Seitan: what it is, nutritional values ​​and how to cook it

Seitan: what it is, nutritional values ​​and how to cook it

Seitan is a versatile protein food with a neutral flavor widely used in the kitchen to replace meat in various vegetarian and vegan recipes


  • What's this
  • Calories and how much you can eat
  • What is the flavor
  • How to prepare it at home
  • How to cook it and what to combine it with

What's this

Seitan is a protein food made from wheat flour, widely used by those who choose a vegetarian or vegan diet as an alternative to meat. It is a preparation obtained by extracting wheat proteins and is mainly composed of gluten, the protein fraction that characterizes most cereals. For this reason, seitan is not suitable for those suffering from celiac disease and for people intolerant to gluten. Those who do not have problems of this type can consume seitan instead of meat: even omnivores can add it to their diet to reduce the consumption of meat and limit the intake of cholesterol, saturated fats and foods of animal origin, doing good their health and the environment.

Calories and how much you can eat

Seitan provides about 150 calories per 100 grams of 36 grams of protein, 5 grams of carbohydrates and 0.5 grams of fat. It is therefore a medium caloric food, low in fat and rich in protein. However, it should be remembered that seitan, since it is obtained from cereal flours, is poor in some essential amino acids. To improve the protein supply of seitan, it is good to consume this food with a portion of legumes or enrich the dough with legume flour, when preparing seitan at home.
There are no known limits regarding the consumption of seitan but, since it is a food rich in gluten, it is good not to abuse it. Our diet is rich in grains that contain gluten, so it would be good to eat seitan two or three times a month. If you want to eat seitan more frequently, it is advisable to reduce the consumption of cereals, perhaps preferring those that do not naturally contain gluten or that contain little of it such as rice, corn, millet or oats and false cereals, including which includes quinoa and buckwheat.

What is the flavor

Seitan has a fairly neutral flavor and for this reason it lends itself to the preparation of various recipes. To improve its taste, it can be marinated for a few hours in a mixture of water, soy sauce and aromatic herbs: in fact, seitan tends to absorb the flavor of the ingredients with which it is cooked or in which it is marinated.

As far as consistency is concerned, very often seitan can be rubbery and not particularly pleasant, especially when choosing an industrially prepared product. When it is prepared by hand, it is decidedly softer, as well as tastier.

Seitan is available on the market in different versions and formats: natural, grilled, in the form of a burger, ground for fillings or in the recipes of vegetarian and vegan ready meals. Those who have the time and desire to experiment can also prepare it at home with a few simple ingredients.

How to prepare it at home

Preparing seitan at home may seem laborious but in reality it is not at all difficult and allows you to customize the dough according to your tastes and needs. First of all, you need to mix one part of water with two parts of flour, adding a tablespoon of dried herbs and spices to taste. Seitan is generally prepared with durum wheat semolina or Manitoba flour, since these have a high concentration of gliadins and glutenins, which make up gluten. However, it is also possible to use other flours, even mixed, for example by adding a part of wholemeal flour or legume flours, which also improve the nutritional profile. Flours obtained from peas, broad beans and other legumes, in fact, add deficient amino acids in cereal flour making seitan a more complete food.

After making a homogeneous and smooth dough similar to that of pizza, this should be immersed in a basin of warm water for about thirty minutes. In the meantime, prepare a vegetable broth with water, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, kombu seaweed and a few tablespoons of soy sauce. After leaving the dough to rest in water, it must be washed repeatedly. The washing of the seitan serves to remove the starch and is carried out by mixing the mixture under running water, alternating cold water and hot water. The seitan can be washed in a bowl or using a colander or, even better, a large sieve with very tight meshes. Initially the dough tends to flake off, then it reassembles itself, and the washing process lasts about half an hour.

When the water appears clear and the dough is elastic, it must be worked to obtain a fairly cylindrical shape, to be wrapped in a clean cotton or linen cloth, fixed with kitchen twine. At this point the seitan can be cooked in the broth over low heat and with the lid on for about an hour. Finally, once cooked, the seitan is ready to be used in your own recipes. It will be sufficient to remove it from the pot, remove the cloth in which it was previously wrapped and cut it into more or less thin slices, into cubes or chop it.

How to cook it and what to combine it with

Thanks to its neutral flavor and the ability to absorb the taste of other ingredients, seitan can be cooked in a variety of ways. For example, it can be breaded whole in chopped nuts and seeds and baked au gratin or cut into thin slices to be cooked on the plate by adding a drizzle of soy sauce to flavor or, again, use it as an alternative to meat to prepare escalopes. Breaded “steaks”, “roasts” and vegetable cold cuts to fill sandwiches.

Cut into coarse pieces, it can be used for stews, strips, vegetarian kebabs, while diced it can be sautéed or used to make skewers with peppers, courgettes and other ingredients. Minced, on the other hand, becomes an excellent substitute for minced meat for stuffing with cannelloni and ravioli or for meat sauce or to make vegetable burgers and sausages. In general, it goes well with seasonal vegetables and legumes.

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