11 Substitutes for Seitan [Vegan & Gluten Free]

Seitan is a fantastic plant based meat alternative which can sometimes be overlooked and overshadowed by other plant based protein options (lookin’ at you tofu). Seitan is a great meat alternative that packs a healthy protein punch.

But it does have one caveat – it contains gluten. Therefore, seitan should obviously be avoided by those who are following a gluten-free diet. But don’t worry!

There are PLENTY of other tasty substitutes for seitan (many of which are gluten-free!) that can be just as nutritious and capable of making your recipe fantastic. In this article, we will discuss 11 of the best seitan substitutes. 

The best overall vegan/vegetarian substitutes for seitan are tofu, tempeh, plant based chicken, plant based ‘meat’ crumbles, plant based sausage, and soya chunks. Gluten free substitutes for seitan are textured vegetable protein, jackfruit, mushrooms, lentils, and beans and legumes.

Seitan Substitutes

The discussed seitan substitutes can be used interchangeably with seitan in various recipes. No conversions/measuring/guesswork necessary.

They all vary slightly from each other but resemble seitan either in taste, texture, or nutritional composition. All of the following seitan substitutes are naturally gluten free – as in, before being processed.

1. Tofu

Tofu, arguably, reigns supreme over all other plant based meat substitutes. Admittedly, it’s my fave too.

Fresh Tofu

Tofu, also known as bean curd, is made by coagulating soy milk, pressing the curds into solid blocks, and cooling it. Tofu is sold in many varieties. Some of the most common include:

Extra-firm

A dense type of tofu that’s best suited for hearty dishes like stir-fries or chilis. This is what I usually stick with, simply out of familiarity and popularity.

Firm

The most versatile variety that can be used for grilling, broiling, or scrambles.

Soft/Silken

A great alternative to dairy and eggs that can be blended into smoothies or used in desserts. Lots of tofu lovers have emphasized to me that this is a MUST-TRY. But I haven’t gotten around to it yet 🙂

Prepared

A convenient and ready-to-eat tofu that’s usually flavored and can easily be added to salads or sandwiches. So I actually didn’t really know this was a thing so now I must find some!

Tofu is incredibly versatile and surprisingly tasty – when cooked! Although I have tried it uncooked before (with a little extra virgin olive oil and sea salt) and I really liked it. But I like weird things so maybe don’t try this at home!

Important Note!

Many clients have expressed to me their concerns about tofu and soy consumption in relation to breast cancer and hormone issues.

This is because soy contains a type of plant estrogen – isoflavones known as phytoestrogen.

These plant estrogens are significantly weaker than human estrogen. Although contrary to popular belief, soy consumption has not been shown to cause breast cancer. In fact, soy consumption has been shown to decrease the risk of breast cancer.

Tofu is naturally low in calories and sodium, and is cholesterol free. It is a good source of calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus.

½ cup of tofu contains about 63 calories, 3.3 grams of fat, 1.8 grams of carbs, and 7 grams of protein.

2. Tempeh

Another very popular plant based meat substitute is Tempeh. Tempeh is a fermented soy product that is a good source of protein, iron, manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, and calcium.

Raw Tempeh

It is also low in carbs and sodium. Uniquely, tempeh is also a great source of prebiotics (stemming from the fermentation process).

Tempeh has a dry and firm but chewy texture and a slightly nutty taste. It can be steamed, sautéed, or baked. Like seitan and tofu, it soaks up flavor very easily.

In addition to soybeans, other bean varieties may be used to make tempeh. It may also be made from wheat or a mixture of soybeans and wheat. This is a big reason why tempeh is not an ideal gluten free seitan substitute.

A 3-ounce (84-gram) serving of tempeh contains about 162 calories, 9 grams of fat, 9 grams of carbs, and 15 grams of protein.

3. Plant Based Chicken

Plant based chicken is becoming increasingly popular. Brands like Quorn, Morningstar Farms, Sweet Earth, Gardein, and Daring have become more widespread and dominant in grocery stores.

Plant-based chicken is a food product designed to imitate the texture and taste of meat.

Generally, plant-based chicken is created from ingredients like vegetable protein, soy, or wheat, and it’s shaped into patties, nuggets, or roasts.

Because of this potential addition of wheat, plant based chicken is not ideal for gluten free eaters.

Plant-based chicken also tends to have other ingredients such as oils, natural flavors, and seasonings, although that varies by brand.

2.5 ounces of Daring Original Plant Based Chicken Pieces contains 90 calories, 2 grams of fat, 5 grams of carbs, and 14 grams of protein.

