What Is Seitan?
If you are new to the vegan world, you may be wondering… what is Seitan?
Just like some of you, I’m still pretty new to the whole vegan lifestyle. About the only thing I know for sure is that I’m never going back to my old way of eating. What I don’t know yet is a lot!
I was at Whole Foods 365 the other day and found a box of Seitan. I had heard the name before but to be honest, it just didn’t look appealing. I kept wondering, what is Seitan?
One thing I want to be sure of is with this new way of eating is that I try everything at least once so that I know for sure what I do and don’t like.
So I worked up the courage and purchased a package of this stuff.
It looks like this in the package:
Not the most appetizing looking stuff, but when you pull it out of the packaging and separate it, you get something that looks more like chunks of chicken.
WHAT IS SEITAN?
Made from: Wheat Gluten
What’s it for: It’s a high protein meat replacement
Seitan has been around for centuries. It goes way back in Asian cultures and comes in many flavors.
Basically, it will take on the flavor of whatever you put it in, just like tofu. But that being said, the stuff I purchased was already flavored, so I didn’t have to do anything to it outside of warming it up.
While those with celiac, gluten sensitivities or leaky gut will want to avoid this, for those who can tolerate gluten, this is actually pretty tasty stuff. It’s just slightly chewier than meat, but has a remarkably similar texture.
The flavor reminded me slightly of a seasoned chicken.
I know many folks are dropping gluten like a hot potato these days. But unless there is a valid reason to get rid of it, I find it’s a perfectly legitimate protein source.
Seitan is different from most other vegan protein sources because it’s gluten based instead of soy based. Many vegans get their protein from soy and even a grain/legume combo for complete proteins. But gluten is very high in protein and is a perfectly good protein source for most plant based folks. So if you’re avoiding unfermented soy due to hormone concerns, this could be a good alternative.
It’s created by washing wheat flour dough with water until all the starch granules have been removed, leaving only the sticky insoluble gluten as an elastic, taffy-like mass. This mass is then cut into pieces and cooked before being eaten. (source)
If you purchase Seitan like I did, know that it will be higher in sodium like most store-bought products. I’m going to work on a recipe for making it at home though, so I’ll share that if I end up with a good result. I’d be willing to bet it will have far less sodium in it if made at home.
And while Seitan is a great source of protein, the protein is not a complete protein, making it important to enjoy an array of foods along with this gluten-based “meat”.
Just to restate, this is NOT for those with gluten issues!
Want to try it but not sure what to do with it? The good news is that if you buy it, in most cases, you only have to warm it up. So you can certainly enjoy it as a stand alone item on your plate. But if you want to try some recipes that use Seitan, these are the recipes I’ve made with it so far (first one coming this Sunday). This category on my blog will grow more over time.