This might sound like an oxymoron, but vegan meat is a thing.
Vegan meat is essentially protein that is sourced from vegetables and other non-animal products and is typically consumed by people who want to consume protein but are on a strict vegetarian or vegan diet. However, it's not exclusively eaten by non-meat eaters, as many omnivores have a taste for the stuff.
Vegan protein comes in several different styles and goes by many names, including seitan, tofu, and tempeh, each having its own distinct flavor and characteristics.
Most of us have heard of tofu and tempeh, but what about seitan (pronounced say-tan)? What is it and where did it come from?
Seitan, which is also known as wheat gluten, was first created in China and Japan by Zen Buddhists during the 6th Century, who used the protein as a substitute for meat and fish. The wheat protein spread throughout the Asian continent in the subsequent years where it became a staple of a variety of food styles.
The protein slowly grew into prominence with vegans in the 20th Century as word began to spread about seitan's chewy, toothy texture that did a tremendous job of replicating the flavors found in animal-based meats.
Seitan is created through the process of rinsing and cooking wheat dough to remove the starch, leaving behind a protein-dense substance. People still follow the basic recipe that has been passed along for centuries, but in the day and age of convenience, most settle for pre-made packages at the local grocery store.
But how does what measure up as a source of protein when compared to meats like chicken and beef? Let's take a look and find out.
Seitan contains 20 grams of protein in each 3-ounce portion. On average, beef has 24 grams of protein per 3-ounce serving, while chicken has 25 grams of protein in the same quantity.
There is a caveat, however, as seitan is considered an incomplete protein as it lacks the amino acids found in meat that your body requires each day from your diet. This can be counteracted by including nuts, seeds, legumes, seitan, or tofu in a vegetarian or vegan diet.
Here are a few recipes that will make you never want to eat anything but seitan ever again:
Seitan, tofu, and tempeh are three of the most popular forms of meat-free protein and can often be interchangeable, but there are some key differences.
We all know by now that seitan is made by removing the starch from wheat dough, but how how is tofu created? Tofu, also known as bean curd, is created through the process of curdling soy milk and shaping it into blocks not too unlike how cheese is made.
A suggested serving size of 3 ounces of firm tofu has the following nutritional information:
The same serving of seitan provides the following:
As you can see, tofu doesn't have as many calories as seitan, but it also fails to meet the same level of protein. However, tofu is considered a complete protein unlike seitan.
Much like tofu, tempeh is derived from soybeans, but instead of allowing the soy milk to curd, tempeh is formed from whole soybeans that are cooked and fermented. It is also firmer and nuttier than tofu due to the inclusion of grains and seeds that are added during the cooking process.
A 3oz serving of tempeh provides the nutritional value to your daily diet:
When compared to seitan, tempeh has more calories and fat but a smaller quantity of protein, but more so than that of tofu. But all three are going to be healthy and sustainable options if you are looking for a good meat substitute.