Sunday, August 9, 2009

Seitan: What is it and how do you make it?

Question: Dear Monique, I read that seitan is a good source of vegetable protein. What is it and where can I get it? Can I make it or is it ready made? Your help is most appreciated. Thank you, CK 

Answer: Yes, seitan is a good vegetable protein source and a great meat alternative. It is made from wheat gluten, and has a wonderful chewy texture and a delightful taste. You can buy seitan as a mix, or pre-made and packaged, from a health food store. You can also make it yourself from scratch with a sack of flour, salt, water and some elbow grease.

To make homemade seitan, pour about 8 cups of whole wheat or unbleached bread flour and 1 tablespoon salt into a very large bowl or soup pot. Slowly stir in about 6 cups of water. Keep stirring with a large metal spoon until the mixture forms a ball that becomes very elastic. (It will become very hard to stir. Keep stirring until the dough stops sticking to your spoon. If it is too difficult to stir, you can knead the dough ball for 10 minutes to develop the gluten.)

Let dough ball rest for 15-30 minutes. Then remove the ball from the bowl and hold it under cold running water, stretching and squeezing the dough repeatedly until the starch and bran washes away. This may take up to 10 minutes.

Form the gluten into a ball and put it carefully into a pot of boiling salted water or herb and vegetable stock. Once the pot begins to boil again, turn the heat down and simmer for one hour. Add more water to the pot if necessary.

After an hour, remove the seitan from the pot. Then, bake the seitan in an oven at 350 degrees for about a half hour to form a golden crust and make it firmer.

You can also just let it cool as it is, and use the seitan in other recipes or on sandwiches. Either slice or cube the seitan, and use it in any recipe or sandwich where you want a meaty texture and flavor.

There are many ways to obtain high quality protein from plant-based foods besides seitan. Other good sources for vegetable protein are beans, legumes and soy foods.

Additionally, all vegetables, fruits, grains, seeds and nuts contain various amino acids (the building blocks of protein). By eating a wide variety of these nutrient dense foods, you will be able to obtain an adequate supply of protein.

Remember, the average adult only needs 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight a day, which come to about 10 to 15 percent of your total caloric intake.

For more information about seitan, go to

Also, check out this seitan cookbook

Cooking With Seitan: The Complete Vegetarian "Wheat-Meat" Cookbook
by Barbara Jacobs and Leonard Jacobs

Other Recommended Reading...

The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen
by Donna Klein

Vegan with a Vengeance : Over 150 Delicious, Cheap, Animal-Free Recipes That Rock
by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

Becoming Vegan: The Complete Guide to Adopting a Healthy Plant-Based Diet
by Brenda Davis & Vesanto Melina

Vegan Freak: Being Vegan in a Non-Vegan World
by Bob Torres, Jenna Torres

Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook
by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

 The Complete Idiot's Guide to Vegan Cooking
by Beverly Lynn Bennett and Ray Sammartano

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Monique N. Gilbert, BSc. has offered guidance in health, nutrition, fitness and stress management since 1989. Through her writings, Monique motivates and teaches how to improve your well-being, vitality and longevity with balanced nutrition, physical activity and healthy stress-free living.


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