How to Make Vegan Char Siu

The Ingredients

There are two main components to making vegan char siu: the seitan which is the ‘pork’ portion and the marinade that gives it the classic Chinese BBQ flavour.

For the seitan:

  • Vital wheat gluten: the main ingredient to making mock meats.
  • Baking powder: the secret ingredient that helps seitan not get rubbery and too dense!
  • Soft or medium firm tofu: another ingredient that helps with moisture and prevents it from drying out when baked or panfried.
  • Soy sauce & salt: for a boost of flavour3/4 cup vital wheat (90g) 
  • Cold water: I’ve found it easier to use cold water to bring the dough together.

For the Marinade:

  • Garlic
  • Fermented tofu (Fu): can be substituted with any fermented bean paste such as miso or doubanjiang.
  • Molasses
  • Chinese five spice
  • White pepper: or black pepper
  • Mushroom sauce: can also substitute with hoisin sauce (note it will be a touch sweeter).
  • Chinese shaozing wine 
  • Soy sauce
  • Maple syrup: adjust the amount depending on how sweet you like it.

Everyone has a flavour preference so adjust the amount to taste! You can also add more flavour with things like ginger, scallions, smoked paprika, sesame oil, etc.

The Directions

  1. Make the seitan: blend the tofu with water. Add the vital wheat gluten, baking powder and salt to a bowl and mix. Then pour in the tofu water mixture and soy sauce while mixing with a fork or chopsticks. Once it begins to clump, knead with your hands for a few minutes (about 3 minutes). Squeeze the gluten ball to help remove air bubbles.
  2. Rest: Stretch and shape the gluten into a rectangle. Place in a container covered and let it rest for 45 minutes.
  3. Simmer: Add the marinade ingredients to a pot except the garlic (+ ginger and scallions if using). Reserve 3 tbsp of this marinade and set aside. Add the garlic (+ginger and scallions if using) and water to the pot. Turn on the heat to high and once it comes to a boil, reduce to medium low. Once it begins to simmer, carefully drop in the seitan and simmer for 25-30 minutes. The seitan will expand, this is normal! It will shrink once you remove it from the water. Do not let the marinade ever boil or the seitan will be spongy.
  4. Final touches: Remove the seitan from the marinade, let it rest on a cutting board until cool enough to handle. The seitan should shrink and feel firm to the touch. Slice it in half and then brush with oil, maple syrup and reserved marinade. From here, you can either bake or pan fry it.
  5. Extra sauce (optional): With the remaining marinade in the pot, you can reduce it over medium high heat for about 10 minutes or until thick and saucy. Drizzle it over the char siu when ready to serve.

More delicious vegan Chinese recipes to try:

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Vegan Char Siu (Chinese BBQ Pork)

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4.9 from 16 reviews


Units Scale

Char Siu Seitan

  • 3/4 cup vital wheat gluten (90g)
  • 3 tbsp soft tofu (45g // or medium firm)
  • 1/41/3 cup cold water (I use exactly 78ml)
  • 2 tsp soy sauce (10ml)
  • 1/4 tsp salt (1.5g)
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder (1.2g)


  • 3 garlic cloves, minced (9g)
  • 2 fermented tofu cubes (15g)
  • 1/2 tbsp molasses (7g)
  • 1 tsp five spice powder (5g)
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper (1g)
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika, optional (3g)
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil, optional (3g)
  • 1 tsp salt (5g)
  • 1 tbsp mushroom sauce (15g // or hoisin sauce)
  • 1 tbsp Chinese shaozing wine (15ml)
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce (30ml)
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup or sugar (20g // up to 3 tbsp depending on how sweet you like it)
  • 2 cups water (500ml)


  • 1 tbsp oil (15ml)
  • 12 tbsp maple syrup or dissolved sugar (20g)


  1. Blend the tofu with water. Add all the dry ingredients to a bowl and mix. Then add in the tofu-water mixture while mixing. Knead with your hands for a few minutes (about 3). Squeeze the gluten (this helps remove any air bubbles), stretch and shape into a rectangle. Place in a container covered and rest for 45 minutes. 
  2. Add the marinade ingredients to a pot except the garlic. Reserve 3 tbsp of the marinade. Add in the garlic and water. Bring the marinade to a boil and then reduce to medium low. Once simmering, drop in the seitan and simmer 25-30 minutes. The seitan does expand, this is normal. It will shrink once you remove it from the water. 
  3. Slice in half and then brush oil and maple syrup over. Then brush the reserved marinade.
  4. TO BAKE: 350 F for 5 minutes and then broil for 1 minute. 
  5. TO PAN FRY: Over medium high both sides for 3 minutes or until charred. 

Sauce (optional):

  1. With the remaining marinade the seitan was boiling in, you can reduce it over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until most of the water cooks off and use it as a sauce. 


  • If you prefer a softer seitan, increase water by 1-2 tbsp and knead less. Aim for a soft dough.
  • If you prefer a denser, compact seitan then add 1 tbsp more vital wheat gluten and knead for longer.
  • Baking the seitan gives a lean-meat texture whereas panfrying it will keep it more moist. 


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About Lisa

I'm Lisa, a home cook, recipe developer and founder of Okonomi Kitchen. Here, you'll find a mix of classic and modernized Japanese recipes, and creative, plant-forward meal inspiration using seasonal ingredients. I hope to share more about Japanese cuisine and culture through food and recipes.

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  1. Loved this take on seitan! Definitely recommend to anyone who wants to switch it up, definitely going to make a bigger batch next time and try making some char siu baos after with the leftovers

  2. I tried this last weekend and it turned out pretty good! Only thing I would say is that the dough was very wet, and I needed to add a lot of extra wheat gluten to get it to a kneadable consistency. I used 1/3 cup of water. Just a suggestion, maybe to have a note to add water in small increments?

  3. Made quite a few modifications since I was in a rush (was in the middle of making the vegan Char Siu Bao when I realized I needed half of this recipe) but it still turned out great. I made the marinade as written but substituted liquid smoke for the paprika and included ginger and scallions as recommended. Instead of making the Seitan, I used the marinade on a combination of yaki tofu (pre-grilled tofu purchased at my local Asian market) and aburaage. Simmered for 25 mins as directed and it turned out great! Did not follow the glazing steps as I was in a rush.

  4. A-MA-ZING!! Super easy to make, a compelling texture, and the sweetness of the marinade with the taste of the seitan mix perfectly. Will make again, 100%!

  5. So tasty! It’s not my first time making vegan char siu, but this is definitely my fave recipe! Also, I don’t make seitan often because it usually take forever and requires lots of ingredients , which isn’t the case here. That’s a bit plus lol I know I’ll make it again and again. 🙂

  6. The flavor of the char siu seitan was amazing! But my seitan was a little too wet, so the final product wasn’t as chewy, I would recommend adding a little extra vital wheat gluten.

  7. This is delcious! I’ve never made seitan with this texture so it was really fun. I decided to go for the softer baked seitan and wow the flavours and texture were awesome. Subbed the molasses and syrup for date syrup and brown sugar as its all I had on hand and worked really well. Thanks for sharing