Spicy Sofrito Seitan Bowls
4.88 from 8 votes

These sofrito seitan bowls are fully of flavor and texture. Spicy, savory, and hearty, they also happen to be exceptionally rich in plant protein.

An overhead image of a round white bowl, which has been filled with a colorful arrangement of rice, vegetables, spiced seitan, and curly green kale.

These seitan bowls are proof that, in life and in cooking, it’s good to break habit.

Like most people, I tend to fall into ruts with my vegan lunch bowls.

For example, I rely again and again on the same proteins. Usually, it’s my baked balsamic tofu, lemon pepper tempeh cubes, or crispy roasted chickpeas.

I also get repetitive with my grains. Quinoa is quick cooking, and I like its protein content, so it ends up in a lot of my bowl meals. Farro has my favorite texture, so I rely on it heavily for my grain component, too.

What happens when I break the mold?

I broke the mold for this recipe because I used seitan, a protein that I love, yet which is underutilized in my kitchen.

I also opted for flavors with some heat. I’m usually pretty sensitive to spicy foods, but in the case of these seitan bowls, the spiciness really works.

All things considered, the bowls are sort of a departure from my usual favorite ingredients and flavors. But they’ve become one of my recipes, and I’m hoping that you’re going to love them, too.

A slow build to seitan

I’ve heard it said that tofu, tempeh, and seitan are the “holy trinity” of vegan proteins.

As a new vegan, I fell head over heels for tofu and tempeh almost right away. Seitan, however, was more of a slow burn.

At first, I had a hard time warming up to the texture. I hadn’t yet fully blossomed into the big fan of vegan meats that I am now. So its “meaty,” or “chicken-like” texture felt strange to me.

But the longer I remained vegan, the more I actually missed the chicken I grew up with and meat that I had eaten in childhood.

I know some people miss those foods more at the start of their plant based journeys; I’ve had the reverse experience, craving them more as I become a more seasoned vegan.

This has made it easy for me to love seitan.

What is seitan?

Quite simply, seitan is a versatile protein that’s made with minimal ingredients. The main ingredient is wheat gluten.

Wheat gluten—specifically, vital wheat gluten, which is the base of seitan—is similar to wheat flour. It looks the same, and it can be kneaded in the same way.

Unlike wheat flour, however, vital wheat gluten has very little starch. It’s almost pure protein, which is why it creates a food, seitan, that’s such a good protein source.

Seitan is usually made by mixing vital wheat gluten with seasonings and sometimes other ingredients, such as beans. Then the seitan is steamed or boiled, during which time it expands and becomes both tender and chewy.

At that point, the seitan can be grilled, sautéed, stir fried, or eaten plain. It can be used to create “steak,” “chicken,” or any plant-based meat you like.

Do I have to make seitan for this recipe?

Absolutely not. In fact, these spicy seitan bowls call for using store-bought seitan.

Listen, I don’t mind making seitan from scratch. It can be a pretty enjoyable process of DIY-ing. But when my time is limited, I find that it’s much easier to purchase seitan for cooking than to make it myself.

Store-bought seitan comes in strips, pieces, and sometimes in a ground form. It is increasingly easier and easier to find, even in mainstream grocers.

My favorite seitan brands are Uptons Naturals, Blackbird Foods, and SweetEarth Foods.

What’s sofrito?

While seitan may be the central protein for these seitan bowls, the other star ingredient is a homemade version of sofrito.

Sofrito is a sauce that usually consists of consists of garlic, onion, paprika, peppers, and tomatoes. It is used as a base to to flavor vegetables, meat or rice in Spanish, Portugese, and South American cooking.

There are different variations of sofrito, but nearly any recipe will require you to finely chop the vegetables that are involved. You can do this with a chef’s knife, of course. I like to use my food processor.

A flavorful and textured bowl

When I put a vegan bowl together, I’m always thinking about the whole, rather than focusing on each part.

An image of a round white bowl, which has been filled with a colorful arrangement of rice, vegetables, spiced seitan, and curly green kale.
Seasoned rice and vegetables, sofrito-seasoned seitan strips, and simple marinated kale are the three components in these seitan bowls.

