Seitan is one of the traditional plant-based proteins that’s been embraced in the vegan world. Here’s a guide to this amazing food, plus a slew of hearty, easy seitan recipes to explore. You’ll find roasts, skillet dishes, stews, stir-fries, and sandwiches — attesting to to the versatility of high-protein seitan.
Seitan is somewhat meat-like, with its chewy texture and tan hue. In fact, in some cuisines, it’s called “wheat meat.” Still, it’s not so meaty that it would put off those who don’t care for meat — or even meat analogs.
What is seitan and how is it made?
Seitan is one of the traditional Asian foods to make its way into the Western natural foods market. Its name is the Japanese term for “cooked wheat gluten,” — and that’s exactly what it is. It’s a commonly used food in Japanese, Chinese, and Korean cuisines.
Seitan is pure wheat gluten, the protein portion of wheat. It offers an appealing protein alternative for those who have no wheat/gluten intolerance or allergies.
Gluten is the protein that gives wheat the ability to rise. Time was when making seitan was a laborious process of rinsing the starch away from wheat dough, but this process can be streamlined by starting with pure gluten flour (aka vital wheat gluten). The stretchy dough is then cooked in a broth that’s often flavored with soy sauce. This is exactly what you’d do for homemade seitan, which we’ll discuss below.
For the packaged product, seitan is then packed into tubs, or, more commonly now, vacuum-sealed. Natural foods stores, food co-ops, online sources, and increasingly supermarkets keep seitan in the refrigerated section; once you get it home, you need to store it in the fridge as well. Unopened, it can keep for quite a while; consult each product’s best-used-by date.
“Beefy” Vegan Seitan Stew — find the link in the listing of recipes
Major allergy alert — wheat and/or gluten
The only caveat for seitan, and it’s a big one, is that it isn’t for anyone with gluten intolerance or wheat allery, as that is what seitan is—pure wheat gluten.
You might think of seitan almost like tofu (which is pure soy) as a culinary chameleon but with a bit more gumption (here’s an interesting tofu versus seitan rundown). Seitan is actually higher in protein and lower in fat than tofu. It is, above all, a protein powerhouse.
A 3-ounce serving contains from 15 to 21 grams of protein (depending on how it’s made and how dense it is) and a significant amount of iron and B vitamins. It’s almost, but not quite a complete protein, as it’s missing one of the essential amino acids. Here’s a more complete look at the nutrition profile of seitan.
Make your own seitan
Though many brands of seitan are available, if you can make your own, so much the better. It’s more economical, and you’ll get a tender result once you master the process. An Easy Homemade Seitan Recipe: This homemade seitan recipe using gluten flour provides an easy, step-by-step route to a great DIY version.
In the oven
“Beefy” Holiday Vegan Pot Roast: A hearty vegan pot roast made with plant-based beefy tips or seitan plus portobello mushrooms and plenty of vegetables, this is a fantastic option for holidays and special occasions.
Roasted Seitan with Peppers and Portobello Mushrooms: This delectable preparation of roasted seitan, colorful bell peppers, and portobello mushrooms is simple enough to make for a weeknight meal and festive enough for any special occasion.
Vegan Cholent: Vegan cholent (Eastern European “Beefy” Barley Stew) might seem like a stretch, but why not? With seitan or other plant-based beefy protein standing in for the real thing used in the original, it’s a warming, hearty dish that’s easy to adapt to plant-based.
Vegan Carne Asada Fries: Vegan carne asada fries made with seitan or other plant-based protein, is one of those odd but really delicious dishes — and it’s so easy to make!
On the stovetop
“Beefy” Vegan Seitan Stew with Potatoes & Carrots: Seitan gives this vegetable-filled stew a hearty texture. It’s a “beefy” vegan seitan stew that proves you can do without actual meat.
Vegan Jamaican Jerk Seitan: This skillet dish is light and lovely, like an ocean breeze, even if not totally authentic. It’s a feast for the eyes and a treat for the palate, with its sweet and savory notes.
Vegan Stroganoff with Seitan and Mushrooms: In this delectable and easy recipe for vegan stroganoff with seitan and mushrooms, traditional beef Stroganoff goes plant-based. Hearty portobello mushrooms and seitan make it even yummier than the original, and much better for you, too.
Vegan Mongolian Beef: This is an easy recipe to prepare using plant-based beef-style protein or seitan. It’s a kinder, gentler way to enjoy an Asian-style dish. This recipe also gives an option of using packaged plant-based beef-style protein, but I like it best with seitan!
Buddha’s Delight: Featuring seitan, vegetables, baby corn, and mushrooms, this Buddha’s Delight recipe replicates a Chinese restaurant menu favorite. It’s an easy and delicious vegan dish to copycat at home!
Super-Easy Broccoli and Seitan Stir-Fry: Here’s a simple stir-fry that highlights the unique flavor and texture of this plant-based high-protein food.
Vegan Pepper Steak: A plant-powered rendition of a Chinese restaurant favorite is an easy stir-fry recipe to make at home, and a treat to eat.
Seitan and Polenta with Fresh Greens: There’s something enticing about the synergy between seitan and polenta. With the addition of greens, the result is a great-looking, hearty dish.
Tofu and Seitan Skillet with Easy Gravy: Here’s a high-protein dish combining tofu and seitan in one easy skillet. Tasty and filling, use it to boost your veggie-filled dinner plate.
Garlicky Greens with Seitan and Vegan Sausage: Vegan sausage is a fun protein source that provides plenty of flavor and spice to a meal. The bold taste of vegan sausage, combined with seitan, provides a perfect foil for fresh greens.
Sandwiches, Salads, & Wraps
Vegan Korean BBQ Tacos: Who was it that first thought to mash up Korean BBQ with tacos? I have no idea, but the idea behind vegan Korean BBQ tacos made with seitan and kimchi is pure genius.
Portobello & Seitan Vegan Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches: Hearty vegan Philly cheesesteak — the classic sandwich — made with portobello mushrooms, seitan, and vegan cheese, definitely rivals the original recipe.
Easy Vegan Gyros: Here is a kinder, gentler version of gyros, the Greek meat-on-a-pita classic. Seitan makes a superb stand-in, and the shortcut creamy cucumber dressing gives it a refreshing zip.
BBQ-Flavored Seitan and Avocado Wraps: These easy BBQ-flavored wraps are a longtime family favorite. Barbecue-flavored seitan contrasts deliciously with cool avocado and leafy greens. Like many wraps, it’s a salad disguised as a sandwich.
Hearty Seitan Salad: Here’s a hearty salad that you can enjoy on its own, or stuff it into fresh pita bread for a satisfying sandwich meal.
Rice Noodle Salad with Plant-Based “Steak”: Strips of beefy-style vegan plant protein or seitan, cucumbers, cilantro, and an optional hint of mint star in a Thai-inspired cold dish that’s both hearty and refreshing.