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. Hi, this recipe looks amazing and I will definitely make it. I wondered how many portions the recipe makes and if the nutritional information is available somewhere?

  2. I’m really sorry to ask but what is mushroom sauce? Is it like the Lee Kum Kee vegetarian stir fry sauce? Here in the UK we also have mushroom ketchup. Thanks for the lovely recipe!

  3. Just made this for our ramen night – it did not disappoint (I mean your recipes never do!) We’ve tried many recipes using VWG but this is the only recipe where the texture is so good! Not super chewy or “gummy” or extremely spongy. It was nice! My husband loves it so much he wants me to make it weekly for his prep days. It’s so easy to make that I don’t mind it at all. Thank you so much for this recipe! Highly highly recommend!

  4. I’m totally in love with this recipe. I subbed mushroom sauce for tianmen jiang . The marinade was absolutely delicious”my daughter said it tastes like Chinese restaurants char siu” we both loved it thanks for the recipe!!!

  5. Amazing recipe! Very easy to make and taste like the vegan char sui from the asian store I used to buy but much cheaper.

  6. This recipe is amazing – I didn’t have the fermented tofu block so I used shiro miso instead and I guesstimated the amount so mine was a little too salty but that simply bc I added to much miso. I doubled the maple syrup for the glaze that I put on before searing it and that sweetness made a big difference from the saltiness of my shiro miso. I can’t wait to try this recipe again – not to mention it looked completely authentic, for a moment my parents thought I was eating meat!

  7. My first time making seitan from scratch and it was amazing!!! The marinade was delicious, very flavoursome and the end result was such a hit! Even my meat eating flatmates approved. Can’t wait to try out some more of Lisa’s recipes 🙂