I want there to be balance of color, texture, and flavor. I want the bowl to be a Power Plate—that is, a meal that contains a protein source, a source of healthful fats, and a source of carbohydrate.

And I like for there to be a vegetable involved. If it’s a green vegetable, so much the better.

These seitan bowls have it all. The starch is Spanish rice-inspired brown rice, which is seasoned and mixed with vegetables. (If you’re trying to increase vegetable consumption, these bowls are for you—many types of veggies in one place!)

The protein is seitan strips, which could be seitan chunks or pieces if that’s what easy to find. They’ve been seasoned with a sofrito base.

The fat in these power plates (or bowls) is olive oil used for cooking, as well as the dressing for marinated kale. And speaking of that, kale is the green vegetable.

How to make sofrito spiced seitan bowls

This recipe will involve some steps and some patience. The result—vibrant, protein-packed, delicious bowls that can give you a few meals for the week—is totally worthwhile.

Step 1: Make the rice

The first step in this recipe is to make a vegetable-packed, seasoned pot of brown rice.

Since brown rice takes some time to cook, you should plan on this step taking 45-50 minutes. You’ll sauté some vegetables first, then add tomatoes, spices, water, and rice.

Bring the mixture to a simmer, cover it, and allow it to simmer until the rice is cooked. The vegetables and rice will mingle together and become tender in a really nice way.

Step 2: Prepare the seitan

The seitan in these seitan bowls will be simmered with a juicy, red sofrito sauce. However, the protein has a better texture if you sear strips of it first, allowing them to brown a bit, then set them aside to make the sauce.

The first step for the sofrito is to finely chop garlic, onion, and peppers. A food processor will make this easy work, as I mentioned, but chopping by hand is fine, too.

You can add these chopped vegetables back to the same large, deep skillet in which you seared the seitan strips.

Next, you’ll fold in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and cayenne, which is the kick of heat that makes this a spicy (for me) recipe.

Allow this sauce to come to a bubbly simmer, turn the heat to low, and simmer it, uncovered, until it thickens up.

Finally, you’ll add your cooked seitan strips back to the skillet. At this point, you have a saucy, well-seasoned vegan protein that gives life to the protein-packed vegan bowls.

An overhead image of a frying pan filled with a vegan protein and tomato sauce.
The seitan strips in this recipe are pan-sautéed and seasoned with a zesty, spicy sofrito sauce.

Step 3: Make the kale

This is an easy step. The kale in this recipe is a simple, olive oil, lemon, and garlic “massaged” kale salad.

An overhead image of a white mixing bowl. The bowl is filled with raw kale, which has been marinated with a vinaigrette.
“Massaging” the raw kale with a simple vinaigrette will tenderize the greens.

I know that it might seem odd to match raw kale with the warm, spiced ingredients in these bowls. But I honestly love that flavor, temperature, and texture contrast.

The kale adds some crispness and acidity to an otherwise earthy combination of ingredients.

Step 4: Assemble and enjoy

The final step here, of course, is to divide all three components of this recipe into serving bowls.

An overhead image of a round white bowl, which has been filled with a colorful arrangement of rice, vegetables, spiced seitan, and curly green kale.

Dig in and enjoy!

Optional toppings and garnishes

There’s so much flavor and texture going on in the seitan bowls that I don’t think too many dressings, garnishes, or additions are necessary.

However, it never hurts to add a little sauce or crunch to a bowl, right? Here are some suggestions, if you’d like to put a finishing touch on this recipe:

The Vegan Week

Embrace the joy of eating homemade food every day with the hearty and wholesome recipes in The Vegan Week.

Whether you have three, two, or even just one hour of time to spare, The Vegan Week will show you how to batch cook varied, colorful, and comforting dishes over the weekend.

Meal prep & storage

Once prepared, the seitan and rice for the seitan bowls will keep in airtight containers in the fridge for up to five days each. They can also be frozen for up to six weeks.

The marinated kale can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days.

