Seitan: The Other White-Meat Substitute

If you like the benefits of a vegetarian diet, but miss the meat, seitan is for you. It has a meat–like texture — earning it the name "wheat-meat" — and is high in protein.

Seitan is seasoned wheat gluten, a substance that makes dough elastic, helps it to rise, and keep its shape. Seitan is seasoned wheat gluten, a substance that makes dough elastic, helps it to rise, and keep its shape. Flour and water are kneaded together to make seitan. It's then rinsed several times to remove the starch. The dough gets formed into balls, and simmered for several hours, usually in a broth of shoyu sauce (soy sauce).

While wheat-meat may be new to vegetarians in the U.S., this healthy meat substitute has been a staple in the Middle and Far East for hundreds of years.

A High Protein, Low Fat, and Low Cholesterol Food

Wheat-meat is an excellent meat substitute for many reasons. Just three and one-half ounces has 16 grams of protein, only 120 calories, and little cholesterol. That's twice as much protein as tofu and 40% more protein than two medium eggs.

In addition to its high protein content, it's also a complete protein, meaning it has all the essential amino acids. Why is this important? Your body can not make essential amino acids, so you must get them from food.

Seitan is one of the few vegetarian protein sources that's complete, although the lysine content is low. Since it's usually seasoned with shoyu, that's not an issue, as shoyu is high in lysine.

If you make it at home or purchase it without shoyu sauce, it's easy to add more lysine. Just stir fry it with soy sauce or teriyaki sauce. Another option is to serve it with a vegetarian food source of lysine.

The quality of ready-made products can vary quite a bit and depends on the type of wheat and seasonings that are used. The best quality is made from hard winter wheat, which has the highest protein content. It's also simmered in kombu (seaweed) and naturally aged shoyu, which adds valuable minerals and lysine.

You also get vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and iron when whole-wheat flour is used to make the seitan. Now that's a perfect meat substitute.

Easy to Cook With

Wheat-meat is super easy to use in place of meat and chicken, in any recipe. You can fry, stir fry, bake, sauté, and marinate it. Use it in your pressure cooker, stews, or sauces. The possibilities are endless.

You can find seitan in any health food store in the refrigerator section.


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