Tag Archives: seitan

Upton’s Naturals: An Interview with Dan Staackmann

Upton’s Naturals is my favorite seitan and not just because they’re from Chicago. Upton’s is produced in a small warehouse hidden in an industrial park in Skokie, IL. They offer a wide range of flavors (chorizo, ground beef, Italian sausage, gyros, bacon & more!) to local eating establishments, as well as at select grocers AND they have “grab & go” items, like the Gyro Wrap and the Breakfast Sandwich! We recently sent Dan a few questions to find out a bit more about Upton’s and here’s what he had to say:

SCV: First off, who is the mysterious mustachioed man?

Upton. No, he’s not flesh & blood, but was created by us along with our friend & illustrator, John Sampson.

SCV: Upton’s has been around for 4 yrs now, tell us how the company started and how it’s changed since it’s early days.

Although it says “Since 2006” on the retail packs, we actually formed Upton’s in August of 2005 and were developing the products about a year before that in a shared kitchen. I started the company with a good friend of mine who has since gone on to pursue other interests. We’d both been vegan for 10+ years and were looking for a project to work on together involving food. We did some thinking and realized there was a hole in the seitan market, especially for restaurants, so we decided to try and fill it. Neither of us had a culinary background, so it was all trial and error. We began selling to a handful of restaurants in Chicago and about a year in to that we decided to launch the retail line. We started with 7 stores in Chicago and delivered to them ourselves…then started working with a distributor and expanded to about 20 stores in IL & WI until earlier this year when we began selling to stores throughout the Midwest and Southwest. How things have changed…the first 3 years we did everything ourselves, just the 2 of us. We’ve added an employee about every six months since then.

SCV: How come your seitan is so delicious?! We can’t get enough Upton’s Chorizo or Bacon!

We just use the most simple ingredients and try to base our flavors on traditional recipes.

SCV: Are all of your products produced in your warehouse in Skokie?

All of the seitan and ready-to-eat items are made in Skokie, but we do use a third-party to produce the tamales.

SCV: How many people does it take to keep Upton’s running these days?

5 total. Three people handle all of the production and two of us keep things running in the office.

SCV: You recently added some new sandwiches to your offerings, how do you come up with such tasty sandwiches, wraps, etc.? Are any of them based off of customer suggestions? (We’re particularly fond of the Chicken Bacon Wrap and the Breakfast Sandwich with Bacon).

We just try to put out products that we think are good. We tried soliciting ideas for new ready to eat items a few times, but didn’t get much feedback.

SCV: Is there anywhere in the city we can get your sandwiches, wraps, etc. besides Whole Foods?

The only independent store currently selling the ready to eat items is W Grocer on North Ave. The retail seitan packs & tamales are available at most of the indie shops (full list on our website). Some restaurants don’t like it when their “secret” ingredients are made public, but we occasionally Tweet about new places that are serving Upton’s.

SCV: Are there any super secret recipes in the works for new items?

No, we’re trying to focus on widening the distribution of current products over the next year or so. After that we’ll likely package a couple more varieties of seitan for retail… bacon and chicken are at the top of the list.

SCV: We own some of your shirts & buttons and all the cool kids we know want them (especially the pin collection of mustachioed men, though I’m partial to the clean shaven guy). How can they go about getting their own?

They should be available on our website soon. Also, we occasionally give them away at events, so keep an eye out!

To find out more about Upton’s, including recipe ideas, check out their website: http://www.uptonsnaturals.com/

If you want the inside scoop make sure you follow them on Twitter & Facebook!

Seitan Stroganoff

A few weeks back I posted a recipe for Basic Seitan that got a really great response. I had said I was going to post other versions and uses and here’s a new favorite. This is a modified recipe adapted from The TVP Cookbook by Dorothy R, Bates. I hadn’t made Stroganoff in years but a text from an old friend requesting the recipe inspired a resurrection – but with a couple of changes. I replaced the TVP with home made Seitan and added garlic to the  sauce – something my friend David had turned me onto way back when.

I’ve made Stroganoff 3 times to share with people in the last couple weeks because its fun to make and very tasty. It got rave reviews from everyone I shared it with, so here’s my adapted recipe:

Start of by preparing the Basic Seitan (instructions here). You’re going to need to prepare this at least an hour and a half before the rest of the meal. You’re only going to use a portion of the loaf so you can make it several days before if you like. I knew I was going to be using this Seitan for Stroganoff so I themed it a little by stuffing onions, mushrooms, and garlic cloves into the loaf, though honestly, only the garlic dramatically bleeds in and affects the flavor.

Basic Seitan with Mushrooms, Onion, and Garlic pressed into the top.

