Updated: Mar 15
Seitan, pronounced "say-tan", is a meat substitute or meat replacement that has become more popular in recent times as more people look for ways to reduce the amount of meat they eat, or ditch meat all together. Also known as wheat meat, seitan has been around for centuries.
Seitan has been eaten in China since at least the 6th century. It was used as a meat substitute, particularly by Buddhists who don't eat meat. Originally used to make noodles that were high in protein, it became a popular replacement to meat which could be hard to get at the time, especially for the poor.
What Is Seitan?
Seitan is made from wheat gluten, this is a protein found in wheat, the same protein that causes coeliac disease, a disease that causes injury to your gut when you eat gluten, this means that seitan is not suitable for anyone with coeliac disease or a gluten sensitivity.
You make seitan by washing wheat flour until all of the starch granules have been removed. This leaves behind a sticky, rubbery, dough. This dough has to be kneaded a lot before it is shaped and cooked. Once cooked the seitan, due to the high protein content, has quite a meat-like texture. It is often used to make "mock-duck" as the texture is so similar to duck meat, the visual similarity can be striking too.
You don't have to make your own seitan as there are many ready made seitan products available in supermarkets and health food shops. Mock duck, as mentioned before, can be used in stir-frys, to make Chinese style pancakes or just fried up with some rice and sauce. Other products that are made from seitan include turkey style slices and mock bacon strips.
How to Cook Seitan
On its own seitan on its own is quite bland; in pre-made products it will be prepared to taste the way that the manufacturers want it too, whether that is chicken, turkey, duck or pork flavoured. Many of these products don't need to be cooked before you eat them, certainly products like sandwich slices don't need to be cooked. Other seitan products will need to be cooked before you eat them as with other meat replacements to be used in a hot meal.
Seitan can be cooked in many different ways, grilled, fried, baked or added to soups. It makes a nice change from using chickpeas, tofu or tempeh and it's healthy too.