More protein powered vegan bowls

If you love to create vegan grain bowls that are packed with plant protein, this is an especially good recipe.

But it’s not my only high protein vegan bowl. Here are some others that you might enjoy:

And here’s a recipe that just may turn you into a fan of seitan.

An image of a round white bowl, which has been filled with a colorful arrangement of rice, vegetables, spiced seitan, and curly green kale. It rests on a white surface.
An overhead image of a round white bowl, which has been filled with a colorful arrangement of rice, vegetables, spiced seitan, and curly green kale.
4.88 from 8 votes

Spicy Seitan Sofrito Bowls

Author – Gena Hamshaw
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Yields: 4 servings


For the Spanish-inspired rice:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small or 1/2 large white or yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup cauliflower, chopped into small florets and pieces
  • 1 cup long-grain brown rice, rinsed (180g)
  • 3/4 cup crushed tomatoes (this is half of a 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes; you'll use the other half in the sofrito, below)
  • 3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 generous pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups water

For the seitan sofrito:

  • 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 8 ounces seitan strips or pieces (225g)
  • 1/2 large white or yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 3/4 cup crushed tomatoes (half of a 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes; the other half is used in the rice, above)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • pinch cayenne pepper (optional)

For the massaged kale:

  • 1 large bunch curly kale, stemmed and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste


  • First, make the rice. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt. Cook the onions for 5 minutes, or until they're soft and clear, stirring frequently. Add the peppers, carrot, and cauliflower. Cook the vegetables, stirring occasionally, for another 4-5 minutes, or until the cauliflower is just tender. Add the rice, tomatoes, smoked paprika, salt, crushed red pepper, and water. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cover the rice. Simmer for 35-45 minutes, or until the rice is tender and has absorbed all of the liquid. Remove the rice from heat and adjust salt and pepper to taste.
  • While the rice cooks, make the seitan sofrito. Place the garlic, onion, and peppers into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the S blade and pulse until everything is finely chopped. (Alternately, finely chop by hand.)
  • Heat two teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the seitan strips and cook, stirring, until they're lightly browned. Remove the seitan strips from the skillet and set them aside.
  • Add another tablespoon olive oil to the skillet. Add the chopped garlic, onion, and pepper mixture, along with the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, thyme, and cayenne. Wait until the mixture is bubbly, then simmer it for 10 minutes, covered, or until it has thickened up (it should be the texture of a chunky tomato sauce). Stir in the seitan strips.
  • To make the kale, place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Massage the kale with your hands until it's tender—use pressure! Give the greens some love. Taste, then adjust salt and pepper to taste
  • To assemble the bowls, divide the rice, seitan, and kale evenly into four bowls. Serve with any toppings you like: pepitas, chopped cilantro or parsley, or chopped green onions are all great. Enjoy.


Leftover rice and seitan will keep for up to 3 days in an airtight container in the fridge.

Even if you’ve been eating a vegan diet for a long time, it’s fun to branch out and experiment with new foods.

I’m glad that so many great products, including store-bought seitan, exist to widen options and increase convenience.

May this bowl wake up your taste buds and make you feel nourished!


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Categories: Recipes, Vegan Bowls
Method: Stovetop
Ingredients: Kale, Rice, Seitan, Tomatoes
Dietary Preferences: Soy Free, Tree Nut Free, Vegan
Recipe Features: Meal Prep

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Recipe Rating

  1. 5 stars
    This is so delicious! I actually made the recipe 2 ways- one way with Upton seitan strips and the other with Upton chorizo seitan crumbles. Both are great, but it is sensational with the chorizo seitan crumble. We preferred it in homemade corn tortillas topped with mexican-style rice, avocado, greek yogurt and some lettuce/spinach. My husband could not stop eating it. Thank you for making me a hero in the kitchen:)

  2. I’ve been wanting to try seitan. This will be the perfect recipe to start with. Thanks!

  3. Imwould like to try this recipe, but also think using it in tacos would be very good.

  4. This looks delicious! I’m wondering – while obviously someone who is Celiac would not go near seitan, do you have any experience with clients in your practice who were “gluten intolerant’ but were able to enjoy seitan (perhaps because of how it’s produced)? I can have Rudi’s spelt tortillas in moderation with little effect, but regular bread, pasta and other usual sources of gluten do not agree with me. No doubt the only way to know for sure is for me to try it and see, but would love to know if you have any experience or insight into this….Thanks!

