The VegNews Guide to Seitan, Plus 7 Vegan Seitan Meat Recipes

What gives vegan burgers, nuggets, and hot dogs their meaty chew? For many brands and home recipes, the answer is seitan. Pronounced say-tan, this vegan meat alternative has been the subject of an endless supply of bad puns, but despite its unfortunate name, seitan is responsible for advancing plant-based products beyond belief. beyond the limits of tofu and tempeh. Its uses are endlessly versatile in its imitation of animal meat, and it also provides a substantial amount of vegetable protein. From the decades-old origin story to how to use it in your most beloved recipes, here’s everything you need to know about seitan.

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What is seitan?

Seitan is a minimally processed form of vegetable protein. It can be flavored to suit a number of vegan meat applications, but in its most basic form, seitan is largely made up of vital wheat gluten and water. Which brings us to the next question: what is Vital Wheat Gluten? This substance looks like beige flour and is essentially pure gluten, the protein found in wheat and other grains. Celiacs and those who need or want to avoid gluten should stop here, as seitan is definitely a gluten-free food.

A very basic seitan bread is made by kneading water and vital wheat gluten together, then simmering the resulting bread in more water or vegetable broth. From there, it can be sliced, diced, grated, baked, fried, sautéed, steamed, or stewed depending on what the recipe calls for. Most store-bought seitan products and recipes will add a few extra steps to this process in order to flavor the seitan bread before adding it to a dish. Soy sauce, infused vegetable broths, and dried herbs are the most common seasonings.

Like tofu and tempeh, seitan originated in East Asia hundreds of years ago. Accepted history credits vegetarian Buddhist monks with the invention of seitan. In the United States, seitan has been adopted as one of the sources of protein for vegan and vegetarian hippies. One of those hippies was Seth Tibbott, the founder of Tofurky. The original vegan Thanksgiving centerpieces were created using a blend of vital wheat gluten, tofu and spices. While Tibbott wasn’t alone in selling seitan, Tofurky’s eventual success deserves some credit for popularizing the technique of turning this beige protein powder into succulent vegan meat alternatives. Today, brands such as Field Roast, Upton’s Naturals, Quorn, Gardein, Alpha Foods, Sweet Earth and many more rely on seitan to replicate mouth-watering meat meals.

Seitan nutritional information

Seitan is a nutrient-dense food that is particularly low in fat and high in protein. A three-ounce serving of plain seitan contains about 130 calories, three grams of total fat (only 0.5 grams of saturated fat), 18 to 22 grams of protein, zero grams of fiber, and eight to 10 percent of the amount recommended daily iron. Sodium content ranges between 300 and 400 milligrams, depending on brand and recipe (some use soy sauce, which increases sodium levels). Unless you’re allergic or sensitive to gluten, seitan is a solid plant-based alternative to meat. Admittedly, this nutrient profile can vary greatly depending on how the seitan is prepared. If you bread and fry it, the saturated fat and calorie content will increase significantly.

How to prepare seitan

To make seitan from scratch, you are going to have to do a little work. You will start by mixing Vital Wheat Gluten with water and kneading it for several minutes. This paste will need to rest, followed by further kneading if you add flavoring elements to the seitan itself. Once mixed and rested, the seitan paste is simmered very gently for up to an hour in your liquid of choice. It can be as simple as water or canned vegetable broth, or you can make a more flavorful simmering liquid with soy sauce, spices, liquid smoke, or wine. Like tofu and tempeh, seitan is a flavor sponge. Once simmered and removed from the broth, the seitan is ready to use.

Making seitan from scratch isn’t for everyone, and even if you enjoy it, it might not be an every week opportunity. You can easily find store-bought seitan in plain and seasoned varieties. If you go this more convenient route, just remove the seitan from the packaging and apply it to your favorite dishes. Keep reading for our proven vegan recipes that make seitan the star.

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7 fantastic seitan recipes

1 Spicy Seitan Vegan Potstickers

Vegan potstickers can be stuffed with more than vegetables and tofu. Seasoned, seared and crumbled seitan provides a meatier chew that better replicates the experience of biting into a pork-based dumpling. This shortened seitan comes together in minutes, just like the tofu-based cotija filling. A packet of store-bought dumpling wrappers makes quick work of this traditionally labor-intensive dish.
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2 Seitan Bourginoun

This wine-infused, rib-sticky stew is perfect for meat and potato lovers. Hearty chunks of savory seitan add texture and protein to the mixture of vegetables soaked in rich broth. Pro Tip: When cooking with wine, always use a bottle you would enjoy drinking. This is not a place for substandard wine.
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3 Vegan bangers and mash

British or not, this classic British dish of spicy sausages and mashed potatoes will warm your soul. This recipe takes a little time – you make everything from scratch, from the seitan bangers to the fluffy potatoes and herb sauce – but it’s a welcome departure from the same old, same old. Spend a lazy Sunday afternoon leisurely preparing this main meal and reward yourself with a pint at dinnertime.
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4 Classic Seitan Gyros

Wondering what to do with that store-bought packet of seitan you recently purchased? Turn it into succulent gyros. This vegan Greek-inspired meat works well in a number of applications – slipped into a pocket of soft pita bread, tossed into a Greek salad or simply served with hummus, tabbouleh and tahini. A squeeze of lemon and a few simple herbs are all you need to get this seitan started.
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5 Country Fried Seitan

These days we don’t want for lack of vegan fried chicken. You can find plant-based nuggets and tenders in most supermarkets, and there are even all-vegan restaurant chains dedicated to this crunchy, crunchy, and succulent fried food. However, some store-bought options don’t have the cleanest ingredient label. If you’re looking to treat yourself without methylcellulose (an additive found in many processed vegan meats), this simple seitan recipe is for you.
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6 Pozole Verde Vegan with White Beans and Seitan

Every time we sit over a steaming bowl pozole, we wonder why we don’t take advantage of it more often. This complex soup of hominy, seitan, beans and spicy broth topped with crunchy tortilla strips and creamy avocado hits every element of texture and flavor note to leave us completely satisfied. The addition of seitan really brings this soup to the brink of utter contentment.
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seven Sweet & Sour Vegan Ribs

Vegan or not, sometimes you just want to embrace your carnal side and eat with your hands. Seitan is the star of this intensely meaty recipe with a sweet, sticky glaze and a lemongrass “bone” to grab as you tear apart each bite. Keep towels handy, you will need them.
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Rozella J. Cook