Seitan is one of principle foods introduced in their diet by recent vegans. But why one person would substitute meat… with a vegan meat? Vegetables and other “normally vegan foods” are not enough?
Actually, even if it is easy (if properly motivated) to change the lifestyle and go vegan, habits and the ways we are used to be fed are difficult to be modified. Just think about this: since the birth, for years and years, we are accustomed to see the steak (but also the skewers or the rolls) or the fish as the main protagonist of the dish, while all the tasty vegetables and all the delicious legumes… are just the side dish! So, to make this vegan step easier, a meat substitute is ideal!


Seitan is a high-protein food, made from the gluten of wheat or other cereals.
According to the traditional recipe, seitan is obtained by extracting gluten from wheat flour; later it is kneaded and is boiled in water flavoured with soy sauce, kombu seaweed and other aromas. Similar in appearance to the meat, its flavour is more delicate and the consistency is softer, with a chewy texture, although the latter often varies from one type to another especially in relation to the type of production: handcrafted or industrially produced.


Seitan has Eastern origins: indeed, is a typical food of the Eastern Asia culinary tradition, where was originally spread like the Zen discipline food, with the name “kofu”, which means wheat gluten. The word seitan was coined by the macrobiotic expert George Osawa to indicate a “right” food, able to replace the meat, to not pollute and “right” because it is affordable for everyone.

The etymology of the word is: “SEI” means “made” and “TAN” means “proteins”


Obviously! And it is quite simple… even if a bit boring: the process of extraction of the gluten from wheat is achieved by adding water to the flour, then mixing vigorously. The mass so obtained is subjected to washing cycles in hot and cold water, to remove the starch and to extract the gluten, the protein part of the cereals. The amount of gluten made from it then depends on the type of flour used. The best flour is the Manitoba one, the richest in gluten. The appearance of seitan is well suited to create imitations of the flesh; the gluten dough can indeed be worked to give it the shape of sausages, steaks, cuts for stews and so on, while the clever use of spices can give the product a more delicate or strong flavours. It is possible to find seitan in the natural or grilled, diced, sliced and smoked flavours.


Seitan has a high protein content (around 20 percent), but only when paired in the same dish or in the same day of consumption of legumes such as peas, beans and chickpeas that complement the missing amino acids of gluten. Seitan contains little fat; calories are around 120 for each 100 grams of product, so similar to those of meat, but without the saturated fat and cholesterol of the latter.


Seitan can be found in the entire biological food store, but it is currently available in all supermarkets. The cost is a little high, from 3 to 4 euros for 200 grams. Anyway, it is advisable to consume it at maximum once or twice a week, in order not to fossilize on only one food, but to vary the diet as much as possible (alternating it with soy and tofu), and to avoid the onset of gluten intolerance.

OIPA supports a vegan diet, because this is the only diet able to guarantee fairness for all: not just for human beings, but for animals and environment, too.


Paola Colombo