Seitan is a super versatile vegan protein made from vital wheat gluten. It’s what’s used to make vegan chicken, aka fake chicken, and doesn’t that lead image look just like chicken?

If you’re vegan, or maybe even if you’re not but you’ve been peeping on viral cooking Tiktoks, I’m sure you’ve heard of seitan. It’s what people are calling fake chicken, made from flour. It’s nothing new – it’s been around in China since the 6th century. It’s been called wheat meat, gluten, mock meat, fake meat, vegan meat, and the list goes on.

It’s made from wheat but it’s nothing like bread. When it’s cooked it looks and acts like meat! It’s high in protein which makes it the perfect meal alternative for vegans. Like meat, seitan can be prepared multiple ways: boiled, baked, deep-fried, pan fried, sliced, crumbled, or shredded.

sweet and sour vegan chicken | www.iamafoodblog.com

I grew up eating it – there was this one particular dish that I loved as a kid. Essentially it was fried “ham” and I LOVED it. I was a super picky eater, but I really, really like fried seitan. I think it must have been the seasoning.

Anyway, I’m here to say that even though seitan seems like a love it or hate it kind of thing, don’t knock it until you try it. Like tofu it can take on SO many flavors and is extremely versatile.

seitan recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com

What is seitan?

Seitan is wheat gluten. Essentially, it’s food made from gluten, the protein found in wheat. The commonly used name, seitan, is Japanese (セイタン) which implies that it was invented in Japan, but wheat gluten first appeared in China in the 6th century.

It’s an incredibly popular ingredient in Asian and Southeast Asian countries as a vegan alternative to meat because of its chewiness that’s reminiscent of the texture of meat.

You can buy it at health food grocery stores or Whole Foods, but even better, it’s really easy to make at home! You can make it one of two ways: either by using whole flour and washing it or by using vital wheat gluten.

sweet and sour vegan chicken | www.iamafoodblog.com

Where is it from?

Seitan was first invented as a meat alternative for Chinese Buddhist monks because one of the key tenets of Buddhism is strict vegetarianism. There’s a huge amount of Chinese vegetarian food that looks just like regular Chinese food but is made with seitan. Nowadays it’s popular all over the world for vegans and vegetarians.

How is seitan used?

Seitan is used like most meat and meat alternative products. You can use it anywhere meat is used! It can be shredded and crumbled, sliced, and made into sausages or nuggets. Anything meat can do, it can do too.

sweet and sour vegan chicken | www.iamafoodblog.com

What does seitan taste like?

Seitan on its own doesn’t taste like much – it’s very mild, a little bit savory and kind of bland. It’s more about texture rather than its taste. Texturally, it’s ultra meaty and can take on any flavor. You can season it to taste like meat, but most people use it as a blank slate which then can be seasoned when you cook it in recipes.

Seitan ingredients

All you need is vital wheat gluten and water.

How to make seitan

  1. Make the dough: Mix together 1 cup vital wheat gluten with 1/4 cup chickpea flour. Add some seasonings and stir in 1 cup of water or vegetable broth.
  2. Knead the dough: Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes so it develops strands of gluten – this is what gives seitan its meaty texture. The more you knead, the more chewy it’ll be. Conversely, the less you knead, the more tender, so adjust according to what you like. I like to use a stand mixer.
  3. Let it rest: Let the dough rest, covered for about 5 minutes so the gluten can relax.
  4. Simmer: Cut the dough into 4 (or more pieces), shape and simmer on low in a flavorful broth.
  5. Use it in recipes: Your seitan is cooked and ready to eat! You can eat it as is, or use it in recipes where you would use meat.

seitan torn into pieces | www.iamafoodblog.com

What is seitan made of?

Seitan is made from wheat gluten, the protein found in wheat.

The easy way to make seitan

The key to making seitan at home is vital wheat gluten! It used to be a difficult thing to make but now that vital wheat gluten is widely available, it’s the easiest meat alternative you can make at home.

What is vital wheat gluten?

Vital wheat gluten is the extracted form of protein found in wheat. It’s what helps make bread bouncy, squishy, and elastic. When you isolate the gluten protein in wheat, you end up vital wheat gluten, which, when mixed with water and kneaded a little, has a dense meat-like texture.

vital wheat gluten | www.iamafoodblog.com

Optional: Adding a bit of an alternative type of flour gives you a softer texture. Using just gluten can yield an end product that’s a bit tougher than some people like. That’s why when you look at the ingredients of on a commercial package of this stuff, you’ll often see soy protein. You can use any alternative flour you like, I like chickpea or soy flour. If you don’t have chickpea flour but you have dried chickpeas, you can make chickpea flour at home by using a blender or food processor to grind dried chickpeas until they are fine and powdery.

Washed flour seitan

Washed flour seitan is what’s going viral on Tiktok and while it definitely works, it’s a LOT more work than using vital wheat gluten. It can take hours.

