One of the few meaty things I occasionally miss as a vegetarian is gyros (the correct Greek pronunciation sounds like “yee-rohs”, not “gee-rohs” or “jai-rohs”). The other big one is corned beef sandwiches, but that has been mitigated to a large extent since I discovered Montreal Smoked Wheat.
Satisfactory vegetarian gyros have been somewhat more elusive, however. For awhile, Yves Veggie Cuisine made a souvlaki-style skewered fake meat, and it made for passable gyros, but it was difficult to find consistently in the stores, and I don’t think they make it at all anymore. And a couple of years ago Harvey’s had a pita sandwich on their menu that they made with chicken or with vegetarian burger patties in them, and the ranch dressing they used as a sauce in those strongly evoked ‘gyros’ for me. But the Veggie Ranch Pita has gone the way of the dodo as well, sadly.
Then in the most recent Food & Drink magazine from the LCBO, there was a recipe for gyros ‘burgers’ that got me thinking: if I took the seasonings from the burger recipe, and added them to the recipe for seitan that I’ve been using, I might be able to make gyros for myself at home!
I’ve tried a number of seitan recipes over the years, but everything I tried was either insanely labour-intensive (involving literally hours of kneading dough under water) or resulted in an unappetizing tough texture. Then I tried the seitan recipe from Isa Chandra Moskowitz in Vegan With A Vengeance, and it was an unqualified success; I haven’t looked back since.
So I adapted Isa’s seitan recipe with the spices from the LCBO recipe, and voila: vegan gyros “meat” was born. My final product was actually vegetarian rather than vegan because I was feeling lazy and cheap, and opted to buy a container of the ready-made President’s Choice Tzatziki for $2.99 rather than spend $6 on vegan sour cream or yogurt and make my own.
- 2c gluten flour*
- ¼c nutritional yeast flakes*
- 2T flour
- 1c cold water
- ½c soy sauce
- 1T tomato paste
- 1T olive oil
- 2t ground cumin
- 1T dried parsley
- 2t dried oregano
- 2T lemon juice
- 2t ground pepper
- 3 veggie bouillon cubes
- 4 greek-style (pocketless) pitas
- 1 tomato, diced or sliced
- ½ small onion, diced or sliced
- tzatziki sauce (store-bought or homemade)
- Mix the gluten, yeast, and flour together in a large bowl. In a measuring cup, whisk together the water, soy sauce, tomato paste, oil, spices, and lemon juice. Add to the dry ingredients, and stir with a wooden spoon until everything is incorporated into a stiff dough.
- Knead the dough for about 5 minutes until it is spongy and elastic. Then allow it to rest for about 10 minutes while you prepare the broth.
- Fill a large soup pot about ½ full of cold water and add the bouillon cubes.
- Roll the dough out into a log, and cut it into about 6 equal pieces. Place the pieces into the cold water, and bring to the boil. As soon as a boil is reached, turn the heat to low and keep the liquid at a low simmer - if you allow it to boil too much it will get a funny texture on the outside. Simmer, partly covered, for an hour, turning the pieces occasionally.
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Once the seitan is cool enough to handle, remove 3 of the pieces from the broth, place in a sealable container, and add enough of the cooking liquid to cover; freeze this portion for future gyros. Cut the other 3 pieces into strips, and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with a little extra pepper if desired.
- Bake at 350F for about 15 minutes, turning once, to lightly brown the strips.
- While the strips are baking, lightly steam the pitas by sprinkling them with a very small amount of water and microwaving them, covered, for about 2 minutes.
- When the strips are out of the oven, place them in a microwave-safe dish, add a sprinkle of water, cover, and microwave for about 2 minutes to steam. This extra step really improves the texture of the seitan to make it juicy like gyros.
- To serve, spread a generous layer of tzatziki on a pita, add the seitan strips, some onion, and tomato. Nom nom nom.
I didn’t think to take a picture of them at the time, sadly, but next time I make them (with the 3 pieces of seitan in my freezer!) I’ll photograph them and add it here!
* Both of these ingredients can be found at health food stores or bulk food stores.