4. Plant Based “Meat” Crumbles

Plant based ‘meat’ crumbles share similarities with ground seitan, particularly in the texture department. Popular plant based meat crumble brands include Beyond Meat, Lightlife, Gardein, Boca, Quorn, and Morningstar.

Imitation meats such as meatless ‘meat’ crumbles can be a good source of fiber, folate, and iron. But they do tend to lack in zinc and vitamin B12.

They can also be relatively high in sodium. So use caution when purchasing them if you are watching your sodium intake and/or blood pressure.

½ cup of Beyond Meat Plant-Based Beefy Crumbles contains 90 calories, 3 grams of fat, 2 grams of carbs, and 14 grams of protein.

5. Plant Based Sausage

Like its other plant based meat alternative counterparts, plant based sausage has become more popular in recent years. They can be a great substitute for seitan, especially seitan strips.

Popular plant based sausage brands include Field Roast, Tofurkey, Hilary’s, Impossible Foods, and No Evil Foods. 

1 Impossible Foods Savory Sausage Patty (46 grams) contains 110 calories, 7 grams of fat, 4 grams of carbs, and 6 grams of protein.

6. Soya Chunks

Soya chunks are made from defatted soy flour, a by-product of extracting soybean oil. It has a protein content which is equal to that of meat. It is quick and also easy to cook.

You can prepare many dishes using soya chunks such as soya chunks curry, kurma and even add them to your pulaos, soups, stir fries, etc.

Like seitan, tempeh, and tofu, soya chunks easily take on the flavor of the other ingredients it’s being cooked with.

100 grams of soya chunks contain about 345 calories, 0.5 grams of fat, 33 grams of carbs, and 52 grams of protein.

Gluten Free Seitan Substitutes

As mentioned before, all discussed seitan substitutes are great for vegans and vegetarians.

The following substitutes are ideal for those looking to avoid gluten because they run a significantly lower risk of gluten containment or cross contamination than the aforementioned substitutes.

7 .Textured Vegetable Protein

Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) is a highly nutritious meat substitute made from soy flour.

It is both high fiber and high protein, and is a good source of iron, magnesium, and phosphorus.

TVP is also notably fat free, which a lot of plant based meat substitutes are not. Textured Vegetable Protein can be a great substitute for seitan, especially ground seitan.

Textured Vegetable Protein is made from defatted soy flour that has been cooked under pressure and then dried.

Many companies dedicate separate facilities for processing, handling, and packaging TVP to ensure that it remains gluten free.

Bob’s Red Mill routinely tests TVP for cross contamination using R5 ELISA testing protocol to ensure its gluten free status.

Like seitan, textured vegetable protein takes on the flavors of whatever it is being cooked with. It has a very bland taste before it is cooked/prepared.

TVP can be used as an extender in meat or protein patties and meatloaf, stews and soups.

It also works great as a protein additive for various foods such as salads, chilis, oatmeal, cereals, baked potatoes, and stuffing.

¼ cup of textured vegetable protein contains 90 calories, 0 grams of fat, 9 grams of carbs, and 13 grams of protein.

8. Jackfruit

Jackfruit is a unique tropical fruit native to South India that has gained popularity in recent years.

It tastes a bit more sweet than seitan, but can still make for a great seitan substitute. Jackfruit most resembles seitan in texture – which is comparable to shredded meat.

1 cup of raw sliced jackfruit contains about 155 calories, 1 gram of fat, and 40 grams of carbs. It also contains 3 grams of protein, which is notably lower than seitan and other seitan substitutes.

9 .Mushrooms

There are so many varieties of mushrooms. Thousands of them, actually! They come in varying textures, flavors, colors, shapes, and sizes.

Common types of mushrooms include shiitake, portabella, oyster, cremini, porcini, white button.

Mushrooms make for a great vegan/vegetarian meat substitute because they have a very meaty taste and texture when cooked.

Mushrooms may not be for everyone, but if you cook them right – they can be SO satisfying! For tips on how to cook mushrooms to make them their *best selves* – click here.

Mushrooms pack such a nutritional punch. Of course, their nutritional profile varies, but in general – mushrooms are a great source of antioxidants, beta glucan (a form of soluble dietary fiber), copper, B vitamins, and potassium. 

There are SO many ways you can cook and eat mushrooms! The opportunities are endless! I would even go so far as to say they are the most versatile seitan substitute on this list. 

Check out these awesome recipes (44 of them!) for some great mushroom dishes.

10. Lentils

Lentils are another great plant based protein substitute. They are edible seeds that come from the legume family.

Lentils come in many different varieties. Some of the most common lentil types include brown (most widely eaten type), puy, green (can be less expensive), yellow, red, and beluga.

