Calling all vegans, vegetarians, and flexitarians – whatever plant-based diet you follow (or try to follow), the likelihood of you recognising the meat alternative seitan (pronounced say tan) is very high. While the vital wheat gluten (sorry, gluten-free peeps) may not look very appealing fresh out of the bag – but let’s be honest, neither does chicken, pork, or any other raw meat – it takes on a whole other form when it’s seasoned, marinated, and cooked.
Plus, it’s incredibly versatile and can be made to taste exactly like your favourite meat dishes. Whether it’s chicken on your stir fry, mince in your bolognese, or sausage on your pizza, it’s a protein source that can provide you with the right amount of the non-negotiable nutrient you need, as well as all the flavours.
So, as an all-rounder when it comes to versatility and taste, what about its health benefits? Is it actually good for you? And if so, what is its protein content, and more importantly, what are the best seitan recipes?
What actually is seitan?
OK, you’ve got to know what seitan is made from and where it comes from before you begin experimenting with different dishes, right? While the plant-based protein is often muddled with other meat alternatives like tempeh and tofu, it’s actually pretty different. Instead of being made from soybeans, seitan is made from gluten – the protein in wheat. And ICYMI, it can also be called “vital wheat gluten” on ingredient lists, so just know that it’s the same thing!
To make seitan, the gluten is isolated in the wheat dough. Traditionally, it was done by rinsing the dough in water to remove the starch. What remained was then a meaty, chewy texture that was able to be pressed into many different shapes. When the meat substitute is prepared plain, it has a neutral flavour that can be compared to plain chicken with a hint of ‘mushroominess’, but just like tofu, it will take on the flavour of whatever dish you choose.
However, unlike tofu, seitan’s texture is eerily similar to real meat and can be made firmer or softer by adapting the pressure during the production process. Many commercial brands sell pre-packaged seitan that is pre-seasoned, too, so the meaty flavour is already there before you prepare it. For example, you can get different kinds of seitan lunch meat slices, including spicy, smokey, tangy, and sweet.
Seitan nutrition data
100 grams is a pretty standard measurement, so let’s look at the nutritional data for this amount of the plant-based meat alternative, starting with MACROS:
- Calories: 370
- Fat (g): 1.9
- Carbohydrates (g): 13.8
- Fibre (g): 0.6
- Protein (g): 75.2
- Calories from protein: 81.30%
And even though seitan is mainly consumed to up the protein content, you might as well find out what other health benefits it can potentially provide. Heads up, you’ll likely have to add some extra ingredients to increase the extra nutrients it can give you, but the starting point is there. (Per 100 calories):
- Vitamin A: 0
- Vitamin C: 0
- Calcium: 4%
- Iron: 8%
- Phosphorus: 7%
As a meat substitute, seitan is pretty good for you. Low in calories and high in protein, and containing small amounts of other minerals including iron and phosphorus, we’d say seitan is a great addition to your diet and a good plant-based option. Plus, it’s a perfect choice for those who have a soy allergy, as many other popular meat substitutes like tofu and tempeh are soy-based.
So, now you know the health benefits of seitan, let’s get to the good bit and show you all of the amazing dishes you can create with the plant-based meat. From quick and easy stir-frys to juicy burgers, you simply won’t know the difference. Vegans and vegetarians, we hope you’re feeling hungry!
Vegan Chinese Stir-Fry
- Calories: 223
- Protein: 27 grams
For the sauce:
- 2 tbsp of tamari or soy sauce
- 1 tbsp of dry sherry
- 2 tsp of sesame oil
- 2 tsp of maple syrup
- 2 tsp of corn starch
- (Optional) 1/2 tbsp of dark soy sauce
For the stir-fry:
- 14 oz of homemade seitan or bought seitan
- 1 chopped medium red onion
- 4 cloves of minced garlic
- 1 broccoli cut into florets
- 1 medium sliced red pepper
- 1 medium slcied carrot
With a prep time of 10 minutes and a cooking time of 15, you’ll have this tasty dish plated up and ready to eat in just 25 short minutes! So, how do you make it?
