Anyone who is vegetarian or vegan has likely run across an entrée made with seitan, which may lead them to wonder, "what is seitan anyway?" Unlike many meat substitutes, seitan is not made from soy. It is actually a wheat product, though it can be hard to tell by looking at it.
What is seitan Made From
seitan is basically wheat gluten, which is the portion of the wheat seed that contains most of its protein. Most times seitan is made from wheat flour using a process that's similar to the following:
- Take two cups of wheat flour and add in one teaspoon each of ground garlic and ginger.
- Mix together 1.5 cups of vegetable stock, three tablespoons of soy sauce and three teaspoons of sesame oil.
- Put the solids and liquids together and stir.
- Knead the gluten dough as needed to remove any air pockets.
- Roll the dough into a log and cut it into strips.
- Add them to a pot of cold vegetable broth and bring to a boil.
- Simmer the dough in the broth for one hour.
- Cook the dough in a skillet on medium for 15 minutes to achieve a tougher texture.
Different seasonings can be used during the production of the seitan to make it take on different flavors. This is only one example. seitan that will not be used right away can be kept in the broth for about a week. It's best not to cook it in the skillet until immediately before use.
Uses For seitan
seitan is often referred to as a mock meat since, like tofu, it can be substituted for chicken or beef in most recipes and simply takes on the flavor of the sauce. Some even refer to it as the meat of wheat. It is praised for being closer in texture and color to meat than other meat substitutes, though that is often more of a concern to non-vegetarians.
seitan can be barbecued, sautéed, marinated, stir fried and added to soups. If it is made properly it will not fall apart, even in the thinnest of sauces.
Since making seitan takes a considerable amount of time and patience, it is always easier to purchase it ready made. It can be hard to find outside of natural food stores, although some larger grocery chains carry it. Some of the more popular seitan brands are:
seitan is also available as a mix. The mix usually contains all of the dry ingredients so it lets the user skip some of the steps involved in making it.
People who wonder what is seitan made from may also wonder about its nutritional benefits. They may be surprised to know that it is a fairly good food for dieters.
- There are only 130 calories in a three ounce serving.
- It is low in fat, at less than two grams per serving.
- It has little saturated fat and carbs.
- It is protein rich, at approximately 20 grams per serving.
- Each serving has three to four grams of fiber.
Of course, people with celiac disease or other types of wheat allergies should not eat seitan. A popular alternative they may enjoy instead is tempeh.
There are several resources to turn to for more information on seitan.
- The Vegetarian Resource Group has an excellent article, complete with recipes.
- Gourmet Sleuth has a good page, with an excerpt from the Food Lover's Companion.
- Vegetarian cookbook author Nava Atlas has a good explanation on her webpage.
Overall, the best way to learn about seitan is to simply purchase some and try it or give it a taste at a restaurant. It's available at many vegetarian restaurants, of course, but many Asian restaurants also include it in their dishes.