Learn about seitan: what is it and how can you use it?

What is seitan? What does seitan mean and where does it come from?

What does ‘seitan’ mean?

Seitan comes from the Japanese words “sei”, meaning “to be, become, made of”, and “tan”, as in tanpaku, which means “proteins”. Freely translated: “made of proteins”.

What is seitan?

Seitan is a high-protein product, usually made of wheat flour, spelt flour or gluten. Seitan has a high content of wheat or spelt proteins which are rich in gluten. Bertyn seitan is “bio”, in other words, it’s made of organic ingredients. 

Where does seitan come from?

More than 1,000 years ago, seitan was prepared by Zen Buddhists in China and Japan as a substitute for meat or fish.

Which countries include seitan in their diets?

In the Chinese kitchen, seitan is called Mian juin (mien chin or mien ching).

Chinese Buddhist Mahayana monks ate seitan; they were strict vegans. Today, Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants may serve ‘mock duck’ or ‘mock chicken’, an alternative for duck or chicken, made of seitan. Mock duck or mock chicken is often prepared with peanuts or mushrooms. The Chinese regularly eat seitan for breakfast, with cooked rice porridge (congee).

In the Japanese kitchen, seitan is often translated into “fu”, meaning “gluten”.

The Japanese philosopher George Ohsawa (1893-1966) brought seitan to the West in the early 1960s. To many people, George Ohsawa symbolises macrobiotics. 

In the Vietnamese kitchen, seitan is often called ‘mi cang’ or ‘mi can’, referring to wheat gluten. Together with tofu, seitan forms part of the Buddhist Vietnamese kitchen, which was highly influenced by China.
In the vegetarian and vegan kitchen, seitan is eaten as a protein supply or meat substitute. Many vegetarians and vegans prefer organic seitan to tofu or tempeh.

How is bio Bertyn seitan made?

Bertyn starts with Finnish and Italian organic spelt, or organic Manitoba wheat. The type and quality of the organic spelt or wheat is of key importance to Bertyn seitan’s unique flavour. Bertyn seitan producers are professionals who aim at retaining maximum energy and flavour in the Finnish or Italian spelt or Manitoba wheat during the entire manufacturing process. First, the spelt or wheat flour is kneaded into a dough and subsequently rinsed for about an hour, alternating cold and mildly warm water. The rinsing process eliminates many of the carbohydrates (sugars), leaving a high-protein dough. The organic seitan is then portioned into ball-shape pieces and cooked for about one hour to become Bertyn seitan. The result forms the basis of the various seitan preparations in the Bertyn range.

Bertyn doesn’t start from wheat or spelt gluten, but instead is made of organic wheat or spelt flour. That is one of the characteristics of Bertyn seitan and the reason why connoisseurs call Bertyn seitan the “filet mignon among seitans”. Additionally, we don’t use any ordinary wheat flour; we deliberately opted for organic Manitoba wheat and an organic spelt originating from Italy or Finland.

Want to make seitan at home? Want to make your own organic seitan?

Making seitan requires quite a bit of skill and time. But it can be done. YouTube contains several videos that demonstrate how to make your own seitan. Making organic seitan starts with organic flour

Protein and amino acid: Seitan is the protein champion

Amino acids in mg per 100 kcal

Amino acids Seitan Wheat Seitan Spelt Tofu Salmon Cod Chicken fillet Beef Whey Powder
arginine 861 817 449 557 894 970 1015 461
phenylalanine 1298 1128 305 369 574 610 671 640
Histidine 503 461 150 229 284 514 579 361
Isoleucine 930 854 287 422 670 743 765 1244*
Leucine 1718 1580 458 724 1188 1230 1323 2038*
Lysine 430 411 375 848 1402 1359 1478 1676
Methionine 385 339 83 378 561 497 477 476
Threonine 631 578 228 438 639 685 738 1153
Tryptophan 199 192 76 98 136 198 169 430
Valine 989 925 292 482 717 782 802 1138*
Total essential and semi-essential 7944 7285 2703 4545 7065 7588 8017 9617
Alanine 641 591 251 573 853 910 961 984
Asparagine acid                
+ asparagine 818 775 695 904 1477 1429 1506 2546
+ cysteine 493 423 81 120 172 179 196 553
Glutamic acid                
+glutamine 8964 7805 1109 1306 2281 2203 2551 3569
Glycine 816 438 247 463 624 698 717 346
Proline 3077 2743 297 317 448 566 630 1230
Serine 1137 1011 291 363 616 589 624 984
Tyrosine 838 750 234 330 536 517 584 592
Total amino acids 24728 21821 5908 8921 14072 14679 15786 20421
% absorbability of amino acids 95% 95% 94% 95% 80% 91% 92% 95%