- Combine all the sauce ingredients and mix well.
- Heat up a large wok and heat one tbsp of oil.
- Once the pan is hot, add the seitan and cook until it’s golden brown and crisp on the edges, then set aside. This usually takes between 4 to 5 minutes.
- Add an extra 1/2 tbsp of oil to the pan and heat, before adding the onion and sauteeing for 3 to 4 minutes until cooked. Then, stir in the garlic for another 1 to 2 minutes until cooked also.
- Next, add the carrot, pepper and broccoli and cook until the vegetables have softened. This usually takes around 4 to 5 minutes, too. Stir frequently, and add splashes of water if the veg sticks to the bottom of the pan.
- Finally, place the seitan back into the pan with the rest of the ingredients and the stir-fry sauce. Toss until everything is coated evenly and serve with rice.
- Calories: 170
- Protein: 26 grams
- 200 grams of peeled raw beet, cut into chunks
- 1/2 cup of cooked lentils
- 1/4 cup of soy sauce
- 3 tbsp of water
- 1 tbsp of peanut butter (or alternative if allergic)
- 1 1/2 tsp of onion powder
- 1 1/2 tsp of garlic powder
- 1/4 of tsp black pepper
- 1 1/2 cups of seitan
What’s the prep time, you ask? 10 minutes.
What’s the cooking time, you ask? 25 minutes.
That’s a grand total of 35 minutes (if you take away the overnight chill in the fridge) before you can enjoy your juicy plant-based seitan burger. So, how do you make it?
- Add all of the ingredients apart from the seitan to a food processor and pulse. Make sure everything has been mixed well and now resembles a lovely mush. Then, add the seitan, and pulse again, stopping when it’s formed a crumbly dough.
- Divide the dough into six and use your hands to mould them into patties. If you want, you can make mini patties so they turn into sliders – completely your call!
- Grab a large pot, fill with several inches of water, and bring to the boil. Once it’s boiling, add the patties, cover the pot, and steam for 25 minutes. FYI, once steamed, the patties will look slightly odd but don’t worry – they just need to cool. Once they have, cover them and pop them in the fridge overnight before you serve them. This chill makes sure the texture is perfect, and even if you don’t eat them the next day, they can remain fresh for up to 5 days. Or, you can freeze them for up to 3 months!
- Now it’s serving time! With the steaming and chilling finished, pan-fry or grill them for a couple of minutes on each side until they’re brown and heated through. All that’s left now is to place them on a burger bun and top them with your favourite vegan or vegetarian toppings! We’re personally gherkin and pickle people – but that’s just us!
Vegan Wellington and Gravy
Protein: 48 grams
- 30 grams of dried mushrooms (mixed wild or dried porcini)
- 1 tbsp of olive oil, plus extra for roasting
- 1 chopped onions
- 2 chopped garlic cloves
- 2 tbsp of tomato purée
- 1 tbsp of plain flour, plus a little extra for dusting
- 150ml of vegan red wine
- 4 tbsp of vegan veggie bouillon powder
- 4 tsp of yeast extract
- 1 tbsp of smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp of soy sauce
- 400 grams of undrained black beans
- 300 grams of seitan
- 1 tbsp of thyme leaves, plus more to serve
- 500 gram block of vegan puff pastry
- 1 tbsp of onion granules
- 1 tbsp of vegan cranberry sauce, plus extra for serving
- Almond milk to glaze
For all the plant-based eaters out there, Christmas or just Sundays in general can often be a hard time food-wise if your peers don’t understand your dietary requirements, or your family just plates you up a mound of carrot and swede mash with gravy. Well, no more, because this vegan wellington is all meat-free, and may just be the most mouth-watering wholesome dish you’ve ever eaten.
The prep and cooking time is a little longer than the first two recipes (1 hr and 30 mins and 2 hrs, respectively), but it’s so worth it.
