All About Seitan

The Protein Powerhouse

Seitan, also known as wheat meat, is said to have been developed 1,500 years ago by Buddhist monks in China. It is traditionally made by rinsing flour in water about seven times to remove the starch, then kneading the resulting protein and simmering it in a savory broth flavored with soy sauce, kombu (kelp), and ginger until it becomes wonderfully chewy.

Aside from being delicious and versatile, seitan is a protein powerhouse, containing 46 grams per half-cup, 240-calorie serving—more than twice as much as in animal meat, without the fat.

Nowadays it’s easy to make your own using vital wheat gluten, vegetable broth or bullion, and a food processor. An Instant Pot or pressure cooker cuts down the cooking time, allowing you to create seitan in under an hour start to finish. Inventive cooks add chickpea flour or chickpeas to make a more “chicken-flavored” seitan, and even switch up the flours to make gluten-free seitan. You can also buy seitan ready-made, like the commercial brands Sandra recommends below. As they say, choose your adventure.

Read more: All About Seitan

A New Recipe from Sandra

by Sandra Miller

I read this recipe yesterday in the Washington Post Plant Powered II article and I am immediately ready to try it. I can tell I will love it just from the ingredients list…and am of course thinking of ways to ramp it up to entrée level with more protein. Which brings me to a product I’ve learned about that I’d like to share with you. Seitan. If you’ve been exploring seitan as part of a more plant-based or, hopefully, vegan diet, you may want to know about options.

Seitan comes in a couple of forms, and it really resembles meat in looks and texture. OK, not a thick steak by any stretch of the imagination, but if you like shredded chicken or white and red meats, you could be quite satisfied.

Full disclosure here, I am fond of Trader Joe’s seitan in soups and some stews, but mostly it’s been part of my learning curve exploration. In the dark, distant decades ago past when I first explored being vegan, I never found seitan that I liked, and didn’t give it much of a chance. I never considered making it, and while I occasional think I should try, well, I’d rather spend my time other ways.

Katie introduced me to a vegan investing club, which I am not promoting here. However, through them I learned about Blackbird Foods (not widely available here, but some products in some stores, but available online), which has four flavors of seitan I really like. So, when I make the Spiced Coconut-Tomato Peas below, you can bet I will be making it with the chili-lime seitan. (If you try this seitan, I’d be really happy to hear what you think, and if you have other brands to recommend, do let me, or even all of us know.)

Hetty Lui McKinnon, author of the recipe, says, “Cumin, coriander and paprika are the triumvirate that every home cook should keep in their pantry because they are not only multifaceted individually, but particularly potent when combined. . . If you wanted to try something different, you could use any number of spices in this sauce—replace the cumin-coriander-paprika combo with curry powder, or add spice blends such as ras el hanout, baharat or a South Asian masala.”

Spiced Coconut-Tomato Peas

by Hetty Lui McKinnon

Servings: 4

Total time: 15 mins


  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 1 medium yellow or red onion (8 ounces), diced 
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or finely grated 
  • 2 tsp ground coriander 
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes 
  • One (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with their juices
  • 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
  • One (13.5-ounce) can full-fat unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1/2 tsp fine salt, plus more as needed
  • Freshly ground black pepper 
  • 4 cups (20 ounces) frozen peas (no need to defrost)
  • Cooked white rice, for serving
  • Fresh cilantro leaves, for serving (optional)

Heat a large Dutch oven or pot over medium-high heat until hot, about 3 minutes. Add the oil and onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium, and add the garlic, coriander, cumin, paprika and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 to 60 seconds (don’t let the spices burn).

Add the tomatoes and their juices, and sugar and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the coconut milk, along with the salt and a few turns of the peppermill. Cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 3 to 4 minutes.

Stir in the peas. Taste the sauce, and season with more salt to your liking. Simmer just until peas are warmed through and the sauce is slightly thicker, 4 to 5 minutes.

To serve, spoon the rice into bowls, ladle the stew over and garnish with cilantro, if using.


Instead of frozen peas use whatever frozen vegetable might be lurking in your freezer, such as edamame, corn, mixed vegetables or spinach. You could also try green beans or broccoli (you’ll need to chop them into smaller pieces). 

Storage: Refrigerate for up to 4 days.

Keep the Recipes (and Shopping Tips) Coming!

We’d love to keep featuring a vegan recipe or shopping tip each week. If you have an old favorite, or have tried something new recently, please write it up and send it to John or Katie. Desserts, salads, sandwiches, entrees . . . anything that tastes good!

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