Seitan vs Chicken: Protein and Nutrition Comparison

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Summary:

    • Chicken (breast) typically has a bit higher protein content than seitan, but it depends on the seitan recipe you use.
    • Chicken is a complete protein, but seitan is low in lysine (otherwise great).
    • Neither are particularly good for getting vitamins or minerals.

Ever since I started playing sports, every nutrition article on training that had anything to do with protein said one thing – eat chicken, it’s the best source of lean protein.

But when I went vegan, I needed an alternative.

Vegan bodybuilders have long been using seitan as an almost one-to-one replacement for chicken.

So, let’s compare them side-by-side and see how they compare.

Seitan vs Chicken Protein Content

It’s hard to compare these two protein sources directly.

For chicken, there are multiple types you can buy. For the sake of this post, I’m going to look at the nutritional information for chicken breast, which is the most common type used by athletes worried about protein intake.

Seitan is a name for any recipe that is mostly made with vital wheat gluten. So, different seitan will have different macros and nutritional value. But I have to pick one for this comparison, so I picked the simplest seitan recipe that I make on a regular basis.

After plugging in that recipe on MyFitnessPal, here’s a quick comparison of the macros per 100 calories of each food (can’t see data per 100 grams on MyFitnessPal).

  Chicken Breast Seitan
Fat (g) 4 3.3
Carbohydrates (g) 0 5.6
Protein (g) 15.1 12.4
% calories from protein 60.5% 49.7%

If you’re trying to build muscle, they’re obviously both great sources of lean protein, although chicken has the higher protein content.

In addition, seitan recipes will have some carbohydrates, which you may be looking to limit on a cut.

Personally as a vegan, of course I’d love for everyone to pick seitan, but if you’re an omnivore looking to optimize your macros, chicken wins here.

Amino Acid Profiles of Chicken and Seitan

Something else you might be curious about is the amino acid profiles of both these protein sources.

The table below looks at the amino acid profile of vital wheat gluten (not seitan’s). I’ll discuss why below the table.

Amino Acid Complete Protein (min %) VWG protein (%) Chicken protein (%)
Histidine 1.5 1.7 2.9
Isoleucine 3 4.1 4.8
Leucine 5.9 7.2 7.2
Lysine 4.5 1.4 8.0
Methionine+Cysteine 1.6 3.5 4.0
Phenylalanine+Tyrosine 3 7.2 7.0
Threonine 2.3 2.8 4.1
Valine 3.9 5.4 4.8

You can clearly see that chicken is a complete protein, that’s not really a shock.

Vital wheat gluten is almost there, but low in lysine.

However, in seitan, you add other ingredients that often have a decent amount of lysine. The most popular ones are:

  • chickpea flour
  • nutritional yeast

It’s not always enough to make the seitan a “complete” protein, but it’s close. It also doesn’t really matter unless seitan is literally your only protein source.

SUMMARY

Both chicken and seitan have well round essential amino acid profiles. Seitan isn’t usually a complete protein (depending on recipe), but is close.

Nutritional Profiles of Seitan and Chicken Breast

Both chicken breast and seitan aren’t great for additional nutrients.

They both have a small amount of calcium and iron, and that’s about it.

  Chicken Breast Seitan
Calories 100 100
Nutrient % of RDA % of RDA
Niacin 32 N/A
Vitamin B6 14 N/A
Calcium .5 3
Iron 3 6
Selenium 18 N/A

Chicken also has a good amount of niacin and vitamin B6, but it’s not like those are particularly special or hard to get vitamins.

Which Protein Source is Better for Building Muscle?

So where does that leave us?

While both seitan and chicken breast have some nutritional value, the main reason that you’d want to eat either is the protein.

For vegetarians and vegans, seitan isn’t quite as good as chicken for protein, but it’s still a fantastic source of it.

For omnivores, take your pick, or incorporate both into your diet, you can’t really go wrong. You might also want to take a look at this lentils vs meat comparison that I made, or more specifically, chickpeas vs chicken.

Finally. you might be interested in this page with 100 seitan recipes.

About the author

Dale Cudmore

Your friendly neighborhood vegan from Toronto. Chemical engineer turned semi-professional soccer player and freelance nutrition writer. I've been vegan for years and try to make life easier for others by sharing what I've learned.

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