Slices of seitan with a carrot and red onion.
Seitan. Photo by crampinini courtesy of

Seitan is a very popular vegetarian food which is protein rich because it is a cooked form of wheat gluten. Seitan is used as a vegan substitute for meat and so it will often be labelled as such. To be perfectly frank with you – when it is cooked it can make a passable substitute for meat which is extraordinary given the source.  If prepared properly it not only looks like meat but even has the same type of texture.

Clearly it is not meant for ceoliacs or anyone who is gluten intolerant.

To prepare seitan is straightforward. It is composed by mixing water with wheat gluten.

It is often advertised and promoted as a high-protein and low carbohydrate alternative to meat. 

The major issue is that it is entirely made of gluten which means there are some limitations on the amino acid content. 

The Name – Seitan

If you look at Japanese texts from the 1060s, they refer to a Japanese philosopher called George Ohsawa who was alive in the early part of the 20th century. He lived in France for many years but wrote most of his work in Japanese. He founded the macrobiotic diet which one of his most important contributions to nutritional thought. It refers to specifically to wheat gluten and the term has stuck ever since.

Nutritional Content Of Seitan

per ounce (RDI: Recommended Daily Intake)

  • Calories: 104
  • Protein: 21 grams
  • Selenium: 16% of the RDI
  • Iron: 8% of the RDI
  • Phosphorus: 7% of the RDI
  • Calcium: 4% of the RDI
  • Copper: 3% of the RDI

The carbohydrate content is extremely low (about 4 grams per ounce) and in fat too (0.5 grams per ounce). 

Recipe Development

Use like tofu or tempeh in various recipes. It can be added to stir-fries or grilled. 

The flavour is similar to a chicken piece or a mushroom but even then is extremely bland and lacks flavour. What developers love about it is its texture. The implication is excellent for developers looking to add spices and other flavourings which can convert it into other types of substitute product such as meat. Adding chili or other spices makes it ideal. The texture effect means that it outshines tofu or tempeh because a firm texture is not really achievable.

Find seitan in the chill section of the grocery. It is usually found in tubs but if needed in larger blocks can be purchased at wholesalers or cash and carrys. It often requires a sealed plastic lid to prevent it from drying out. 

Using Seitan In Cooking

If you have time and prefer your seitan prepared by hand then it is perfectly feasible to do so. It is prepared from wither whole wheat flour or vital wheat gluten. Using wheat means that the starch must be rinsed away in what to many is a laborious washing process. The high-value, high-protein is left behind.

One of the best ways to prepare from whole wheat flour is to simmer rather than boil the wheat. The idea is to generate a seitan which can be molded into chunks or cut into slices.

Impact On The Gut

Seitan is a pure gluten product which has implications for anyone with sensitivity to high protein diets and if they have what is termed a ‘leaky’ gut. In a normal and properly functioning intestine, the permeability of the gut is highly regulated and controlled so that only small particles of food can pass through the gut wall into the bloodstream (Bischoff et al., 2014).

There is a condition which is colloquially called ‘leaky’ gut where much larger particles are able to pass through the wall. This increased level of permeability is associated with various conditions including autoimmune diseases, food sensitivity and inflammation. It can affect those who are not coeliacs or sensitive to gluten itself. There is clearly a need to investigate the phenomenon further because it is severely limiting for many who wish to follow a strict vegan diet but cannot revert to a the full range of proteins available to them.


Bischoff, S.C., Barabar, G., Buurman, W., Ockhuizen, T., Schulzke, J.D., Serino, M., Tilg, H., Watson, A., Wells, J.M. (2014) Intestinal permeability- a new target for disease prevention and therapy. BMC Gastroenterol. 14: 189 (Article) PMCID: PMC4253991 PMID: 25407511

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