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Mix 3 parts flour with 1 part water and knead. Place the ball of dough in a bowl of cool water. Wash the dough by kneading and stretching.
  2. Discard the water, add new water and keep washing, discarding and adding new water, until the water becomes more or less just touch cloudy and your dough is stringy.
  3. Let the dough rest in a colander for 20 minutes then shape and cook the same as seitan made from vital wheat gluten.

simmered seitan | www.iamafoodblog.com

How to cook seitan

Just like meat, there are tons of ways you can cook seitan. I like to simmer it so that the flavor of the stock permeates and flavors the inside. My favorite way to finish it is to rip it into pieces then pan fry after it’s been simmered.

Steam: steaming creates a fluffy rise that has bubbles and aeration of the gluten. It’s more dense than simmered seitan and not as juicy – it’s good for searing or stir frying. Steaming is also slightly quicker than simmering.

Simmer: Simmering gives you a fluffy rise and lots of aeration of the gluten. It also has the added bonus of adding flavor to the seitan because you can season your broth. When you’re simmering, be careful not to let it come to a boil because it will get overly puffy and lose the meaty texture you’re looking for.

Deep fry: Deep frying gives you golden puffs that are airy and have a smooth texture when you cook it again. Pictured below.

deep fried seitan | www.iamafoodblog.com

Where to buy it

If you’re wondering where is seitan at the grocery store, it’s in the fridge section! You’ll find it next to the tofu. Sometimes it’ll be in the frozen section as well.

How to store

Store it wrapped, in a sealed container in the fridge for up to one week.

sweet and sour vegan chicken | www.iamafoodblog.com

Is it healthy?

It’s an excellent source of lean protein and is a great meat substitute. It’s low in saturated fat and carbs. That being said, if you’re sensitive to gluten or are celiac, you’re better off eating tofu because seitan is made from vital wheat gluten.

Hopefully this answers some of your questions about seitan and inspires you to try making it at home! If you’re looking for meat alternatives that aren’t tofu, this is a great choice.

Seitan recipes

seitan recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com

Seitan Recipe

I can't believe it's not meat!
Serves 4
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Total Time 1 hr 15 mins

Ingredients

  • 6 cups broth of choice, eg: vegetable
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 1 carrot roughly chopped
  • 1 stalk celery roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce

Instructions

  • In a large bowl, stir together the vital wheat gluten, chickpea flour, onion powder, garlic powder, and salt.
    seitan flour mix | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • Add the water or vegetable broth and stir into a dough. Turn out onto a work surface and knead for 5-10 minutes. The more you knead, the more meat-y your seitan will be. If you’re looking for seitan that can shred, knead longer. If you want more tender seitan, knead for less time. Cover and let the seitan rest for 5 minutes.
    seitan dough | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • While the seitan is resting, bring the vegetable broth, onion, carrot, celery, and soy sauce up to a boil in a very large pot then turn the heat down to the lowest it will go, so that it’s barely simmering.
    vegetable broth | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • Cut the dough into at least 4 large pieces and shape. You can also cut or pull the dough into small strips or chunks.
    Optional: Shape and wrap the seitan in foil before simmering. This will give you a more dense, meaty texture because the seitan won’t have as much room to expand.
    seitan | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • Add the seitan to the barely simmering broth and cook, uncovered for 1 hour, making sure it doesn’t come to a boil.
    simmered seitan | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • When the hour is up, remove from the heat and let cool. Use immediately or store in the broth for future use. Refrigerate for up to 1 week or freeze.
    seitan torn into pieces | www.iamafoodblog.com

Notes

Note: some of the photos feature sweet and sour seitan. To make:
1 lb seitan, torn into small pieces
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup sugar
3 tbsp ketchup
2 tbsp white vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 bell pepper cubed
1/2 red onion cubed
Toss the seitan with 1 tbsp cornstarch to coat evenly.
Heat up a bit of oil in a frying pan and lightly fry the seitan until golden and crisp over medium high heat. Remove from the pan and let rest on a wire rack.
Make the sweet and sour sauce: whisk together the remaining 1 tbsp cornstarch with 1/4 cup water. Whisk in the sugar, ketchup, vinegar, and soy sauce.
Add the sauce to the pan and bring it to a boil. Once bubbling, turn the heat to low and add the vegetables. Cook until your desired doneness then remove from the heat (we keep the vegetables almost raw).
Add the cooked seitan to the sauce and toss until well coated. Enjoy!

Estimated Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Seitan Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 157 Calories from Fat 10
% Daily Value*
Fat 1.1g2%
Saturated Fat 0.1g1%
Cholesterol 0.01mg0%
Sodium 472mg21%
Potassium 108mg3%
Carbohydrates 11.8g4%
Fiber 1.4g6%
Sugar 1.3g1%
Protein 25.3g51%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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5 Comments

  1. Adeline Koh says:

    5 stars
    I’m a vegetarian…

  2. Yolanda Jackson says:

    Love the recipes. I have a question can the saitain be steamed in a dumplin steamer?

    1. Stephanie says:

      hi yolanda, you can absolutely steam it, it will probably take 40-60 minutes depending on how big you shape it. you want it to be firm and if you have a instant read thermometer, the internal temp should hit 190°F. hope that helps!

  3. Sue says:

    Is it possible to freeze this?
    Also, how calorific is it?
    Many thanks

    1. Stephanie says:

      hi,
      i haven’t tried freezing it so i’m not sure if it’ll freeze well. the calories are listed down at the bottom of the recipe.

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