Seitan (pronounced “SAY TAWN”) is the best thing for vegans since… since I don’t know when. It’s so versatile, and seasoned appropriately, seitan can rival the flavor of your favorite meat dish.
But what is this magical ingredient you ask? Seitan is essentially the gluten protein extracted from wheat. All the starch is washed away, and what you’re left with is a ball of almost pure protein.
Seitan is inexpensive, easy to make at home, and can be used to create hundreds of different high protein, plant-based dishes. I make all kinds of stuff out of it, including vegan hot dogs, mock chicken nuggets, roasts, meatballs, vegan barbecued ribs, beef stroganoff, and my now famous across the web Creole Popeye’s style Southern fried chicken.
You can extract the wheat proteins from wheat flour yourself (utilizing a long, involved rinsing washing process to wash away the starch), or you can just purchase “vital wheat gluten” – a commercial product where the starch removal work has already been done for you.
But I’ve Never Heard of Seitan!
Buddhist monks developed seitan in the 6th century, and have creatively use it in dishes of regional cuisines all over Asia to replace meats ever since. Though relatively new to the vegan and vegetarian community here in the U.S., seitan has been around and used by people in other parts of the world for more than 1,000 years.
Find vital wheat gluten in the bulk section of many natural foods stores, or in packages in the health food aisles of most supermarkets. Alternatively, you can have it delivered right to your door by ordering it online.
What’s So Great About Seitan?
What’s so great about seitan is that it it kicks butt and takes names! Though us vegans have hundreds of commercial meat analogues available for purchase in the freezer department of supermarkets and health food stores, some folks are leery about the number of additives and preservatives used in those products. Peace of mind is achieved when you can make your own food, so you know exactly whats in it.
Typical grain flours are 12-14% protein, but vital wheat gluten is 75-80 percent protein! Ounce per ounce, seitan offers double the protein of meat, and eliminates the cruelty, cholesterol, fat, hormones, or blood borne bacteria that comes with animal products. BAMMM!
Seitan is also very low in carbohydrates, and high in calcium, iron, and magnesium as well. Then depending upon what you mix into it – like mushrooms, beans, vegetables – you add even more nutrition, all without harming one animal to do it.
Seitan provides “stick-to-the-ribs” satisfaction, always appreciated by men and growing teenagers (do they EVER get full?). Seitan also fulfills our need to chew something with a mouth feel, smell and firm texture, similar to meat.
For dieters seitan is a fabulous choice because after eating seitan you’ll feel full for hours, which will prevent late night high calorie kitchen raids. And though seitan is made from wheat (a grain), it’s a low-carb food due to the fact that the starch has been largely washed away.
For example: a 100 gram serving of prepared seitan has 14 grams of carbohydrates. By comparison oranges, grapefruits, blackberries, kale, peaches and carrots have 10 grams of carbs in a 100 gram serving. A 100 gram portion of cooked pasta has 31 grams of carbs, corn 74 grams, and for brown rice 23 grams.
Bottom line, seitan is an all-around wonderful food for those who desire a meat-free protein source… unless you are gluten intolerant, that is.
Gluten Sensitivities/Gluten Intolerances
The issue with seitan for some people are their sensitivities to gluten, exhibited by stomach cramps, diarrhea, nausea, headaches, and sometimes joint aches. Diagnosis may range from a mild gluten intolerance to full fledged Celiac disease, so gluten may not be the answer for meat-free protein for everyone. (Get a recipe for gluten free seitan here.)
Some people may not have a gluten sensitivity, but instead an allergy to wheat (just as some people are allergic to corn, citrus fruits, peanuts, dogs/cats, etc). For people with allergies, gluten intolerance, or gluten sensitivity issues, seitan may be contraindicated, and such persons should seek medical advice before adding seitan to their diet.
Creative and Delicious Seitan Recipes
Seitan is very easy to make, and can be seasoned to taste similar to beef, pork, chicken, or used for salads and other dishes with vegetable stock and herbs. There are several delicious recipes for seitan in Why Vegan is The New Black, a recipe for making seitan hot dogs (veggie dogs), mock chicken nuggets, and a fab recipe for making vegan fried chicken dipped in mustard right on this site.
Seitan is a wonderful alternative to meat that can be seasoned like meat and made into burgers, meatballs, cutlets, or sliced like lunch meat and served on a sandwich. Seitan can be baked, steamed, fried, sauteed, boiled, smothered in gravy, or grilled – just like meat.
You can also find hundreds, maybe even thousands of recipes all over the web for using seitan in a variety of ways.
Get yourself some vital wheat gluten, and go wild making your own seitan!
Category: Veganism and African Americans