This recipe greatly benefits from doing your prep work first because doing this on your own requires timely multitasking, so before you get going do the following things (If you’re cooking with 1 or more friends, then wing it for some lively kitchen chaos.):

– 2 cups of Seitan. Cubing 1/4 – 1/3 or so of your loaf should be about right.

– 1 cup of your favorite vegetable broth.

– 1/2 box/bag of pasta or a cup of rice.

– 1 Cup Mushrooms – sliced or quartered.

– 1 Cup Onions – sliced or chopped.

– Also, make sure to have your flour, margarine, ketchup, and dairy free sour cream out and on hand.

Okay, go!

The Veggies and Seitan

Cook over low heat about 15 minutes:

2 Tbsp. margarine

1 cup onions.

Add to the onions and cook a few minutes more:

1 cup mushrooms.

Add to the onions and mushrooms:

2 cups seitan.

Mushrooms and onions sauteing in margarine.

Right after you started the cooking the onions you should move over to working on…

The Sauce

Make the sauce in a separate pan, heating:

1 Tbsp. margarine

Add and cook for a minute or two while stirring:

1 Tbsp. flour

When creamy gradually add while stirring:

1 cup vegetable broth

When evenly mixed stir in:

1 Tbsp. ketchup.

2 Tbs. dairy-free sour cream

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

(Note: You will notice there is no mention of salt. Some vegetable broths are way saltier than others. Its best to taste the sauce and determine how much salt to add or to salt to taste at the table.)


Combine the Veggies and Seitan to the Sauce and cook for a few minutes more so that the Seitan can absorb the sauce and they flavor each other.

Serve over rice or pasta.

Serves 2-3.

(End notes: On paper this recipe might seem complicated but it really isn’t. Just go into it prepared. It might take a couple of attempts to get the rhythm right but it’s worth it. If anything goes awry because you’re focusing on another part of the recipe – just take whatever is going wrong off the burner and get back to it. I do that all the time because I’m a knucklehead and might decide that I need to flip a record, engage in conversation, wash dishes, or play fetch with my dogs in the middle of this operation. Point being, if something starts to burn or is moving too fast to be properly timed with your other parts – take it off the burner! You won’t mess anything up by doing so.)

Basic Seitan – the Great Mystery Revealed

Completed Seitan loaf in a clean pan.

For some reason making seitan confounds many people. Many people I’ve talked to who have tried to make seitan from the box have had disappointing results and I know I was vegan for 14 years before I ever made my first seitan loaf. I have always been kind of astounded when I went to someone’s house and they had made homemade seitan – its always been a bit of a rarity. So for years I bought overpriced bland seitan from White Wave at the supermarket. To be honest, I think I’ve bought pre-packaged seitan once since I learned how to make it myself 2 years ago. Below is my basic seitan recipe:

First off, you could just follow the instructions on the box but when I am making a basic multipurpose Seitan, this is how I do it. I must confess that the root of this recipe was given to me by a fine young woman named Ranise. I lost her recipe a while back and started making my version from broken memories of her recipe. Still, I have to give her proper credit.
Dry Ingredients:
1 10 oz. box Arrowhead Mills Vital Wheat Gluten
1/4 cup Nutritional Yeast
1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
1/4 tsp Black Pepper

Wet Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups Water
1/4 cup Bragg’s Aminos
2 tbs Liquid Smoke

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

First, combine all of the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir to distribute the ingredients evenly. Second, and all of the wet ingredients. Third, wash your hands because you’re going to kneed the dough by hand until it is a big grey ball and there is no puddles of moisture at the bottom of the bowl. If there is a lot of moisture add a little more Nutritional Yeast. Put aside for a moment.

1 cup Water
2 tbs Bragg’s Aminos
2 tbs Liquid Smoke

Pour these into a glass brownie pan/casserole dish. Put your big ball of dough into the pan and press it down so that its not above the rim of the pan. Stab the loaf a couple of times with a fork and then cover it with aluminum foil.

The dough in a pool of broth.

Once covered, place the pan in the oven for 1 hour at 350 degrees. Pull it out, stab it a few times with a fork, and then use a metal edged spatula to flip the Seitan loaf. Once flipped, stab it a few more times, re-cover with foil, and put it back in for another half hour. When its done, most of the broth should have either been evaporated or absorbed.
You’ll notice that the instructions on the box say to boil the Seitan, whereas I’m telling you to put it in a broth and bake it. Personally, I think this technique makes for a really moist tender Seitan that isn’t gummy. Thanks again to Ranise for recommending it to me.

Also, the great thing about Seitan is that you can totally change it by changing the seasonings. Replace Garlic and Black Pepper with Sage and Marjoram and suddenly you have more of a sausage blend. I’ll present some of these variations in future posts.