Seitan, the other non-meat

Seitan, the other non-meat

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  1. What in the world is Seitan?

    Super high in protein, this popular choice for vegetarians is surprisingly similar to the look and texture of meat when cooked. Seitan (pronounced say-tahn) is made from gluten, the main protein of wheat, by washing wheat flour dough with water until all of the starch dissolves. This leaves insoluble gluten that must be cooked before it is eaten.

    It’s actually very possible to make seitan at home, though it is time consuming.  By mixing flour and water you form dough, this dough is then kneaded and rinsed under running water for about 20 to 30 minutes. The gluten then needs to be simmered in broth for one to two hours before it can be eaten. The shortcut to this of course is to buy already separated wheat gluten instead of starting from flour.

    Seitan is a low sodium and extremely low fat protein. It has around 10 mg of sodium, 0 grams of fat and 7.5 grams of protein in just an ounce. Protein wise, it is calorie for calorie higher in protein than either tofu or tempeh.

    The downside of seitan, is that a lot of the time it is processed and very high in sodium. Also, anyone with celiac disease, or a gluten allergy needs to stay away.

    Though this isn’t a food I prepare regularly, I’ve found a recipe or two that seem like they would be good for a seitan-virgin (I’ll try making them later as well).

    Buffalo Seitan with Vegan Ranch Dip

    To make the seitan:
    1/2 Cup Vital Wheat Gluten
    1/2 Cup water

    Mix these together in a bowl. It will get too thick to use a spoon, so dig right in with your hands. Kneed for 5 minutes and set aside.

    2 Cups of water
    1 Cup vegan “chick’n” broth (sold in natural foods stores for lots of money, or in a powdered form in many Asian markets for cheap)
    1 tsp each: thyme, dried parsley, rosemary, oregano, onion powder
    1 bay leaf
    garlic powder to taste
    ground pepper to taste

    In a large saucepan, bring the broth ingredients to a boil, and reduce the heat. Pinch off small pieces of the gluten (slightly smaller than bite sized) and drop into the broth. Cover the pan, and simmer. It is important to make sure that the broth does not come to a boil, so you’ll have to keep a close watch. Boiling seitan makes it tough and chewy, which might be good for some things, but not these. You will simmer these for about 50 minutes, stirring once every 10 minutes or so while the broth reduced. If by the end of 50 minutes it looks like bite-sized pieces of brain floating in the broth, you’ve done good. Remove from heat, but leave in the broth until ready to use. You can even stick this in the fridge at this point if you’re not ready to turn them into spicy chunks of deliciousness.

    Buffalo-ing them:
    Preheat oven to 350F
    2 Tbs Vegan margarine (such as Earth Balance)
    2 Tbs Hot Sauce or Sriracha

    Melt the above together in a small saucepan. Remove the seitan from the broth, and coat with the margarine mixture. Spread the coated seitan chunks out on a cookie sheet, and bake for 10 minutes. Remove to a bowl or serving platter, and pour any remaining margarine mixture over the seitan; toss to coat. Serve with Vegan Ranch Dip, recipe to follow.

    Vegan Ranch Dip
    1/2 cup Vegenaise
    1/4 cup minced parsley
    1 lemon, zested and juiced
    salt, pepper and garlic powder* to taste

    Add all ingredients to a small bowl and mix together. If lemon is particularly large or juicy, either consider yourself lucky or add the juice slowly until you reach the consistency you want. Less juice = more dip–like, more juice = more salad dressing-like. See introduction for lower fat alternative.

    *Powdered garlic works much better than raw minced garlic here. If you feel up to it, a couple of roasted mashed garlic cloves work even better.

    (Recipe from


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