They are relatively easy to prepare and are a great source of fiber, B vitamins, magnesium, zinc, and potassium. They are also made up of 25% protein.

1 cup (198 grams) of cooked lentils generally (it varies by type) provides about 230 calories, 0.8 grams of fat, 40 grams of carbs, and 18 grams of protein. 

11. Beans and Legumes

Beans and other legumes can make for great seitan substitutes and sources of plant based protein. Not to mention, they are whole ingredients – a quality that this Registered Dietitian LOVES.

Popular types of beans and legumes that are a good source of protein are: soybeans, white beans, black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, navy beans, fava beans, lima beans, split peas, and chickpeas.

While beans and legumes may not closely mimic seitan in terms of taste or texture, they certainly do so in terms of their protein content.

All beans and legumes vary widely in calories and macronutrients (fat, carbs, protein) but they are all generally a good source of fiber and various vitamins and minerals.

100 grams of chickpeas contains about 364 calories, 6 grams of fat, 61 grams of carbs, and 19 grams of protein.

What is Seitan?

Seitan (pronounced “SAY-tan” – not Satan!) is very popular amongst vegetarians, vegans, and plant based foodies.

Perhaps you’ve heard of seitan referred to as ‘wheat gluten’ or ‘vital wheat gluten’. In fact, seitan is made from basically just gluten and water. 

Gluten is responsible for the elasticity of dough made from grains such as wheat, barley, and rye. It helps hold the dough together.

Contrary to popular belief that gluten = carbohydrate, it is actually a protein. More specifically,  it is a mixture of the proteins prolamin and glutelin.

Seitan is an ideal vegetarian meat substitute for those who are allergic or intolerant to soy.

To make seitan, wheat flour and water are mixed and kneaded until a sticky dough develops into strands of gluten protein.

Then, the dough is rinsed to remove the starch, leaving only the mass of pure gluten protein.

Seitan is relatively easy to make at home. But you can also find it sold on its own in stores in the form of slices, strips, or ground up.

You can also find it as an ingredient in other vegan/plant based meat substitute products such as Tofurky deli slices, meatless frankfurters, fakin’ bacon, and others.

Seitan has a very ‘meaty’ texture and a mild savory taste – sort of comparable to plain chicken or mushrooms.

Its texture differs from tofu or tempeh in a way that is more similar to meat. Seitan has the wonderful ability to soak up marinades and seasonings – making it a favorite to use in tasty and flavorful meatless recipes.

Check out some simple and delicious seitan recipes here.

A 1/4-cup (28-gram) serving of vital wheat gluten, the main ingredient in seitan, contains 104 calories, 0.5 grams of fat, 4 grams of carbs, and 21 grams of protein.

Substitutes for Seitan

Homemade Seitan Recipe

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

Feeling adventurous? Have time on your hands? Make your own seitan at home!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups vital wheat gluten
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 5 cups low-sodium vegetable broth, divided
  • 2 Tbs. low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed

Instructions

  1. Combine wheat gluten, yeast, and garlic powder in large bowl. Stir in 1 cup broth and soy sauce until dough forms, adding more broth if necessary. Knead dough in bowl with spoon 3 minutes, or until elastic. Shape into 2 loaves.
  2. Place loaves in large saucepan, and add remaining 4 cups broth, onion, garlic, and enough water to cover seitan. Cover, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 30 to 45 minutes, or until seitan is firm. Remove from heat, and cool in broth.

Here is another simple recipe for seitan:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup vital wheat gluten
  • ¼ cup chickpea flour
  • 1 cup room temperature water

Directions:

  1. Mix the vital wheat gluten flour and chickpea flour. Add them to a large mixing bowl and stir with a spoon.
  2. Add water and all other wet ingredients. Stir well until a dough is formed.
  3. Knead the dough. Place the dough on a flat surface and knead continuously for 2 minutes. Let it rest for 5 minutes.
  4. Make the broth. Combine the water and dried kelp in a medium size pot and bring to a boil. Remove the dried kelp.
  5. Prep the seitan. Shape the seitan into a small loaf or saucisson and wrap a cheesecloth around it. Tie the ends and place the seitan in the boiling water. Lower the heat to a simmer (barely bubbling) and boil for 1 hour.

Slice the seitan. After it’s been resting for 10 minutes, cut the strings off and take it out of the cheese cloth. Slice the seitan and serve as a luncheon meat, or add it to your favorite stir fry!

Final Considerations

While your reasons for diving into seitan substitutes may vary, I applaud you for taking the time to explore different avenues culinarily and nutritionally.

I hope this article has provided you with some insight and education on seitan and other plant based meat alternatives, while maybe inspiring you to experiment a bit more in the kitchen! Happy cooking!

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