Torn Between Two Lovers

Tofu, it was our first love. Young and inexperienced in the ways of veganism, it was the obvious choice—the girl-next-door for new vegetarians—familiar, accessible, logical. And like so many before us, we were smitten.

And tofu loved us back. By our side through thick and thin as we found our vegan sea legs, we loved it for its utility—its ability to serve as a substitute in cooking and baking for whatever animal-based ingredient needed replacing. Marinated and sautéed, it was the perfect centerpiece for our meals. Sliced and diced, the pre-flavored varieties were a delicious snack-on the-go. While silken tofu, so unassuming yet smooth and creamy when blended, was the perfect non-dairy stand-in for vegan pies and puddings.

Always willing, always able, and rarely disappointing, tofu was foremost in our hearts. Yes, we loved tofu, but more than that, we needed it. And for a long time, we were happy together, and tofu was enough. Then one day, everything changed. Yes, one day, we met seitan, and nothing has been the same since.

Edgy and meaty, and shot through with flavor, seitan was a revelation. Simmered slowly in a rich broth, seitan was seasoned, sophisticated, complicated. It didn’t pretend to be meat, it was meat. And when you bit seitan, it bit you back. Juicy to tofu’s dry, a rich, meaty brown to tofu’s virginal white, it was the smoldering, buxom bombshell of meat alternatives: Jane Russell to tofu’s Doris Day. Self-confident, authentic, and brazenly delicious, it oozed with flavor and loved to tease. With a look and texture deceptively similar to meat, seitan made us feel naughty, like we were cheating, every time we ate it.

While tofu did anything we asked it to, was anything we wanted it to be; seitan didn’t pretend to be anything else. Seitan was veganism, all grown up. And we—older, wiser and hungry for something more—saw its possibilities, glimpsed a seductive and savory future, and fell hard.

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Next up: How seitan is made, our favorite brands, and how to dress it up or dress it down for any occasion.

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