It's a food made from the protein part of wheat flour, also known as gluten or wheat gluten. Nutritionally speaking, it's high in protein and low in carbohydrates and fats. Its chewy texture and ability to absorb flavors allow it to mimic various animal-based types of meat.
Seitan originated in China and Japan more than 1,000 years ago.
Traditionally prepared by Zen Buddhists, it was used as a substitute for meat or fish. It comes from the Japanese words “sei,” meaning “to be, become, made of,” and “tan,” as in tanpaku, which means “proteins.”
Freely translated, it means: “made of proteins."
It's made from gluten
Seitan is the protein part of the wheat flour, also known as gluten or wheat gluten.
It comes from washing wheat flour dough with water to remove all the starch granules, leaving a sticky, insoluble gluten mass. The spices and flavorings come next, then cooked.
Trust me; it tastes much better than it sounds.
What does seitan taste like?
By itself, seitan has little to no flavor at all.
It absorbs flavorings extraordinarily well and has a toothsome, chewy texture similar to animal meat. This toothy texture makes it an excellent choice for people looking for alternatives to the familiar foods of their pre-vegan days.
Here’s what you need to know before you head to the store.
Finding seitan in stores
Since seitan comes in infinite products, you'll find it all over grocery stores.
Generally speaking, you'll look in refrigerated sections near or around the produce section for the premade unseasoned seitan. If you decide to try making seitan yourself, the baking aisle is where you'll probably find wheat gluten.
As an ingredient, seitan-based plant meats come both fresh and frozen.
And don't forget, your local Asian market will likely carry various options.
If you want to make your own, look for powdered gluten — vital wheat gluten or gluten flour— and it’s essential to get the right product. You want to look for vital wheat gluten that contains 75% or more protein.
Another essential ingredient in homemade versions is stock. Cooking in stock is a great way to build flavor in an otherwise flavorless product. I will use homemade stock whenever I can, but pre-made or made from bouillon is fine too. I use and love the flavor I achieve with the no-chicken style bouillon from Better Than Bouillon. <- That's an affiliate link, and I earn from qualifying purchases. See my disclosure policy for more.
Since every recipe is different, check the ingredients list before heading to the store.
Yes! Gluten is not a water-soluble plant protein; it’s stretchy enough to cope with water crystals forming. So, go ahead and freeze without worry. Freezing store-bought or homemade, with or without the broth, does not change its consistency or texture.
Preparation Tip: Get the thinnest slices possible using a serrated knife on partially frozen seitan roasts.