    • Hi Shayna!

      This is actually a rather complex question. There are some gluten intolerant people who can have limited amounts of gluten without any trouble, so long as they don’t eat it regularly or in large amounts. What you might be referring to, though, is the difference between eating whole wheat products (like whole wheat pasta or bread) and eating seitan. Seitan doesn’t contain some of the polysaccharides that whole grain products do, as it’s made with wheat gluten (rather than whole wheat). So, if you have trouble digesting wheat (which new research suggests is what’s actually going on in many cases of gluten intolerance–it’s not gluten so much as digestive trouble with the carbohydrates in wheat foods), seitan might actually be easier to digest.

      If you have trouble with gluten specifically, rather than wheat, then seitan would likely be as much of a risk as any other glutenous food, but once again, some limited amounts might be tolerable so long as one is moderate and the intake isn’t frequent.

      Hope this helps!


  5. I tried seitan for the first time at a restaurant this month and am curious to try making it myself. Thanks for the idea!

  6. This bowl (!!!) so in love with these flavors, Gena. Amazing. Sadly my body won’t tolerate wheat, so I’d have to try with tempeh, but would go for this stuff in a heartbeat if I could! Have a stellar holiday weekend, girl – xo

  7. This is so weird! My husband and I just started our vegan journey and we bought this EXACT SAME chicken seitan at whole foods and had no clue what to do with it! We have all these ingredients in our pantry! Cannot wait to try this recipe out tonight! Thanks for sharing!
    xx Annie

  8. I would like to give my mom some of the artisan bowl products. She enjoys trying different Amy’s products like them. She has adopted a mostly vegan diet too. Also having the Tuscan Veggie Sausage with pancakes in the morning!

  9. What a fantastic introduction to seitan, Gena. I’ve not tried it, but would be happy to put a few packages of sweet earth seitan in my basket. This bowl looks like a delicious way to introduce seitan into our diets! I’ll be on the lookout! When I stopped eating meat, Rob came along, but he still eats meat occassionally when we go out. He too loves meat subs and there are some tasty ones available (have you tried field roast?). I’m looking forward to trying sweet earth. Thank you for this Gena!

  10. The easiest thing is to just use it in place of meat in a stir-fry… or use it in place of turkey in a turkey chili recipe… you can use it in place of meat in a lot of recipes actually 🙂 It’s quite versatile.

  11. Easy but delicious and protein-rich work lunches! Just throw some edamame, broccoli, and brown rice in there with a sauce like @pbeechie on IG!

  12. Ooooh, this looks incredible! I’ve never tried seitan before, and I don’t even know where I would find it where I live, but I definitely want to give it a shot now! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Akino | akinokiki.blogspot.ca

  13. These flavors look like what we would love; I’m looking forward to making the rice and the seitan!

  14. I would love to make the veggie burgers!
    Thank you for the wonderful giveaway.

  15. I’ve seen the brand at my local grocery store and have tried a couple of their frozen burritos. The curry tiger one is pretty good! I wouldn’t mind trying their seitan crumbles to mix into a dish.

  16. I love one bowl meals. I have seen this brand in the store and will try it next time I am buying seitan. Thank you for the recipe 🙂

  17. I’ve never been much of a seitan fan myself, but the recipe in this post looks pretty tasty!

  18. hehe I would call lentils chickpeas black beans my holy trinity of vegan protein 🙂 i tend to prefer the kind of dishes you make with them over more meatlike meals. which is probably also due to the fact that i spend most of my vegan years in Africa, where pulses are widely available, in contrast to meat replacers. funny coincidence: i have lived in a very basic setting for a while whitout electricity or gaz, so i was cooking myself dinner on a camping stove, and that rice was one of my staples!