Seitan: Food for the Modern Vegetarian
Are you a vegetarian? Are you allergic to soy? Do you have a meat aversion? Or are you just looking to try something new? Seitan might just be a great new food for you!
Seitan (pronounced sey-tan) is a tasty meat analog that has been growing in popularity in the USA since it was introduced in the early 1960’s. Seitan has a mild, neutral taste that picks up sauces and spices when cooked.
What is it?
Seitan is actually just another word for wheat gluten, or the main protein found in wheat. When wheat flour is mixed with water, it produces a thick mass that is usually cooked before eating.
Seitan is often used as an alternative to meat and soy-based products.
It is a lot like tofu in a sense that it takes the flavor of whatever it is prepared with. When it is cooked, it has a chewy, stringy texture that is more like meat than other substitutes.
Wheat gluten first made its appearance in Asia in the 6th century as the main ingredient in Chinese noodles.
It has since then been immersed into other Asian cultures like Japan where there it was coined “seitan” in 1961.
Seitan can often be found in Asian style restaurants, especially in those with a large Buddhist population as a diverse source of many vegetarian options.
How nutritious is it?
When it comes to calories, seitan isn’t that much different from meat. In a regular 3 ounce serving, there is about 130 calories.
That’s similar to a 3 ounce portion of lean steak and only 10 calories more than 3 ounces of grilled chicken. In that same 3 ounce portion, seitan packs about 20 grams of protein.
Even though the protein content of seitan is high, seitan does not contain all of the essential amino acids that meat does.
It is best to pair this protein source with other complimentary foods that will help you get all of your essential amino acids, such as beans, lentils and spinach.
The beauty about meat alternatives is that they are generally low in fat and cholesterol.
In a 3 ounce serving of seitan there is 1.5 grams of fat and no cholesterol at all. In fact, seitan contains only monounsaturated fatty acids.
Monounsaturated fatty acids may lower your LDL cholesterol while maintaining your HDL or “good” cholesterol.
These fatty acids also help maintain the elasticity and function of your blood vessels while also controlling blood sugars.
Getting a good source of monounsaturated fatty acids can decrease your risk of chronic diseases like heart conditions.
How do you eat it?
Pre-made seitan can be found at your local health foods market in the frozen aisle. It comes in many varieties such as beef teriyaki, buffalo chicken wings and Italian meat sauce.
However, often commercial brands of pre-made seitan can be pricey. If that’s the case, there is always the option to make seitan yourself.
How to make seitan
Making seitan at home is pretty simple. It’s a lot like making bread dough. All it requires is gluten flour and water.
– When mixed together, this combination forms a very firm and somewhat sticky consistency.
– Once you have your dough prepared, you can roll it out as you would French bread.
– Cut your dough into 2 inch chunks that resemble meat.
– When you have your “raw” seitan ready you can boil it in broth, sauté it in oil, cover it in bread crumbs or add it to a vegetable curry!
Make sure you choose the right flour: When you head to the grocery store, be wary of mislabeled flour. Wheat gluten is marketed under the names “vital wheat flour” or “gluten flour”.
If you are seeking flour to make seitan at home, make sure it contains about 75% more gluten than other wheat flours.
Seitan is quickly gaining popularity. It is no question that seitan is a satiating food that is a good source of protein when paired with other nutritionally balanced foods.
Keep in mind, if you suffer from Celiac disease or feel that you have a gluten sensitivity, then seitan is not the best selection for you. Do some research and see which local restaurants have a seitan option on the menu.
Give it a try! Or go ahead and make it yourself at home.
Connect with Expert Bonnie Giller