First, you might be asking what in the world is Seitan. I had never heard of it until my youngest daughter Molly Ann recommended I give it a try. Seitan is a vegan substitute for meat made from wheat gluten and water and is often promoted as a high-protein, low-carb alternative to animal protein. It is made entirely out of hydrated gluten, the main protein found in wheat. You might also sometimes hear it referred to as wheat gluten, wheat meat, wheat protein or just gluten.
Seitan is produced by kneading wheat flour with water to develop sticky strands of gluten protein. The dough is then rinsed to wash away all of the starch. What remains is a sticky mass of pure gluten protein that can be seasoned, cooked and used in vegan or vegetarian dishes as a substitute for meat. Molly Ann makes her own Seitan at home and has shared a recipe with me that I need to try sometime soon.
In the packaging, the Seitan did not look the least bit appetizing to me, but I decided to go ahead and take one for the team and press on with trying it for a review.
As you can see, the Seitan looks more appealing once it is out of the package. However, I will tell you right now it smells exactly like stale beer in the bottom of a bottle that has set on a table for a couple days. The smell reminded me of a closed bar room minus the odor of cigarette smoke that has permeated everything inside. After a good sniff, I just knew without a shadow of doubt this product was going to taste exactly like stale beer. How could something that smelled so strong not taste the same?
I began heating the Seitan in a sauce pan with a little bit of olive oil so I could get a sample before mixing in other ingredients. What I found was the product actually had a meat like texture, and the flavor was very neutral. If I was to say there was any flavor at all, it was slightly nutty, very slightly though. And, thank God, the stale beer smell went away as I was heating it.
After I was satisfied that I could proceed with cooking with the Seitan, I added black beans, picante sauce, habanero hot sauce and chili powder and then let it simmer for a few minutes. Molly Ann was right, the Seitan had absorbed the flavors of the foods it was mixed into. The Seitan made this bowl of beans a heartier meal than if it had been beans only. The texture seemed even more like meat as a part of this bean dish. It was truly satisfying and filling. I can see possibilities using Seitan in some of my future meals.
Water, Vital Wheat Gluten, Soy Sauce, Wheat, Salt, Alcohol, Nutritional Yeast, Ginger, Rice Bran Oil, Rice vinegar, Kombu
Nutrition for 2.5 ounce serving:
Seitan is made entirely out of gluten, the main protein in wheat, so it is a good protein option for vegetarians and vegans, however, it is not good for those who are gluten sensitive. The exact amount of protein in seitan varies, depending on whether other proteins like soy or legume flours were added during production.
A 3-ounce serving usually contains between 15 and 21 grams of protein, which is roughly equivalent to proteins we find in fish, chicken, and beef. But you need to know that while Seitan is high in protein, it does not provide a full profile of amino acids. It is missing lysine which your body’s needs to to build proteins. Lysine plays a critical role in supporting our immune system and promoting the production of enzymes and hormones. Diabetics, athletes, and people with health conditions like herpes simplex virus can benefit from consuming extra amounts of Lysine. Our bodies cannot produce Lysine, so it is essential to include foods rich in lysine in our diets.
While Seitan may be nutritious food choice, it is still a highly processed food. Seitan does not exist in nature, it is a man made product. Although seitan is a processed food, it is not high in calories, sugar or fat. Because of this, it should not contribute to obesity like other ultra-processed foods. People who consume a diet rich in whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes, can likely include seitan in their diets without much worry. Because store bought brands may be high in sodium, those who already consume high amounts of processed foods may want to consider whether seitan would be a good addition to their diets.