The uses and benefits of seitan
You’ve probably seen seitan in the meat alternatives section of the grocery store.
It is derived from gluten, wheat’s main protein. It is derived from a wheat flour dough, which is dipped into the water until all of the starch granules have been removed, resulting in a sticky insoluble gluten mass, which is then cooked.
Despite its dreary appearance (think: brown and semi-amorphous), seitan tastes remarkably like meat and is a great substitute for pork sausage on pizza or chicken in a stir-fry.
Seitan is a versatile vegan meat substitute—but is it healthy?
What is seitan?
Although seitan is often compared to tofu and tempeh, they are pretty different. Since seitan is made from gluten and not soybeans like tofu and tempeh, Amy Shapiro, Registered Dietician and Founder of Real Nutrition, says that seitan is made of wheat protein after the dough particles have been removed.
A note on seitan can also show up as “vital wheat gluten” on ingredient lists — another term for the same thing.
Seitan is a solid meat alternative (and, to be honest, not all meat alternatives are the same). Shapiro explains that it is commonly used in vegan meat substitutes like Tofurky since it has a good texture. In terms of newcomers or people who are averse to tofu, it is a good introduction to vegan meat substitutes.
Does seitan have any nutritional value?
The protein in Seitan is high, and the calories are low. Seitan doesn’t contain all the essential amino acids found in animal protein, so it shouldn’t be relied upon to meet your protein requirements. A seitan sandwich with other plant-based proteins like grains, beans, and nuts will give you an equivalent protein boost to a chicken sandwich.
Is eating seitan bad for you?
A good thing in excess is not a good thing. The sodium content of commercial seitan is often high to maintain shelf life. For a healthy heart and to prevent high blood pressure and heart failure, your sodium intake should not exceed 2,300 mg per day. Check the ingredients list for sodium information. (A tip: seasoned or marinated seitan chunks have a higher sodium content than those made by themselves, so to cut down, make your own seasoning blend.)
According to the journal Gastroenterology and Hepatology, some brands may also contain preservatives like sulphites, which can cause side effects such as dermatitis or diarrhea in some people.
Is seitan best prepared in any particular way?
The good thing about seitan is that it’s hard to mess up. So, go ahead and experiment in the kitchen. Wherever meat would normally be used, it works great. It can be sauteed in stir-fries, baked like pork loin, added to salads the same way you would grilled chicken, or shredded into tacos.
Can I freeze seitan?
You can freeze seitan after it has been cut into chunks (or sliced, if you prefer). Keep the seitan in an airtight container in the freezer for 6 months.
What is the best way to use seitan?
Seitan can be used in any recipe that calls for meat. It has a similar taste and texture to meat, so it is a popular vegan alternative. Seitan is also healthier and healthier for the planet than regular meat.
Here are some of favorite ways people cook seitan:
- Seitan can be eaten quite plain, since the meat is already cooked, but I prefer the other cooking options as I find the seitan to have a better texture and taste.
- Cooking it with extra virgin olive oil and a little bit of seitan (sliced) to a golden brown is my go-to method on a daily basis.
- You can make the seitan taste more powerful by marinating it like meat.
- The seitan can be prepared in any way you like: sautéing, boiling, steaming, roasting, grilling, etc.
- Making fajitas or Asian dishes with it is amazing.
- Cut into large chunks for soups and stews, or even to make skewers.
- As if they were chicken strips, these are fried and then breaded.
Seitan vs. Tempeh
Seitan and tempeh share many similarities, but they are also very different products. Seitan is made using wheat and therefore contains gluten, whereas tempeh is made using soy, which is not a gluten-containing product. Since tempeh is fermented, it is easier to digest even for people who are not gluten-sensitive.
Seitan Nutritious Facts
Despite being almost entirely made of wheat gluten, Seitan is still a high-protein and mineral food that is low in carbs and fats.
Approximately one serving (made from one ounce of vital wheat gluten) contains these nutrients (1):
- Calories: 104
- Protein: 21 grams
- Selenium: 16% of the RDI
- Iron: 8% of the RDI
- Phosphorus: 7% of the RDI
- Calcium: 4% of the RDI
- Copper: 3% of the RDI
This easy seitan recipe uses plant-based proteins to make this high-protein meat alternative.
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce, tamari, or Bragg Liquid Aminos
- 1 cup water
- 2 1/4 cups vital wheat gluten
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast, optional
- 1 to 2 tablespoons seasoning or spice blend (good options: BBQ seasoning, jerk seasoning, vegan poultry seasoning or rub spices).
- 1 large or 2 regular-sized vegetable bouillon cubes
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce, tamari, or Bragg Liquid Aminos
- 3 to 4 slices of fresh ginger or a good squeeze of bottled ginger
- Stir together the soy sauce with 1 cup of water in a small bowl.
- Add the gluten flour, baking powder, nutritional yeast, and salt to a medium mixing bowl.
- The liquid should be gradually added to form a stiff dough, stirring at first with a spoon while working with your hands. Add a little more water if necessary; you want the dry ingredients to be moistened but you want it to remain stiff.
- It won’t be completely smooth but turn out onto a floured board (increase gluten flour if need be) and knead for two to three minutes.
- Let it rest for 15 minutes in one of the bowls you used. Return the dough to that bowl, cover it with a clean tea towel.
- Meanwhile, dissolve the bouillon cubes in water and add the ginger. Start heating.
- You should divide the dough into two pieces and form long, narrow leaves in the shape of miniature French bread. You’ll have a hard time working with this dough because it tries to spring back to whatever shape you have it in, but you’ll still get a good result.
- Each dough section should be sliced only 1/2 inch thick with a sharp, serrated knife.
- Gently drop each piece of dough into the boiling water as soon as it reaches a slow boil.
- The dough will puff up in a few minutes and look as though it’s going to escape, but it will settle back! Push the pieces into the water until they’re submerged.
- After 30 minutes of simmering, remove from heat. To use seitan in recipes, simply scoop out pieces (usually three-quarters or half of the amount made from this recipe will be sufficient for an average recipe). Once cool enough to handle, slice or chunk the meat into smaller pieces.