What is seitan, you ask? It’s a vegan source of protein you’ll be excited to eat.
Protein is possibly the most important of the three macronutrients. While carbs and fats are primarily utilized for energy production, protein is vital for the production of new muscle tissue, metabolic function, and fat burning. For those who are trying to get fit, protein is an absolutely vital ingredient in a healthy diet. But getting more protein can often be difficult, especially for vegans and vegetarians who cannot eat meat. Thankfully, there are a number of vegan-friendly options around, including foods like tofu, legumes, and seitan.
You may be wondering, “What is seitan? I’ve heard about it, but I’ve never actually tasted it!”
Seitan is a form of protein derived from wheat, but it is nothing like bread or flour products. Essentially, it’s made using gluten, the protein found in wheat. The proteins in gluten make seitan surprisingly similar to meat, not only in flavor, but also in texture. For this reason, seitan has become one of the more popular “meat alternatives” among those who want the rich, meaty flavor of beef and chicken without actually consuming animal flesh.
Seitan is one of the best vegetarian proteins thanks to the fact that it contains more amino acids than almost any other non-meat proteins around. When cooked, it can be almost exactly like meat or chicken, which is why many Asian restaurants have begun using it as a sort of “meat-like” ingredient in their vegetarian dishes. You’ll find that it’s also used in vegetarian meat products, such as Tofurkey and tofu bacon.
READ MORE: 10 Satisfying Vegan Protein Sources
The beauty of seitan is that it can be flavored just as you would regular meat or chicken. Drop it into a savory curry or stew, fry it and slice it up for tacos, or stir fry it with veggies and plenty of soy sauce. It has a somewhat blander flavor than chicken, so you’ll need to add lots of sauce to mask the taste. However, you can eat it alone, and it’s got a flavor similar to mushrooms.
The texture is what makes seitan such an awesome option for those looking to cut meat from their diet. While tofu is soft and silky and NOTHING like real meat, seitan has a meatier texture, thanks to the gluten protein used to make it. There’s real chew to seitan, and if you’ve prepared the dish with enough sauce, you may not be able to tell any difference between the types of protein.
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One major downside to seitan: it’s rich in gluten. For those who are trying to cut gluten from their diets, seitan is going to be a terrible food to add to your diet menu. It’s made exclusively with gluten, so you may have to consider other vegetarian proteins that are gluten-free, such as tofu, legumes, and tempeh.
But, if you’re trying to find a meat alternative that is as close to real meat as possible, you’ll want to give seitan a try. The chewy texture (the result of the gluten protein) of the seitan will almost trick you into thinking you’re eating real meat, and you’ll find that the vegan protein will be surprisingly enjoyable. It’s one of the most versatile of the vegan proteins, one you can cook up in dozens of different ways. Find a creative recipe that you like, and seitan may just become your new favorite protein!
Note: For those with celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, or gluten intolerance, avoid seitan. Choose tofu or tempeh instead, or try beans, lentils, or other legumes. Seitan can cause some nasty side effects among those sensitive to gluten.