What Is Seitan?


Seitan Dish

Nowadays seitan is the basis of many items for vegetable lovers and has a very affordable price. For example, it is easy to find meatless wieners, seitan burgers, fake bacon, and many other foods in supermarkets.

You can, for the most part, discover it in an assortment of styles, for example, ground, in cuts, or in strips. 

The word “seitan” is of Japanese origin, although it seems that the use of vital wheat gluten began in China centuries ago by vegetarian Buddhist monks.

However, seitan intended as a meat substitute originated from the Japanese macrobiotic movement in the early 1960s and subsequently imported to the United States in the late 1960s.

The Main Question: What Is Seitan?

Wheat meat is also called seitan and is a vegan meat substitute perfect for veggie lovers and vegetarians.  

Seitan turns out to be shockingly like the look of meat when it’s cooked. 

While seitan is regularly mistaken for tofu or tempeh, it’s entirely unique. In contrast to tofu or tempeh, which are produced using soybeans, if you ask yourself “what is seitan made of?” the answer is gluten.  

Gluten is a complex mixture of many proteins found in wheat, mainly gliadin and glutenin.

It is additionally called wheat protein, or wheat gluten.

Seitan goes well with other flavors and is a great ally if you approach the vegan world or if you are not a fan of tofu.

What Does Seitan Taste Like?

If cooked with the right type of sauces, it can be incredibly tasty. It has a solid consistency and in itself is rather tasteless. It easily absorbs the flavors of the sauces in which it is cooked, which is why it is ideal for Asian cuisine.

The main characteristic that the palate perceives is much more linked to its surface than to its taste. The consistency is quite chewy but somehow it is very close to that of a piece of steak.

This is particularly evident when compared to several other options, for example, tempeh which does not have a surface very similar to meat. 

Seitan Nutritional Facts

Seitan is high in protein and low in calories but you don’t have to rely completely on seitan alone to meet the protein needs we need. This is because it does not contain all the amino acids that are normally found in other foods. 

To compensate this is always appropriate to combine seitan with other plant-based protein sources such as beans and cereals.

Here is a look at the nutritional breakdown of 1 ounce of seitan referring to  Percent Daily Values ( DV ).

  • Calories: 104
  • Protein: 21 grams
  • Carbohydrate: 3.9 grams
  • Total Fat: 0.5 grams
  • Selenium: 16% DV 
  • Iron: 8% DV
  • Zinc: 2% DV
  • Phosphorus: 7% DV
  • Calcium: 4% DV
  • Copper: 3% DV 

From the table, you can see that it is low in carbohydrates. This is due to the production process, in which the starch present in the wheat flour is washed off.

Wheat grains are known to contain a very low amount of fat and in fact, even in seitan, there is very little.

However, remember that the seitan you buy in stores usually contains other ingredients to improve the flavor and aroma.

This leads to a different nutritional profile depending on the nature of these ingredients.

Health Benefits Of Seitan

Apple

Although seitan is a processed food, it is still rich in protein and low in saturated fat. This can be a healthy addition to your diet if you decide to use it as a meat substitute.

Since it can practically take on the flavor of meat, it can also help a fanatic meat-eater to settle for a more vegetable diet.

Moreover, if you are not a fan of genetically modified foods ( GMOs ) then you are welcome to choose seitan based foods. In fact, wheat crops have nothing to do with genetic alterations unlike other alternative foods used to replace meat.

Who Should Avoid Seitan?

Although we have listed some of the benefits of seitan, there are groups of people with some health problems that should avoid it.

These problems include:

  • Wheat allergy: we said that Seitan is essentially wheat gluten, so if you are allergic to gluten, you cannot eat it as a single dish, nor use it as an ingredient in a more complex dish.
  • Celiac disease: the immune system of people with celiac disease has a dangerous reaction if protein gluten is consumed. This group of people should definitely avoid seitan and acquire vegetarian proteins from gluten-free foods.
  • Diabetes: people who suffer from diabetes or tend to have high blood sugar levels should avoid it. the ban is due to the high glycemic index of this food which causes a sharp increase in blood sugar immediately after being ingested.

People suffering from irritable bowel should not avoid seitan at all costs but should check the reactions after eating it. 

Some medical research claims that wheat gluten can increase the permeability of the intestine. This can lead to bloating of the stomach and unpleasant intestinal reactions. 

If you find yourself in this situation then it is best to avoid it.

In addition, pre-packaged seitan may have a high added sodium level.

So all people who need to keep the amount of sodium low in the body must read the information on the labels or prepare it at home.

Where To Buy Seitan

Nowadays it is not complicated to find the most suitable seitan for your recipes. There are several varieties, from simple to flavored.

Pre-packaged Seitan can be found in the fridge of most health food stores. It is usually located near where tofu is sold.

It is also possible to buy it online, both as a refrigerated product and as a dry mixture.

How To Make Seitan

Creating your favorite Seitan is not complicated at all. We have listed the steps to follow for an easy recipe.

  1. Take a medium deep bowl, add the dried vital wheat gluten, the spices of your choice and slowly pour water or vegetarian broth into it. mix with your hands until it is rubbery. You will need about two cups of water for each cup of vital wheat gluten. Add more water if necessary, but make sure you get a gummy ball.
  2. Knead the gummy ball for a few minutes. After that let it rest for 20 minutes. Repeat these steps one more time. This causes your seitan to become chewier.
  3. Cut the dough into four smaller pieces. Prepare the vegetarian broth in another pot and bring it to a boil. Some people add soy sauce but it is simply a matter of taste. As soon as it comes to a boil, lower the flame of the broth until it no longer boils.
  4. Place the pieces of seitan in the broth and simmer them for an hour.
  5. Cool your seitan and add it to your recipe.

Feel free to also take a look at this video on how to make seitan from wheat flour. 

You can store seitan in the broth in the refrigerator for about three or four days. If instead, you plan to use it in the future, then you can extract the various pieces from the broth and freeze them.

Final Considerations

As a high protein ingredient, seitan can safely be used in a healthy diet.

However, one must be careful as it is not suitable for everyone. For example, people allergic to gluten must stay away from it. In addition, it is always a good idea to check the amount of sodium used in the food.

With the right information, you can make seitan a real ally especially if you have decided to approach the vegetarian or vegan world.

Robert

Robert is the frontman of this platform who can't resist good food. He manages KitchenCuriously to make it an unbiased alternative resource for all aspects related to cooking.

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