What is Seitan?

Step aside Fakin' Bacon; Seitan is our favorite new meat substitute.

Are you a vegan looking to expand your meatless horizons in the kitchen? Or are you an avid carnivore, not looking to completely give up meat anytime soon, but simply looking for a new way to spruce up your Meatless Mondays?

Well, hey, it’s a good time to do so because your meat substitute options have never been better. From avocados to zucchini, vegetarians have a wide variety of fun ingredients to choose from.

Even if you’re completely new to the world of vegan cooking, you’re probably familiar with tofu. You might even know a little bit about tempeh and fake bacon. But seitan? Probably not, right? 

Today, we’re talking about one of the more obscure (but totally delicious) meat alternatives available: seitan.

Despite the ominous name (pronounced “Say-tan”) and the fact that it might look a little bit like the weird, distant relative of tofu, seitan oddly enough tastes just like the real deal. This vegan ingredient is stealing the spotlight with its ability to perfectly mimic the taste of whatever dish it’s added to, and meatless households worldwide are losing their minds over this one. 

Today we’re paying homage to one of our favorites vegetarian accoutrements. 

So, What is Seitan?

Often mistaken for tofu (which is made from soybeans) seitan is made by rinsing the starch away from wheat flour, leaving behind the high-protein strands of gluten. Often referred to as Wheat Meat, this gluten mixture is then shaped and baked to form this loaf-like gluten protein. 

Seitan is incredibly versatile and easy to prepare for your easy homemade meals, which is one of the reasons it’s so popular in vegan and meat-eating circles alike. 

Where did this come from? The origin of this delicious, faux meat actually dates back over 2,000 years ago; seitan was first mentioned as being used for food for Buddhists and other vegetarians in China, and has snowballed in popularity ever since. However, the Japanese word for this substance (seitan) was adopted around 50 years ago. 

Unlike the progressive Buddhists of thousands of years ago, you don’t have to make your own seitan to reap the benefits of a protein-packed vegan dish. Yes, you can make your own seitan at home (which is very labor-intensive), or you can buy it at your local grocery store and skip the time consuming process- which is how we like to roll these days. 

What Does Seitan Taste Like?

Seitan is known more for it’s texture and diversity than its actual taste- which is similar to bland chicken or a portobello mushroom. But the lack of overpowering taste works in it’s favor, because it can be added to any meal that you’d like to add protein to- or any dish that would normally include meat- and taste like it was made for it.  

Because seitan is essentially just pure protein, it has a chewiness that’s similar to beef, and closely replicates chicken. Seitan excels at soaking up sauces and spices, absorbing the flavors of any dish it’s added to as if it was made specifically for that dish. If you add seitan to your chili, it will taste like chili if you add it to your tortilla soup, it will taste like tortilla soup. It’s meatless magic. 

No sacrificing taste or texture here, vegetarian folks. What a time to be alive. 

Is Seitan Better Than Other Meat Alternatives?

Because seitan is made entirely from wheat gluten, it’s a fantastic option if you’re trying to avoid  highly processed “fake meats.” Most varieties of seitan usually only have three or four super basic ingredients, and very few preservatives. 

There aren’t currently any studies about the benefits/perks of seitan, but we do know that it’s a great, convenient, plant-based protein option, especially for people who are allergic to soy or are trying to avoid animal products. 

Additionally, seitan is full of protein- we’re talking 21 grams in a 1-ounce portion- and even though it originates from wheat, it’s low in carbs, too! If you can’t (or don’t want to) eat soy-based products, seitan is definitely the thing for you. 

Where Can I Buy Seitan?

If you’re hunting for seitan, you can usually find it in grocery stores and local health food joints. Typically it will come in a tub, like tofu, or sealed in a plastic-box-like package. 

And since it’s 2020 and you can buy pretty much everything online, you can also find seitan and have it shipped directly to you. Convenience never tasted so good. 

How to Cook with Seitan

Most of the time, seitan comes pre-cooked- it simply needs to be heated so that it’s the same temperature as the rest of your food. 

If you’re looking to spice up your vegetarian meal, seitan tastes great marinated, fried, sautéed, grilled or baked. You can throw it in a burger, taco, vegan lentil bolognese, or sweet and spicy noodles, and is absolutely perfect when added to any of our soups and chilis, too! We’re thinking it will be perfect for our spicy split pea soup tonight…

Are you a total newbie to the world of meat substitutes? Don’t worry! Luckily, it’s really hard to mess this one up, so feel free to get creative next time you bust out your seitan. 

Storing Seitan

Do you have a bunch of leftover seitan from your vegetarian meal? Did you make extra to enjoy for lunch? Feel free to store any leftover seitan in the refrigerator, for up to 4 days. Just make sure to take a peek at the expiration date on the package to ensure you’re in the clear. 

You can also keep frozen seitan for up to three months, so don’t be afraid to stock up next time you’re perusing the aisles of meat alternatives. 

Speaking of cooking, try adding seitan to these easy vegetarian recipes! 

Spicy Split Pea Soup

Vegan lentil bolognese

Sweet and Spicy Ramen Noodles

Lentil Veggie Burgers


Easy to find, easier to make, this meatless meat is quickly going to become your new favorite item in the kitchen