- Put the mushrooms into a heatproof bowl and cover with 500 ml of boiling water. Leave them to soak for around 15 to 20 minutes and strain over a jug. Make sure you press the mushrooms against the sieve so all the excess liquid squeezes out. Then, chop up the mushrooms.
- Heat up the olive oil in a small pan over medium heat and cook the onions until they turn golden. This is usually around 7 minutes. Then, add in the garlic and cook for an extra minute before adding the chopped-up mushrooms. You’ll want to reduce the heat and cook for an extra 3 minutes before stirring in the flour and half the tomato purée. Cook this for another 2 minutes until a sticky paste starts to form. Then, pour in the wine and let it bubble for 2 minutes until the paste turns gloopy. Now, stir in 2 tbsp of bouillon powder, half the soy sauce, and half the yeast extract. Season and stir well, then bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes. You should now have a thick, flavourful gravy that can be transferred into a jug and set aside.
- Put the onion and strained mushroom mixture in your processor with the paprika, remaining purée, black beans and liquid from the can, the rest of the yeast extract, soy sauce, and 100ml of water. Blend into a paste and put to once side. Then, place the seitan in a bowl and season well, and mix in the thyme leaves and onion granules together. Now, put the veg paste into the seitan mixture and knead for 8 to 10 minutes until it’s rubbery. You’ll then be able to mould it into a sausage shape (approx 8 x 20cm) and season. Once that’s done, wrap it in some oiled tin foil, let it rest for 10 minutes, and heat the oven to 180C.
- Put the wrapped wellington into a roasting tin, dissolve the rest of the bouillon powder in 500ml of water and pour it around the sausage. Next, cover the tin with more foil and roast for about 30 minutes. Flip the wellington and roast for an extra 30 minutes, and then take out of the oven to cool. Make sure you keep it covered.
- Cut off a quarter of the vegan puff pastry and set aside. Roll out the rest and shape into a rectangle big enough to wrap up the wellington. Take it from out of the foil and cover with cranberry sauce, then put it on one of the long edges of the rectangle pastry. (This is so it will stick, but you’ll find that out in a sec.) Fold over the shorter edges of the ends of the wellington and roll up the pastry to close it. Seam-side down, put it on a parchment-lined baking tray. Then, roll out the leftover pastry until it’s big enough to cover the top of the sausage, stamping out circles using a small cutter to drape over it, and tucking it under at the edges. Finally, brush the wellington all over with almond milk, and chill for 30 minutes minimum. But for best results, do it for 24 hours.
- Now comes the final step before eating. Yum! Heat your oven to 190C and brush the wellington with some more almond milk. Sprinkle with sea salt and thyme, too. Then, bake for approximately 1 to 1 hour and 10 minutes, making sure it’s golden brown and the pastry has puffed. Rest for 10 more minutes while you heat up the gravy, then carve into big slices and serve. Pour as little or as much gravy over as you’d like (we recommend a lot), as well as adding some more cranberry sauce for extra flavour!
Are there any negatives to eating seitan?
Of course, eating too much of anything isn’t the best idea. Whether it be chocolate or seitan. When it comes to the plant-based meat alternative though, commercial brands often up the sodium content to give their products a longer shelf life. According to the US FDA, consuming anything over 2,300 mg of sodium per day puts you at a higher risk of heart failure and high blood pressure, so it’s super important you check the package before you make the purchase.
Top tip: Homemade seitan is simple enough to make and can be truly delicious when done right. This is often a better choice than buying pre-packaged, pre-seasoned vital wheat gluten as you know exactly what is going into the recipe.
What are you waiting for plant-based people? Seitan is a great meat substitute and will provide the texture and flavours of your favourite meaty foods. Whether you’re cooking a hearty roast or a quick stir-fry, it’s got the perfect amount of protein to see your body through the day. Just make sure you eat it in moderation, and you can enjoy a healthy meat-free diet!