SGS Laboratory Antwerp: dated: 29.1.2013  * Whey powder: Twinlab, 100% whey protein fuel (enriched with L-leucine, L-valine and L-isoleucine)


Seitan as a protein champion compared to other vegetable protein sources

Description Kcal per 100g Proportion kcals from proteins Mg cholesterol per 100 kcal Proportion kcal from fats
Seitan 118 83% 0 2%
Tofu 120 43% 0 48%
Tempeh 180 41% 0 50%
Quorn 141 39% 0 17%
Falafel 275 13% 0 41%
Gardein 165 45% 0 32%
Veggie-burger 168 32% 0 43%
Cheeseburger 258 23% 0 51%

Source: www.voedingswaardetabel.nl


Seitan as a protein champion compared to meat

Description Kcal per 100g Proportion kcals from proteins Mg cholesterol per 100 kcal Proportion kcal from fats
Seitan 118 83% 0 2%
Turkey (white meat) 106 84% 15 11%
Chicken fillet 157 76% 35 23%
Beef (lean) or loin roast 126 69% 62 29%
Roast pork or chops 196 38% 40 61%
Hamburger 272 30% 22 66%
Egg (boiled) 154 35% 320 63%

Source: www.voedingswaardetabel.nl


Seitan as a protein champion compared to fish

Description Kcal per 100g Proportion kcals from proteins Mg cholesterol per 100 kcal Proportion kcal from fats
Seitan 118 83% 0 2%
Tuna (raw) 96 89% 60 9%
Salmon (smoked) 200 49% 45 49%
Mussels (boiled) 74 52% 90 36%
Herring (smoked) 236 37% 72 63%
Cod (fish) 118 75% 70 22%
Scampi 86 81% 125 11%

Source: www.voedingswaardetabel.nl

Seitan contains all essential (9) and semi-essential (1) proteins.

Small protein particles are called amino acids. There are 20 types of proteins/amino acids in the human body, nine of which are essential, meaning that the body can’t produce them and must therefore get them from food. One of these proteins/amino acids is called semi-essential because it cannot be produced in premature babies.

Bertyn makes organic seitan from unprocessed Manitoba wheat as well as from unprocessed Finnish or Italian spelt. Both bio seitans contain the nine essential and one semi-essential proteins.

Gluten allergy, gluten intolerance or celiac? No seitanGluten allergy, gluten intolerance, celiac and bio seitan?

2% of the world population suffer from gluten intolerance. Gluten is a protein found in wheat and spelt and some other cereals such as rye, kamut, barley and oat. Its presence in oat is under discussion: although there is a strong resemblance, the proteins in oat strictly speaking are not gluten. This gluten can cause irritation and inflammation of the large intestine, resulting in disturbed absorption of food substances. People who suffer from gluten allergy or have sensitive intestines must therefore beware of products like seitan. People who have celiac can not tolerate gluten, even the ones from spelt. Those who gave a possibility of gluten intolerance, could tolerate spelt. 

Seitan does not belong in a gluten free diet. Gluten free grains are quinoa, amaranth, millet, buckwheat and rice. Soy and coconut flour are gluten free as well. Gluten comes from Latin and means glue. It is in fact the glue protein in grains. Gluten is the composite of two amino acids called gliadin and glutenin. It is the gliadin fraction – which is soluble in alcohol – that causes gluten intolerance or celiac disease. The proportion of gluten in rye can be as much as 80%. Durum rye (triticum durum) or hard rye contains the highest proportion of gluten. Gluten will not dissolve in water. The official name for gluten allergy is celiac disease.


