What is it?
Pronounced ‘say-Tahn’ not ‘Satan’, is a low fat, high protein, firm-textured meat substitute. It’s otherwise known as wheat meat as it’s made from wheat gluten. The name derived from the Japanese sei- (“to be”), or -sei (“made of”) + tan- (“protein”). This food is not suitable for those which allergies or intolerances to gluten!
Personally I always enjoyed the taste and texture of meat but as my own views changed regarding health and ethics of consuming meat changed, I now use seitan as a meat substitute in many dishes.
Seitan has been around for over 1,000 years having been developed by Buddhist monks in Asia as the Buddha himself said, “eating meat destroys the attitude of great compassion.”
You can buy seitan in most health food stores and Asian supermarkets and online. It comes in a jar or a can but personally it’s far nicer if you make it yourself. I think the jar and can varieties have a funny aftertaste.
What’s in it?
Seitan is made from the gluten from flour which is the protein part of the wheat flour. There are two ways of making the dough to form seitan.
The one and more lengthy process is to mix wholewheat flour with water to make a thick, stiff dough. Then you ‘wash’ the dough by plunging it into a bowl of cold water and kneading, repeating the whole process with fresh cold water each time until all the starch has been washed out (when the water runs clear).
The other and more time efficient process is to buy gluten flour which has basically had the starch removed. You can buy this at most health food stores and online.
Once you’ve made the dough, it then needs to be cooked and there are several ways to do this and it all depends on personal preference as to which method you choose. You can either bake it, boil it or steam it. Personally I prefer the steamed method and believe it’s the closest to a meaty texture you can get.
Is it good for me?
If you’re not gluten intolerant then YES!
In a 4oz serving you get 26g of protein (48% of your RDA), with all the essential amino acids, just 10g of carbohydrates, 3.6 mg of iron (20% of your RDA) and is extremely low in fat. Also when using the recipe detailed below, it includes nutritional yeast as an ingredient which contains B vitamins too!
How to make seitan
Makes approximately 4 servings
- 200g (1.5 cup) vital wheat gluten flour
- 30g (1/3 cup) chickpea flour (gram flour)
- 40g (1/4 cup) nutritional yeast
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tbsp sea salt
- 350ml (1.5 cup) cold vegetable stock
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Mix the veg stock and olive oil together and set aside
- In a large bowl, stir together all the remaining ingredients. Once they’re completely combined, pour in the stock and oil and mix well with a metal spoon.
- The dough will become quite difficult to work with and at this point, it’s time to ditch the spoon and get your hands in!
- Knead the dough for 2-3 minutes and you will begin to see the texture of the dough change. This step is important so don’t skip on the time as you need to develop the gluten.
- Set aside and leave the dough (and your hands) to rest for about 10 minutes.
- Tip the dough out onto a large chopping board and knead again for a minute.
- Shape roughly into a log and cut into 4 equal pieces. Re-shape each piece into a log, wrap each piece in tinfoil allowing room for the dough to expand slightly but make sure it’s well sealed. Repeat the process with the remaining pieces of dough.
- Place into a steamer, cover and cook for 30-40 minutes.
- Carefully remove the seitan from the steamer and allow to cool before putting it in the fridge. Leave in the fridge for 30 minutes before using it.
- I often double up the batch, cut it to how I like (sliced for sandwiches, chunks and strips for curries and stirfrys and thick cutlets for frying) and freeze what I’m not going to use within the following couple of days.
5 ways to cook with Seitan
Seitan is SO versatile and can be used as a meat substitute in most dishes.
- Slice it and heat in a frying pan briefly and use in place of meat for a roast dinner
- Add chunks to curries and strips to stir-frys
- Slice a cutlet, dip in egg, seasoned flour, panko breadcrumbs and fry in a pan for a seitan escalope.
- Gently fry a few slices and add to a sandwich. Goes great with raw red onion, avocado and sliced tomatoes with a bit of mustard and mayo!
- Add chunks to a make a hearty stew or use in place of meat for a chilli non carne.