps in both arenas.
If you want a really red color like I have here, you can also add beet powder or even a bit of cooked beets. I tried it both ways and it worked. I’d say the beet powder does a better job of coloring the seitan without adding much beet flavor.
For a sweet and lightly tangy flavor, I also highly recommend apple cider vinegar. Your vegan ham should still work without it, but it really provides a delicious flavor, especially when you also add maple syrup.
Ham is somewhat sweet, so you definitely need sugar in there, so I recommend maple syrup. Brown sugar, coconut sugar, or agave would also work. I wouldn’t recommend regular cane sugar, though, I don’t think it would work with the flavor profile.
Oh and one other hack, and this is unique to my seitan ham: Nutritional yeast! I know, I know, you’re thinking that nutritional yeast is supposed to taste cheesy and why would you want ham to taste cheesy?
Well, depending on what you mix it with, nutritional yeast magically takes on different qualities. In this particular case, it does not make the seitan taste cheesy, rather it makes the roast taste richer and gives it a whole nother layer of flavor that is amazing in making it taste like the ham most of us grew up eating.
Trust me that the finished product does not taste at all like nutritional yeast, it just tastes savory and rich so don’t skip it! You can always just buy the quarter cup you need from this recipe from bulk bins at a health food store if you don’t want a bunch of nutritional yeast hanging around your house. :)
A glaze is important to any ham, especially a vegan ham recipe, so don’t skimp on this! The glaze only requires a few ingredients:
Reduced sugar apricot jam--you can use regular sugar jam, but if you do take it a little easy on the brown sugar I’ll have you add in this glaze recipe. The apricot is a key flavor here!
Brown sugar--also key for a delicious sweet and smoky vegan ham.
Orange juice--my trick for an amazing, bright, beautiful flavor. Fresh or carton is fine.
A pinch of sea salt--don’t think I need to explain this one, but it balances the flavor.
A bit more beet powder for color (optional).
Tips for Making Vegan Ham
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 ITS thing. Sorry, I had to.
Let’s make the dough first.
Blend the beans, spices, tahini, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, tomato paste, nutritional yeast, beet stuff, and about 1 cup of vegan beef broth in the food processor or blender until it is smooth.
Then add your vital wheat gluten and blend again briefly, until most of it has been incorporated. It may still be a little powdery but that’s OK. If you don’t have a good food processor you can do this part by hand.
Add it to a large bowl and press everything together with your hands. You may want to add a tablespoon of water or two if it looks a bit dry. You can press the dough together so there are no more crumbly bits, but DO NOT KNEAD IT. I know other recipes may say to knead the seitan but it always turns out rubbery when I do that. Seriously, just try to form the dough.
If Cooking in the Instant Pot:
Place the Instant Pot steaming basket in the pot and add 1 cup of water.
Add the seitan into 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 degrees Fahrenheit (or 205 degrees Celsius) and skip to the “Baking the Seitan” section.
If Cooking on the Stove:
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, bring it to a boil, then turn it down to a high simmer and steam it for about 1 hour.
When it’s done, preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (or 205 degrees Celsius).
Baking the Seitan
The seitan is actually fully cooked and edible after steaming, however, the flavor and texture get way better if you follow this part. You could refrigerate the steamed seitan one day and bake it the next, if you like.
Rest the seitan for about 10 minutes before doing anything to it.
If desired, score the top with a knife, cutting about ¼” deep and creating a diamond pattern. You could plug in some cloves for decoration if you like, but I can’t stand them so that’s why they’re not in the recipe!
Then, add about ⅓ of the glaze to it using a silicone basting brush or spatula). Make sure to get the sides too.
Place the seitan in a dutch oven or deep baker dish (I used this baker dish), cover, and bake for 20 minutes.
Uncover, add another ⅓ of the glaze, and bake for 10-15 minutes, then add the remainder of the glaze and bake for a final 10 minutes or so.
Carving the Seitan
After removing from heat, let the seitan rest for 10 minutes to finish soaking up all that goodness.
Using a fork and serrated-edge knife, carefully slice the seitan as thick or thin as you’d like.
Serve with my roasted apple brussels sprouts and some of the grits from my Vegan Cheesy Grits Breakfast Bowl -- I added some chopped parsley to those for this meal. Or anything else you like!
What to Do With Leftovers
Just like non-vegan Thanksgiving, leftovers may involve getting a little creative.
If you don’t feel like simply heating up more sliced seitan and veggies, try a couple of these options.
Make seitan ham sandwiches with anything from mustard and pickles, vegan mayo, sliced vegan cheddar cheese, or whatever else you like.
You could also cut the vegan ham into cubes and throw it on a salad with avocado, shredded vegan cheese, greens, crunchy veggies and any kind of dressing. I recommend my vegan honey mustard or vegan ranch!
Eat it for breakfast with some tofu scramble or hash browns.
Freeze it for later! Seitan freezes well. Wrap it tightly in foil or plastic wrap and place in a freezer safe container and freeze up to 90 days.
More Awesome 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 Pastrami
- Seitan Corned Beef
- Seitan Turkey
- Vegan Drumsticks
- Seitan Chicken Nuggets
- 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 ham is:
- Moist (sorry)
- Meaty (but without the cruelty!)
- And perfect for a holiday meal, 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!