What is seitan? Despite how the name sounds, seitan isn’t food of choice for satanic vegans. Sometimes called wheat meat, it’s actually a versatile meatless food made from wheat gluten. Here I’ll give you the low down on this protein rich, plant-based staple, along with some of my favorite vegan recipes.
What is Seitan?
As a meat substitute, seitan isn’t quite as popular in mainstream cuisine as tofu yet. Maybe it’s because of its name, or perhaps it’s because people are a little unsure of what to do with it.
Seitan is a meat substitute made from wheat gluten. It actually looks quite a bit like meat, and it can be used in recipes that might traditionally be made with beef or pork. It’s a good main dish option for those who might suffer from soy sensitivities, and it’s very high in protein.
Where to Buy Seitan
Seitan is sometimes called “wheat meat” and you may have even seen it on the menu in a Chinese restaurant listed simply as “gluten”. It’s usually served as veggie “beef” in vegan restaurants, and it’s the base of such meatless products as Field Roast’s vegan sausages and Tofurky’s Deli Slices. It can usually be found next to the tofu in the refrigerated section of just about any grocery store. My favorite brand is Upton’s Naturals.
Seitan is easy to make at home with vital wheat gluten, vegetable broth, and spices. I have recipes for in my books Eating Vegan and The Big Book of Vegan Cooking. There’s also a recipe included in my seitan skewers post, here on my blog.
The Origins of Seitan
It is believed that consuming wheat gluten originated in ancient China by strict vegetarian Buddhist monks. Gluten remains a staple in Asian cooking today, and different types of it are now consumed, such as baked spongy gluten in China, dry baked gluten in Japan, and deep-fried gluten in Vietnam. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it is believed that the word “seitan” was coined by George Ohsawa in the early 1960s. Ohsawa created the Japenese macrobiotic food movement around the same time. Seitan was first brought to the US from Japan in 1969.
Is Seitan Healthy?
Because gluten has been getting a bad rap lately, many people are reluctant to eat seitan, thinking it’s an unhealthy choice. Gluten is the topic of much debate, with some claiming it causes inflammation and others saying it’s perfectly healthy.
In his book Fiber Fueled, Will Bulsiewicz, MD, MSCI, states that those who have given up gluten despite not having celiac disease or gluten sensitivity are lacking in certain strains of beneficial bacteria. He also sites a study where people who were fed oatmeal bars containing gluten every day had fewer gastrointestinal symptoms than those who ate gluten-free bars. Often what people think is a gluten-sensitivity is actually a reaction to something else.
Obviously, those who have celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and wheat allergies should stay away from seitan. But those who don’t have any issues with gluten shouldn’t deprive themselves!
The Health Benefits of Seitan
Yes, seitan is nutritious!
- A 2-ounce serving has about 17 grams of protein.
- It’s low in calories. A serving contains about 100 calories.
- There’s a lot of selenium in seitan. A serving contains 16% of the RDI.
- One serving contains about 2 grams of iron, which is 10% of the RDI
- Since it’s plant-based, it’s cholesterol free!
How to Cook Seitan
It’s super easy to cook! It’s ready to go right out of the package. Just pan fry it for a few minutes until it browns. It can also be grilled or roasted.
You can simmer it in stews, grind it up and make it into burgers, slice it and make “cheese steaks”, and even fashion it into meatless sausages. I also love to make tacos and wraps with it.
Here are some of favorite recipes for wheat meat:
This is a terrific dinner dish for special occasions like date night, birthdays, and holidays. It’s easy enough to make for weeknight dinners, too.
Spice things up with this dish from The Vegan Slow Cooker by Kathy Hester. Place all of the ingredients in your slow cooker in the morning, and dinner will be ready when you get home from work in the evening!
This dish has become a Taco Tuesday favorite in my house!
Wheat meat, vegetables, and tahini wrapped in a whole wheat pita making a perfectly filling lunch!
This dish has become a St. Patrick’s Day tradition in my house, but it’s terrific for any day of the year, really.
This vegan twist on Irish stew is perfect for chilly days.
These skewers are a perfect appetizer for parties, and they’re great for cookouts, too!
This incredible recipe from The Plant Protein Revolution Cookbook by Robin Robertson includes homemade wheat gluten-chickpea patties.
You can choose your own protein in this recipe from Plant-Powered Protein by Nava Atlas. I like to make it with wheat meat!
It doesn’t get more epic than this Almost Famous Buffalo Chicken Lasagna from Dustin Harder’s new cookbook Epic Vegan. This meatless dinner dish is vegan comfort food at its finest!
Taco Tuesday gets a fresh update with friend Jenna’s taco recipe.
What are your favorite ways to cook with seitan?