What is Seitan?

Get the 411 on seitan and its surprising secret ingredient. Is this meat substitute one to try or one to skip?

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
4-minute read
Episode #450

Seitan, Tofu, and Tempeh

What's the difference between seitan and tofu? Or for that matter seitan and tempeh? All three are excellent vegetarian protein sources. Here are how the three compare:

Seitan vs. Tofu: Seitan is made from wheat protein (gluten) and tofu is made from soy protein.

Seitan vs. Tempeh: Seitan is made from wheat protein (gluten) and tempeh is made from fermented soybeans.

Tofu vs. Tempeh: Both are made from soybeans; tofu is unfermented and tempeh is fermented (probiotic).

How to Cook Seitan

The stuff is quite versatile: it can be steamed, baked, rolled into noodles and boiled, or marinated and stir-fried. It’s especially useful for those who, for whatever reason, cannot eat soy protein. But, for obvious reasons, it would not be appropriate for anyone with celiac or another gluten sensitivity. 

With little flavor of its own, seitan readily picks up the flavor of whatever you’re cooking it with or in.  If you want to try seitan in its more traditional guises, seek out an authentic Chinese restaurant or a macrobiotic cafe.

With little flavor of its own, seitan readily picks up the flavor of whatever you’re cooking it with or in.

If you’d like to try it at home, you may be able to find seitan at your grocery store. Look for it in the section where they stock the tofu or vegetarian hot dogs.  If you can’t find it there, seek out a health food store, food coop (yes, they still exist!), or Asian grocer.  You'll find a wide variety of products, including pre-seasoned or marinated crumbles, strips, ribs, nuggets, or patties.  Usually, all you have to do is heat it up.

In terms of nutrition, a 3-ounce serving of seitan will provide about 20 grams of protein, which is not too shabby for a plant-based protein.

If you’ve never had it, why not try some seitan this week? Let me know what you think. You can post your comments below or on the Nutrition Diva Facebook page.  Thanks to Laurel for suggesting this week’s topic. If you have a burning question, dilemma or need to settle a nutrition-related bet with your roommate or spouse, drop me a line at nutrition@quickanddirtytips.com or come visit me on Facebook.


About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show. 

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