"What is seitan?" I hear you ask. Whether you're a long-term vegan, a newbie, someone doing Veganuary or just trying to cut down on meat consumption it's likely that you'll come across this mock meat soon if you haven't already.
What is seitan?
Seitan is a faux meat that is made from wheat gluten. It has been used in Asian cooking for centuries and is often called mock duck on the menus of Chinese restaurants. Seitan is also known as miàn jīn in Chinese, wheat gluten, vital gluten, textured wheat protein and apparently wheat meat!
In all the vegan cooking experiments that I’ve tried seitan has resembled meat the most. It has a chewy texture. I’ve used it several times to make burgers. I’ve also tried it cooked by other people many times in varied recipes such as vegan ribs, sausages, hot dogs, chicken wings, chicken-style burgers and - my favourite - in a vegan Reuben sandwich at Rudy’s Vegan Diner in Camden.
It’s obviously not suitable for coeliacs and those avoiding wheat or gluten but is a good option for vegans - particularly those who have a soy allergy.
How is seitan made?
Seitan is made by washing wheat flour dough with water until all the starch has been removed - leaving just the sticky gluten. It’s then cooked before eating. It’s been used for hundred of years as a meat substitute, for example in mock duck - which you’ll find in Chinese restaurants and supermarkets. In Asia it often appears in restaurants catering for Buddhist customers.
Is seitan healthy?
Well, I’m not a nutritionist so I’m not qualified to answer this question. As with many foods there are claims online that it is unhealthy as well as claims that it is super healthy. I say that the best approach is to eat it in moderation. It’s used so often to make vegan junk food that moderation is a good approach to take anyway.
How is seitan used?
In Buddhist Asian cooking there are lots of different uses and names for seitan. I’m not going to go into those here but you can read more about them here if you want.
In western cooking it’s usually used as a meat substitute - due to it’s chewy texture - and is commonly used in junk food such as burgers and sausages.
You can also buy seitan products - such as seitan strips - in the supermarket to use in stir fries etc. This is the most convenient way to use seitan as it takes a while to make.
How do you make your own seitan?
It’s a fairly lengthy process to make your own seitan but it’s not that difficult. Just make sure you leave yourself plenty of time and don’t embark on it at 9pm on a Wednesday night when you’re already hungry!
First of all you make a dough and knead it - much like you do when you make bread. You don’t leave it to rise however, you need to gently simmer it first - this is often done in a flavoured broth.
This is just a rough guide to help you understand the process - most seitan recipes will explain what you need to do in detail.
Vegan seitan recipes
- Vegan doner kebabs by Bit of the Good Stuff
- Vegan sausages by Yumsome
- Kentucky fried chickn burger by Avant Garde Vegan
- Terikaki seitan by Fried Dandelions
- Vegan bratwurst with caramelised onions by Thinly Spread
- Roast stuffed seitan roulade by Yumsome
- Yakisoba seitan mock duck by Happy Veggie Kitchen
- BBQ seitan ribs by Bosh
- Vegan Thai red curry by Bit of the Good Stuff
- Hash brown shepherd's pie by Fried Dandelions