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A Guide to Seitan

Seitan, aka wheat gluten, is a food that originated in China and Japan more than 1,000 years ago. Traditionally prepared by Zen Buddhists, seitan was used as a substitute for meat or fish. Seitan comes from the Japanese words “sei”, meaning “to be, become, made of”, and “tan”, as in tanpaku, which means “proteins.” Freely translated, seitan means: “made of proteins.”

Since the mid-20th century, seitan (pronounced SAY-TAN) has become a staple among vegans because of its chewy, toothy texture and its ability to mimic the flavors of animal-based meats.

The Basics

If you’ve never cooked with seitan before you might not realize how simple it is to include this tasty meatless option into your diet. From commercially prepared versions to homemade ones, there are some things about that you should know. I’ve put together a list of frequently asked questions to help get you started.

Frequently Asked Questions

Seitan is the protein part of wheat flour, also known as gluten or wheat gluten. It’s made by washing wheat flour dough with water until all the starch granules have been removed, leaving a sticky, insoluble glue-like substance, which is then flavored and cooked. Trust me, it tastes much better than it sounds.
Much like tofu, seitan has no flavor at all and acts like a sponge which will absorb the flavors of the ingredients in any recipe. Seitan is the primary ingredient in many faux vegan meats because of its ability to mimic the familiar toothy texture and taste of animal-based meats.
Some commercially prepared seitan comes packaged with broth. You can drain it if you want, or not- it’s up to you. Some broths are very salty, so be sure to taste it before adding it to your recipe.
Yes! Gluten is not a water-soluble plant-protein, and it’s stretchy enough to cope with water crystals forming (1), so freeze your seitan without worry. Freezing either commercially prepared seitan or homemade, with or without the broth, does not change its consistency or texture.

Tip:

  • Get the thinnest slices possible by using a serrated knife on partially frozen seitan.
Yes! Seitan has a toothy, meaty texture that mimics animal-based meat and can absorb any flavor profile you can think of. This versatility makes it perfect for stir-fries, in soups or stews, grilled on a kebab, or as jerky. It also works ground up in the food processor for things like chili, tacos, and sandwich fillings.
No. Because seitan contains gluten, it is off-limits for anyone with Celiac Disease or who otherwise needs to be gluten-free.
vegan seitan

Shopping Guide

Vegan Seitan Brands

Prepared seitan is sold in block, strip, and shaped forms which can be found in the cold section of some supermarkets, health food stores, cooperatives, or Asian food markets- most likely near the tofu.

Vital Wheat Gluten (Powder)

If you want to make your own, look for powdered gluten- sometimes called vital wheat gluten or gluten flour– it’s important to get the right product. You want to look for a vital wheat gluten that contains 75% or more protein.

 

Recipes

Seitan Kabobs

Vegan Yum Yum | Tamarind Kabobs

Vegan Seitan Recipes

Tutorials

Do you have a seitan product or recipe that I should know about? Please contact me.

 

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Your Daily Vegan is committed to providing accurate information to the vegan community. The information and data presented in this article has been meticulously researched, and is based on the information available to me at the time of publication. Each guide is periodically reviewed for accuracy and updated as necessary. You can find the update date listed at the end of every guide. Please contact me if you find out-of-date or incorrect information.

1.  Dr. George-Louis Friedli. “Gluten Proteins & Deamidated Soluble Wheat Protein (SWP).” Retrieved July 31, 2015

2.  Bertyn. “Info.” Retrieved July 31. 2015

3. Wikipedia. “Wheat Gluten (food).” Retrieved July 31, 2015

This guide is authored by KD Angle-Traegner. Last update June 2016.

2 Comments

  1. […] Your Daily Vegan: A Guide to Seitan […]

  2. Armand Majidi August 18, 2017 at 8:20 am - Reply

    Just wanted to point out that wheat gluten was found in the stomach of Ötzi, the European glacier mummy from the Copper Age found in the Italian Alps in 1991. He also carried a pouch of it as well. This not only dates use of seitan back over 5000 years ago, but also draws its origins to the European continent. To think that some people mistakingly consider wheat gluten a modern creation is bizarre, seeing as it has fed mankind’s dietary needs since the dawn of civilization.

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