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Seitan –protein-rich alternative to meat

Vegetarians will find a wide range of meat substitute products in their local supermarket. And it doesn’t always have to be tofu.


One interesting alternative is seitan, a meat substitute made from gluten. It’s firm with a compact, fibrous consistency that has the mouth-feel of meat. For centuries, seitan has played a major role in the regular menu of Asian. The name comes from Japanese and translates as “protein of life”, some people call seitan “wheat meat”. Compared with other meat substitutes, seitan has a relatively high protein content of 25 percent.

Production: simple but time-consuming

Making seitan is simple, but it takes time. 1 kg of wheat flour is mixed with around 600 ml water, kneaded into a dough, put into a big bowl and covered with water. After an hour’s rest, the dough is kneaded under water until it falls apart and the water becomes cloudy. Pour the water through a sieve so that the pieces of dough are caught in the sieve. Form the dough pieces into a ball again and knead once more under clear water. Repeat this process several times until the water no longer goes cloudy and the dough has a rubbery consistency. At this point, all the starch has been washed out. The gluten that remains is added to a mix of bouillon, soya sauce, onions and other spices. Bring the mix to the boil and simmer for half an hour. Then let it cool and keep it in the fridge for one or two days to give the seitan a good flavour. Seitan has almost no taste of its own.


A faster way to make your own seitan is to start with pure gluten – buy it in a health food shop or on the internet. Mix it 1:1 with water and knead it to a sticky mass. This is ready to be processed immediately – fried, grilled, baked or stewed. Serve it as a vegetarian schnitzel, a stew in a soup or in a burger bun.

An ever-increasing choice of products

Freshly-made seitan will keep for around a week in the fridge and can be frozen. If you’re too short of time to make your own seitan, there’s a wide choice of seitan products in health food shops, Asia stores and even supermarkets. You’ll find plain seitan sealed in film and usually flavoured with soya sauce. There are also processed products in the chiller – like vegetarian sausages, steaks and hamburgers. People with a gluten allergy (coeliac disease) or insensitivity, however, should avoid this kind of meat substitute.


Source: Heike Kreutz, www.bzfe.de