Vegetarian recipes with seitan

Vegetarian recipes with Bertyn SeitanOrganic seitan is very easy to use in vegetarian dishes. It can substitute meat in traditional dishes: a meat substitute. Ideal on Thursday – veggie day. The seitan recipe can be found on this website … the website includes many seitan recipes. Click “recipes”. Seitan can be turned into a burger or a steak; you can put it on a panini or a roll, or use it as a meat substitute. Seitan is vegetarian and vegan. Vegetarianism and seitan are good friends. Seitan has the meatiest structure. Bertyn Seitan is therefore called the filet mignon among seitans. On top it is bio = organic.
Vegetarian cooking is easy with seitan - Bertyn seitan comes in convenient cooking bags. Simply immerse it in boiling water for 5 minutes and your seitan is ready to go. Seitan is also perfect with vegetarian pasta and can serve as a base of vegetarian Bolognese sauce for lasagne or pasta. Or how about seitan on the barbecue… Or as a brochette…

The seitan recipe can be found on this website … the website includes many seitan recipes. Click on “recipes”.

Vegetarian recipes with seitan

Tamari and shoyu sauce by Bertyn is a traditional, artisan soy sauce

We distinguish three qualities of soy sauce. Bertyn uses the highest quality for its bio seitan: a traditionally brewed soy sauce prepared with craftsmanship. The second quality is naturally brewed soy sauce and the third is the totally inferior non-brewed soy sauce which is often found in supermarkets at a very low price.

For its spelt and Manitoba seitan, Bertyn uses the traditionally brewed artisanal organic soy sauce

Bertyn uses two varieties for its soy sauce: shoyu (soy sauce with rye) and tamari (soy sauce without rye).
The tamari used by Bertyn is a rare rye-free soy sauce brewed according to a 500 year old recipe. Yoshio Aoki, the current 4th generation tamari brewer, takes pride in his traditional recipe and the techniques of his ancestors: fully organic ingredients, hand-made soy bean koji, a high proportion of soy beans vs. water and a long maturing process in cedar casks.

The shoyu sauce is prepared following an ancient Japanese recipe. Whole soy beans are cooked and mixed with broken rye. The mixture is then enriched with Koji, a culture of fungi mould spores of the Aspergillus Oryzae. This process takes three days, after which the mixture is set to ripen in cedar casks or ‘kegs’ at surroundings’ temperature during 15 months. The sap is manually pressed from the cloths that contain the brew. (dixit Serge)

This process does not involve chemistry or chemicals; nature can have its course. Less than 1% of all soy sauce manufactured in Japan today, is produced in this artisanal way.

The long ripening process – via fermentation - in wooden casks creates the natural protein “glutamic acid”, ensuring a rich and delicious aroma. A complex of sweet and umami (typical of glutamic acid) is the end result of this traditionally brewed, artisanal soy sauce, highly appreciated by connoisseurs.

Umami, savory, savoury, umami means ‘good flavour, good smell’

Umami: during an investigation into the strong flavour and smell of seaweed bouillon in 1908, Kikunae Ikeda discovered the umami flavour. He was the inventor of the flavour imitator and enhancer ‘monosodium glutamate’ (MSG), developed via a chemical process and later patented. In a chemical form it is often used in yeast extracts, soy extracts, protein isolates, hydrolysed vegetable proteins, hydrolysed yeast and autolysed yeast.

Mirin, sweet sake used in Bertyn bio seitan soy sauce

Around 1500 (the Muromachi period), mirin was used as a type of enriched wine; it would become sour very quickly as a result of the yeast in the liquid.
Using shochu, traditionally distilled liquor, as a base for mirin eliminated the problem: the flavour lasted and the mirin no longer turned sour. This is how mirin could become a common product in the traditional Japanese cuisine during the Edo period (1603-1868), and it also became a fixed part of the Kyoto multiple course meal 'kaiseki ryori'.

The mirin used in Bertyn soy sauce ripens for 12 months; its quality is based on the koji culture and the brewing process. The koji enhances the flavour of the gluey, sweet rice. Rice is washed, rinsed, steamed and cooled to exact temperatures. Next, koji is added to the rice and the shochu. This ‘mirin moromi’ mixture is then pumped into enamel casks for fermentation. After three months of fermentation and regular stirring, the mirin is poured into bags and wrung out. The mirin then matures for 150-200 more days before the sediment is removed.

The result is a sweet, amber coloured dressing which adds a delicate flavour to even the simplest recipe.