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Seitan (Wheat Gluten) - Meat Substitute

Updated on October 18, 2013

Warning: Keep this away from anybody who suffers from Celiac/Coeliac disease (gluten intolerance). Or try another meat substitute instead.

Who is Seitan? Is he a long lost brother of Satan? (Definition of Seitan)

If you have ever tried out the mock chicken, duck, beef, pork, or even seafood in a Chinese vegetarian restaurant, then you would have had tasted seitan without realizing what it is called. Seitan, a meat analogue (or meat substitute), is pronounced as "SAY-tan" (\ˈsā-ˌtan, -ˌtän\ [source: Merriam Webster Online dictionary]) and has many other names like wheat gluten, wheat meat, gluten meat, or simply gluten.

Seitan is especially popular as an alternative for meat when you have a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle and want to convert your recipe to a vegetarian recipe. It is also a better choice than soybean-based vegetarian meat substitutes like tofu or Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP), which is a highly processed food and hence, less healthy food. As such, whenever you see a vegetarian recipe with fake meat, faux meat, imitation meat, or veggie meat, you can be sure that there is a chance that it has seitan in it. When cooked, seitan has a more chewy texture than tofu or tempeh, making it a popular meat alternative.

Whether in the humble staple diet of Buddhist monks of China, Southeast Asian Buddhists, Mormons and Russian farmers, or in the East Asian vegetarian restaurants in the West, it has gained wide acceptance as it can be made into juicy mock meat and blends well with any dish as it absorbs taste very well. Even though you will not mistake it for real beef, it is passable as poultry meat; and is the closest you will ever get to the joy of chewing into real chicken or duck meat.

When God created Seitan

Seitan, a newly adopted word of Japanese origin, is first used to refer to wheat gluten in the macrobiotic system of cooking and health, as formulated by George Ohsawa. It was a term coined by the Japanese-born Ohsawa in the early 1960s.

Seitan, as mock duck meat. Yummy!
Seitan, as mock duck meat. Yummy!
Seitan (Wheat Gluten) in package.
Seitan (Wheat Gluten) in package.

Why the devil would I want to eat this?

In case you are wondering, eating it will do you no harm at all - whether health wise or religion wise. Just don't pronounce Seitan as "Satan" and then tell your friends that you're having the devil for breakfast, lunch or dinner! On second thought, if you need an image boost and be seen as badass, this might not be such a bad idea after all. ;)

What does it contain?

As Seitan is derived from the protein portion of wheat, it is, understandably, high in protein (75%), low in fat and has 0% cholesterol. Its protein content has been reported as higher than that of ground beef.

How it's made?

Seitan is made by flooding wheat flour dough with water and rinsing away the dissolved starch and wheat bran, leaving behind the insoluble protein part of wheat, known as gluten. This gluten is then called vital wheat gluten or gluten flour.

Making gluten at home, DIY-style, is a time consuming process which involve adding water to wheat flour, forming it into a dough; which is then kneaded to remove the wheat starch. Depending on your level of skill in kneading it, this can take half-an-hour or longer. Which is why, for most people, it is better to buy it online or at a big supermarket.

Youtube: Home Made Seitan

A Final Word

Please check out my new hub Seitan Vegan Thanksgiving And Christmas Turkey 2010 which shows you how to make mock turkey using Seitan. ;)


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