With vegan meats continuing to soar in popularity, even those who have given up eating meat don’t need to sacrifice the flavor completely.
How about if you don’t like these meat substitutes, though, or what if you’re looking for a little more variety?
Well, seitan is another plant-based meat block that’s well worth exploring. In today’s guide, we’ll show you what seitan is made of, and we’ll also give you some health and nutrition background.
Seitan is not for everyone – and we’ll be listing who should avoid this protein below – but maybe you fancy pepping up your vegan game for the festive season with something slightly different.
I. Seitan 101
You pronounce seitan “say-tan”, and it’s a vegan substitute for meat.
Seitan is made wholly from hydrated gluten. This is the primary protein you find in wheat.
Sometimes, you’ll see seitan under the following names:
- Wheat protein
- Wheat meat
- Wheat gluten
Wheat flour is kneaded with water in order to produce seitan. This process serves to develop the sticky strands of gluten protein required. Rinsing the dough will then wash all the starch away.
The residual sticky mass is pure gluten protein. This can then be seasoned and used in an array of vegan or vegetarian dishes in place of meat.
You can find seitan pre-made in the frozen or refrigerated section of most decent grocery stores.
It is also possible to make seitan at home. All you need to do is mix some purified and dried gluten powder – this is known as vital wheat gluten – with some water.
Seitan has a pronounced savory taste not dissimilar to portobello mushrooms or bland chicken. While the flavor is mild, it can also take on the flavors of your recipe. Seitan comes out hot and spicy with chicken wings, or it can taste much more savory with a Thai massaman curry.
It is the texture rather than the taste that’s the main draw with seitan. This is more apparent when seitan is compared to tofu or tempeh, neither of which boasts the same meaty texture.
II. Seitan v Tempeh
Seitan and tempeh share some common uses, but they also differ significantly.
Where seitan is made from wheat, it contains gluten. Tempeh, on the other hand, is a soy product, so it is unsuitable for gluten-free cooking.
Unlike seitan, tempeh is also fermented, so it will be easy to digest, even if you have a gluten sensitivity.
So far, so good. Is seitan any good for you, though?
III. Is Seitan Nutritious?
Although seitan consists almost completely of wheat gluten, it is still nutritious.
Seitan is high in minerals and protein, but low in fats and carbs.
You’ll find the following nutrients in one serving of seitan:
- 104 calories
- 21g protein
- 4g carbohydrate
- 5g fat
- 16% RDI of selenium
- 8% RDI of iron
- 7% RDI of phosphorus
- 4% RDI of calcium
- 3% RDI of copper
All of the starch typically found in wheat flour is washed away when making seitan. This is what makes it such a low-carb option, with just 4g of carbs per serving.
The almost fat-free nature of what grains means seitan is very low in fat, too.
Some store-bought seitan contains extra ingredients to boost the texture and flavor. These additives will impact the above nutritional profile.
Now, although seitan is nutritious, it’s also highly processed. It is not a naturally-occurring product. Seitan only springs into being when you rinse away the starch from kneaded wheat dough, or when vital wheat gluten is rehydrated in water.
While seitan is a processed food, the low calorie, sugar, and fat content means it will not contribute to obesity as badly as many other processed foods.
If you’re looking to eat a diet that’s rich in fruits, veggies, whole grains, and other whole foods, you can easily incorporate seitan into this diet.
If, on the other hand, you already eat a diet packed with processed foods, you might want to rethink using seitan as a meat substitute.
IV. Is Seitan a Good Source of Protein?
Seitan is packed with protein as it’s made entirely from gluten. Gluten is wheat’s main protein.
The precise protein content of seitan varies according to any other proteins used during production – legume or soy flours, for example.
A single 3oz serving of seitan will contain between 15g and 21g of protein, the rough equivalent to animal proteins such as beef or chicken.
That said, despite the high protein content, seitan does not contain enough lysine for your body’s needs. This is a valuable amino acid. The absence of this essential acid means that seitan is not a complete protein.
If you are vegan or vegetarian and you still fancy giving seitan a shot, get around this by eating more foods rich in lysine.
Now you have the lowdown on this incomplete protein, how do you go about cooking with the stuff?
V. Cooking with Seitan
Made from nothing but water and wheat gluten, plain seitan has a neutral taste. When used with sauces and seasonings, seitan can take on other flavors, meaning it is a very versatile addition to your kitchen.
Here are some of the most popular ways of cooking with seitan:
- As a ground beef substitute
- Marinated and baked then sliced like meat
- Covered with BBQ sauce for a lip-smacking main
- Used in strips for stir-fries or fajitas
- Breaded and deep-fried
- Simmered in stews for the winter
- Skewered and grilled or baked
- Cooked in broth
- Steamed for a lighter flavor profile
In terms of texture, seitan is described as toothsome and dense. This lends for a more convincing replica of meat than you get from either tofu or tempeh.
You can buy pre-packaged seitan, or you can easily make your own at home for a healthy and hearty vegan protein choice.
VI. How to Store Seitan
Homemade seitan will stay fresh in the refrigerator for a few days. You can freeze seitan for 3 months.
With store-bought seitan, simply check for the expiration date.
OK, is seitan good for everyone, then?
VII. Who Should Avoid Seitan?
Seitan is made wholly from wheat flour, so if you cannot eat gluten or wheat, you should sidestep seitan. This includes those with:
- Allergies to wheat or gluten
- Sensitivities to wheat or gluten
- Intolerances to wheat or gluten
- Celiac disease (an autoimmune disease triggered by gluten)
Consisting of nothing but water and wheat gluten, consuming seitan can result in an intense adverse reaction if you are gluten-intolerant.
You can also find that pre-packaged sodium has high levels of sodium. If you need to watch your salt intake, rethink adding seitan to your diet, or consider making your own seitan at home to avoid these issues.
We hope you’ve enjoyed today’s brief guide to the pros and cons of seitan.
Take a moment before you head off to bookmark Madiba, and pop back soon for more informative guides and impartial reviews. We’ll see you soon!