Seitan is a type of mock meat made from wheat gluten. Despite being made from wheat it is actually nothing at all like bread. Instead it has a similar texture to meat but being plant-based is suitable for vegetarians and vegans. Seitan is sometimes called mock duck.
If you haven't tried seitan before you might be under the misconception that it's similar to tofu.
However, it is entirely different, both in taste and texture.
It's also nothing at all like bread - despite being made of wheat gluten.
In addition it is incredibly versatile.
Out of all the meat substitutes I've tried seitan is the most similar in texture and appearance to actual meat. It makes great burgers, steaks and kebabs and is also often used to make vegan "chicken" products.
Whether you're a long-term vegan, you are new to plant-based eating or you're 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.
Not content with just one name, it is also known as:
- miàn jīn (in Chinese)
- wheat gluten
- vital gluten
- textured wheat protein
- wheat meat
What is the texture like?
Out of all the vegan meat alternatives that I’ve tried, seitan has resembled meat the most.
It has a chewy texture and is extremely filling.
What can you make with it?
Seitan is popular with vegan fast-food joints as it works well in burgers and as faux chicken.
At home I've used it in kebabs, rice dishes, burgers and as steaks.
However, I've eaten it more often in restaurants as:
- vegan ribs
- hot dogs
- chicken wings (try those at Temple of Seitan)
- chicken-style burgers, and
- (my favourite) in a vegan Reuben sandwich at Rudy’s Vegan Diner in Camden (pictured above).
See below for recipe suggestions.
Seitan is suitable for vegans and vegetarians.
However, it is not suitable for coeliacs and those avoiding wheat and/or gluten.
How is it made?
Seitan is made by washing wheat flour dough with water until all the starch has been removed - leaving just the sticky gluten.
Next a dough is made with the wheat gluten, which is usually boiled before and then sliced or shaped into the desired result (eg strips or burgers) before being cooked again.
Is it healthy?
As with many foods there are claims online that it is unhealthy as well as claims that it is super healthy.
In my opinion the best approach is to eat it - and indeed any faux meat product - in moderation.
It’s used so often to make vegan junk food that moderation is a good approach to take anyway.
How to use seitan
In western cooking it is usually used as a meat substitute - due to its chewy texture.
It's commonly used in junk food such as burgers and sausages. Scroll down for recipe suggestions.
In Buddhist Asian cooking there are lots of different uses and names for seitan.
Ready-made seitan is very convenient
You can also buy it ready made, eg in strips or chunks, in supermarkets and whole food shops. This is the most convenient way to use it as it takes a while to make.
How do you make your own seitan?
It’s a fairly lengthy process to make your own but it’s not that difficult.
Just make sure you leave yourself plenty of time.
Don’t embark on it at 9pm on a Wednesday night when you’re already hungry!
Make a dough
First of all you make a dough and knead it - much like you do when you make bread. However, you don’t leave it to rise.
Simmer it in broth
Instead you gently simmer it, often in a flavoured broth, for around an hour.
This is just a rough guide to help you understand the process - the recipes below explain what you need to do in detail.
Vegan seitan recipes
Now you've made or bought your mock meat you'll need to know what to do with it - here are some recipe suggestions.
- 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
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