What is seitan? Here's everything you need to know about one of the best vegan meat substitutes | Totally Vegan Buzz

What is seitan? Here’s everything you need to know about one of the best vegan meat substitutes

What is Seitan? Here's everything you need to know about one of the best vegan meat substitutes.
Image: nclm/ Flickr and @reallyhappychickn / Instagram

Meat alternatives are growing in popularity, and seitan is one of those products that can be used to mimic the taste of anything from pork sausage on your pizza to chicken in your stir fry.

Vegan meats are no longer a novelty. Their rising popularity means they’ve come a long way from veggie burgers and tofu cubes.

The market offers a variety of options, but you should choose those that are more nutritious and less processed. The production process of meat substitutes often involves dyes, lots of sodium, artificial binders, and preservatives to increase the shelf life of the product.

Nowadays, seitan is as popular as tofu and tempeh, and it is often recommended to those who have a soy allergy or intolerance.

And don’t worry, it is neither as ominous as it sounds nor a devil incarnate.

So, what is seitan?

Seitan (say-tan) is a popular vegetarian and vegan protein source made from wheat gluten. The product is also called wheat gluten, vital wheat gluten, wheat protein, textured wheat protein, mock meat, and wheat meat.

One interesting fact about seitan is that it has been used in Asian cuisine for centuries. In fact, the word seitan comes from the Japanese word “seitan-ji,” which means “to make protein.” In Japan, seitan is often used in soups, stews, and noodle dishes, and is considered an important source of protein in vegetarian and vegan diets.

How is seitan made and what does it taste like?

Seitan is made by mixing wheat gluten with water to form a dough. This is then kneaded to develop its texture. The resulting dough is then rinsed in water to remove the starch, leaving behind a chewy, protein-rich mass that has a taste and texture similar to meat. 

In terms of flavour, seitan is often compared to beef or chicken because of its innate savoury, umami flavour. However, unlike meat, seitan is low in fat and calories, making it a healthier option for those looking to reduce their meat consumption.

wheat gluten dough

Nutritional Profile of Seitan:

Seitan is high in protein and low in fat, making it a popular protein source for vegetarians and vegans. A 3.5-ounce (100 g) serving of seitan provides approximately 25 grams of protein, which is higher than tofu and other vegetarian protein sources. 

The product is also low in cholesterol and high in calcium, iron, potassium, and B vitamins.  

However, it is essential to note that seitan is not a complete protein source and lacks some essential amino acids. 

Seitan-based chicken

Is Seitan Healthy?

Seitan is a healthy protein source for individuals who are looking for a vegetarian or vegan alternative to meat. It is low in fat and calories and high in protein, making it an excellent choice for weight loss and weight management. However, it is important to note that seitan contains gluten, so individuals with celiac disease or gluten intolerance should avoid it.

Additionally, some store-bought seitan products can be high in sodium, so it is important to read the nutrition labels carefully.

Cooking with Seitan

Seitan can be flavoured and cooked in a variety of ways, making it a versatile ingredient in vegetarian and vegan cooking. It can be sliced, grilled, fried, baked, and simmered in soups and stews. It can also be used as a meat substitute in recipes that call for beef, chicken, or pork.

A variety of spices and sauces can be used to flavour seitan, including soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and chilli paste. It can also be marinated in a mixture of vegetable broth, soy sauce, and spices to enhance its flavour.

seitan-based chicken burger

Is seitan better than tofu?

Seitan and tofu are both popular meat alternatives, but they differ in taste and nutritional value. However, both ingredients offer unique benefits, and which one you prefer will depend on personal taste, dietary needs, and the specific dish you’re making. Overall, tofu is a more versatile ingredient, while seitan is a better meat substitute for certain dishes.

Below is a comparison between the two ingredients in some key areas:

NutritionIt is low in fat and calories, high in protein and calciumIt is low in fat and calories while being high in protein and iron. May not be suitable for those with gluten sensitivities
VersatilityIt can be used in stir-fries, soups, salads, desserts, and other dishes. Can be fried, grilled, baked, etc.It is best used as a meat substitute for dishes such as burgers, sandwiches, kebabs, and other dishes that require a meat-like texture. Can be sautéed, grilled, or roasted.
FlavourIt has a mild flavour that easily absorbs the flavours of the dish it’s used in. Comes in different varieties such as silken, firm, extra firm, etc.The flavour is neutral with a slightly savoury undertone. Because the texture is similar to that of meat, it is an excellent substitute for dishes that call for a meaty flavour.
DishesTofu can be used in a wide range of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes, including soups, stir-fries, salads, curries, desserts, and more.Seitan is best used as a meat substitute for dishes that require a similar texture, such as burgers, sandwiches, and more. It can also be used in stews or soup-like dishes, but may not work well in more delicate, vegetable-based dishes.
Other ComparisonsTofu is a good source of isoflavones, which have been linked to various health benefits. It’s also low in fat and calories, making it a good option for weight loss.Seitan is higher in protein than tofu, making it a good option for athletes or those looking to build muscle. It’s also lower in carbohydrates than tofu, which may make it a better option for those on a low-carb diet. Seitan is made from gluten, so it’s not a good option for those with gluten sensitivities or celiac disease.

How to make your own seitan

It is very easy to make seitan at home since it requires just a few ingredients. Here is a step-by-step procedure to make seitan at home:


1 1/2 cups vital wheat gluten

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup vegetable broth

2 tbsp soy sauce or tamari

2 tbsp olive oil


  • In a large bowl, whisk together the vital wheat gluten, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt until well combined.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the vegetable broth, soy sauce or tamari, and olive oil.
  • Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until a dough forms.
  • Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes until it becomes firm and elastic.
  • Cut the dough into 4-5 pieces and shape each piece into a log or patty.
  • Place the seitan pieces in a large pot and add enough water or vegetable broth to cover them.
  • Bring the water or broth to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  • After 1 hour, remove the seitan from the pot and place it in a colander to drain.
  • Once the seitan has cooled, it can be sliced, diced, or crumbled and used in a variety of recipes.
  • Seitan can also be blended with different spices and sauces to enhance its flavour. You can make your own seitan flavour with different spices and seasonings that suit your taste buds.

How is seitan stored?

Seitan has a typical shelf life and needs to be properly stored in order to stay fresh and good. It  should not be left out for longer than two hours.

If you make your own seitan, it can harbour bacteria or mould, so it should be stored properly in an airtight container.

Depending on how it is prepared, it can be stored in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for up to six months.

Dry method: This is used for baked seitan. Wrap it tightly and put it in an airtight container. This makes sure it does not absorb any other odours or flavours from other fridge items.

Wet method: This is used for boiled or steamed seitan. Put it in a container and cover it in broth or marinade, making sure it is fully submerged. This will keep it fresh and flavorful. 

Popular brands that sell seitan

Seitan is typically sold in the refrigerated section of health food stores and some supermarkets. It is commonly sold in various forms such as canned, sliced, or as a block. Some stores also offer pre-seasoned seitan in flavours such as Italian, teriyaki, or barbecue. Seitan can also be purchased online from various retailers.

Some popular brands that sell seitan in the UK are: Sgaia’s Vegan Meats, VBites, Wheaty, Fry’s Family Foods, Biona Organic, Dragonfly Foods, Taifun Tofu, Planty Hugger, ProVeg Bites, and Asda’s Plant-Based Seitan.

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