Most of us have checked out the meat alternatives department of the grocery store, and if you have, it is highly likely that you will have come across seitan. While it might appear to be similar to tofu, seitan is a completely different meat alternative made in a wholly different way. Seitan has a great texture and is frequently used to make vegan meat as it also blends really well with lots of flavors. Seitan is a great starter product to eating vegan meat for people wanting to experiment with vegetarian substitutes for the first time so read on further to discover exactly what is seitan.
The Origins of Seitan
Seitan was first documented as being used in Japan as it was used by Zen Buddhists as far back as the 6th Century. These men used seitan as a protein substitute as they choose not to eat meat. Seitan the went on to spread all over Asia in the ensuing years and became an essential part of many people’s diets. Seitan is a good protein substitute, so it has gradually grown in importance with vegans all over the world over the course of the 20th Century. This is because more and more people began to experience seitan’s chewy texture which does a fantastic job of imitating the feel of eating real meats.
How is Seitan Made
Seitan is made from the process of extracting the gluten from wheat. Seitan goes by numerous other names like wheat meat and gluten meat. Be advised this is exactly the same gluten which many people must avoid as it can cause allergies in some people. Gluten is the element of wheat which is gluey and chewy and will give the desired texture and feel of meat. These features of gluten give seitan a comparable look to meat which is why it is used so widely commercially.
The gluten is removed from wheat flour is a lengthy process of rinsing. Customarily, wheat flour is simmered in a broth of various herbs and spices until the gluten is separated from the starch in the flour and is ready to be rinsed away. You can also make seitan at home. You just need to make a dough with water and whole wheat flour, and continually rinse the dough under cool running water to take away all the starch until all you are left with is the gluten. When making seitan at home you can flavor it in any way you wish with spices like thyme or chives.
The Difference Between Seitan and Tofu
So now you know that seitan is created by eliminating starch from wheat dough until all you are left with is gluten, but it is important to know how this is different to how tofu is created as these are usually your main choice of meat substitute products. Tofu, or bean curd, is made by curdling soymilk. After it sets it can then be shaped into blocks in the same sort of way that cheese is made. It can be said that tofu has less calories than seitan, but then again it does not have the same high level of protein that seitan gives you.
The Flavor of Seitan
Seitan made from wheat gluten and water tastes neutral unless flavors are added to it during its creation. Where herbs and spices have been added to the seitan, it will have a savory taste, possibly resembling bland chicken or mushroom in texture and taste. This plainness permits seitan to be a multipurpose ingredient as it will absorb all your flavors from your cooking sauces. Seitan has a stringy, fibrous texture and reproduces the flavors of animal products very well. Seitan can take on more flavors than you would imagine from all sorts of recipes, it can be hot, tangy and spicy or succulent and delicate.
However, it could be said that the acceptance of seitan into mainstream meals is a result of its texture instead of its taste. This is particularly true if you compare its texture to other meat substitutes like tofu which will not have such a meaty quality.
Nutritional Value of Seitan
In general seitan can be considered to be high in protein and fairly low in calories. It is not recommended that you rely totally on seitan for all your protein requirements, however. This is because it does not have the whole range of essential amino acids that you require to maintain a healthy diet that you would usually get if you are eating animal protein. To get enough protein into your diet without eating meat you will need to pair up your seitan with other plant-based proteins such as nuts and beans. It might also be worth considering that if you are buying canned seitan, it might have excessive salt and fat to help to preserve it which is not always the best thing for a healthy diet. Nevertheless, pure seitan, or seitan that you make at home, will be low on calories and have no saturated fats in it for you to worry about.
To use seitan or not
- It is high in healthy proteins
- Seitan is an outstanding source of minerals such as iron
- Extremely low in fat
- It is low in carbohydrates
- Unlike tofu it is soy-free
- Simple to cook
- Multipurpose, especially homemade seitan
- Store bought seitan can be a highly processed
- Inappropriate if you have a gluten intolerance
- It might not be the best ingredient for a healthy gut
At the end of the day, unless you happen to be gluten intolerant then seitan has many uses in the modern kitchen. And if you use seitan as part of a healthy balanced diet which has a mix of other plant-based nutrients, then it will be a very useful protein-rich element to your diet.
Pre prepared seitan is easily found in your general store in the refrigerated area. It typically comes in a tub like the ones you find tofu being sold in, or now and then it will come in an airtight plastic box. It is also a main ingredient in lots of vegetarian products so ensure that you read your labels carefully. You can probably find seitan products in the sliced meat section too as a meat substitute sliced up and packaged ready for you to use on vegetarian sandwiches. Seitan will also be available as saucy and juicy chicken wings or as tasty prime ribs. You should even be able to buy it as a tasty vegetarian pizza topping. If you are going out to eat, you will also be noticing that seitan is rapidly gaining in acceptance in lots of restaurants that are offering customers a vegetarian option.
Cooking with Seitan at Home
Whether you have made it yourself or bought it ready-made from the store, seitan at all times wants to be cooked properly if you choose to use it in a vegetarian meal. This does not take too much effort, a quick fry in a pan with some soy sauce is one fast and simple way to cook out your seitan. Or, you can simmer with a cooking sauce and top it off with pasta and vegetables for a pleasing dish. Seitan will be an excellent addition to any spicy meal as it absorbs flavors so well. It is also possible to turn your seitan into juicy meaty steaks and put them on the grill the same as you would with any other piece of meat. Or you will be able to slice up your homemade seitan and use it in sandwiches with lovely fresh salad ingredients. Another handy way to use up your seitan is to put it into your soups or stews to add a meaty texture. You can sauté it to ensure that you make the perfect stir fry. Bake your seitan pork loin to give you a healthier version of a roast. You can also add it to your salads in just the exact same way you would add in your grilled chicken or toss it into your taco mix.
Many people are surprised to discover just how well seitan products hold up on the barbeque. Seitan is easy to use on an outdoor grill as it can be shape in patties or even can be used as vegetarian hotdogs. Simply pair it with your best barbecue sauce for a bite to eat that you will remember. A seitan sandwich from the barbeque is a delightful and enjoyable selection for your cookout giving your guests the vegetarian option. Fortunately, it is very difficult to mess up cooking seitan, so you can get creative with your outdoor adventures as you can use it anywhere that you would typically use meat. However you decide to prepare your barbeque seitan steaks the results should be heavenly.
For an amazing plant-based protein boost to your diet it is easy to incorporate seitan into a healthy diet. As soon as you get started cooking with seitan, you will undoubtedly discover numerous creative ways to use it in your vegetarian recipes.