Before you can ask “What is the difference between seitan and mock duck?” you need to know what each gluten-based vegan meat alternative is. So we’ll break down these two wheat meat options for you.
Plant-Based Protein on the Rise
Whether or not you subscribe to vegetarianism or veganism, there’s no denying that vegetarian and vegan meat alternatives like seitan and mock duck are having their moment. In fact, global demand for faux meat is projected to continue to grow steadily through 2026. But this isn’t just some “here today, gone tomorrow” trend. Whether for health reasons, worry about environmental sustainability, or concern for animal welfare, Americans are increasingly embracing the concept of eating a plant-based diet.
As a result, we are in the midst of a meat substitute renaissance. From traditional tofu and tempeh to the latest veggie burgers, fake sausage, and meatless ground beef, foods made from plant-based ingredients like soy, cereal grains, pea protein, jackfruit, and banana blossoms are popping up in grocery aisles and on restaurant menus across the nation. But many of these vegetarian and vegan products, such as seitan and mock duck, have actually been around for decades, if not centuries.
So, what’s the difference between seitan and mock duck? We turned to industry experts for the answer.
“There are two major differences [between seitan and mock duck],” says Kelly Swette, owner and CEO of Sweet Earth Enlightened Foods. “The first is in flavor, and the second is in texture. And, really, the whole story is in the texture.”
How Mock Duck is Made
Seitan is essentially dough made from vital wheat gluten, the main protein in wheat. Think of it as the raw ingredient (so no, neither seitan nor mock duck are for those on a gluten-free diet). “Based on whether you steam it, bake it, boil it, or fry it, it will take on a different texture, so it’s an incredibly versatile product,” Swette explains. “But if you look at mock duck, the difference is the seitan dough [is] rolled out—it can be exactly the same—and then this dimpled texture is applied either through the roller or by putting the seitan in a mold, and that creates that plucked dimpled look you see on the skin.”
The seitan dough is then fried so the top layer is browned, which Swette says makes it silkier and less springy or chewy. Next, it’s marinated (usually in the can) in a broth made with soy, sugar, soybean oil, and spices. Once the can is sealed, the mock duck is further cooked and preserved through the retort process. The result is a silky, tender faux meat product with a sweet soy taste.
Companion Mock Duck (6 cans), $22.99 on Amazon
Seitan in a can.
While you can find canned mock duck at some specialty grocery stores and online, many people first try it at an Asian restaurant. “I grew up eating a whole lot of mock duck at Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants,” says Kale Walch, co-owner of The Herbivorous Butcher, a vegan butcher shop in Minneapolis. He describes its flavor as subtle, vaguely wheaty, slightly salty from the brine it’s packed in, and tender when it’s cooked right. “It was definitely a launching pad,” he explains. “I knew at its very basic level, it was seitan. I thought I could adapt the same basic recipe to make what I was craving.”
The Versatility of Seitan
“Seitan can be just about whatever you want it to,” states Walch. “The more experimentation I do, the more I learn how versatile a platform it really is.” He’s continually developing The Herbivorous Butcher’s product line of burgers, sausages, deli meats, steaks, jerky, and their best-selling Korean BBQ ribs. Reminiscing about the days when he was experimenting with seitan recipes in his tiny Loring Park apartment, Walch enthuses, “It’s so much fun to tinker around with!”
According to vegan chef Skye-Michael Conroy, author of “Seitan and Beyond: Gluten and Soy-Based Meat Analogues for the Ethical Gourmet,” it’s easy to make your own seitan at home. “You just have to know the technique,” he says. Once you create the wheat flour dough, you need to rinse it repeatedly with water to get rid of the starch. However, he explains, “The distinct wheat flour flavor turns a lot of people off,” which is why some prefer to purchase it ready-made at the supermarket.
Anthony's Vital Wheat Gluten (4 lbs), $14.88 on Amazon
Along with chickpea flour or soy flour, vital wheat gluten is, well, vital for making homemade seitan.
In his cookbooks, Conroy shares techniques and recipes for creating a wide variety of meat alternatives, including bacon, ribs, meatballs, burgers, hard and soft sausages, mock pork, mock lamb, and even shredded mock chicken made from a combination of wheat gluten and soy protein. However, you can also purchase a growing number of faux meat products at the store.
Sweet Earth offers several flavors of seitan—Mexican chipotle, Southeast Asian curry, Tuscan, and traditional Japanese, simmered in a savory ginger kombu soy broth—in ground crumbles, slices, satays, and strips, so you can use them in a sandwich, stir fry, soup, salad, taco, rice bowl, or anything else you can imagine. (Pictured below is Mongolian Seitan Vegan Beef and Broccoli.)
“The great thing about seitan is it absorbs marinades and flavors,” Swette explains. “So, I can take our traditional seitan and I can mix it with Italian herbs and some vinegar and oil and I’ll turn it Italian. I can do Greek herbs and I can turn it into gyros, which is one of my favorite things to do with it. I can add miso and more ginger and garlic, and five-spice powder, and I can turn it into mock duck.”
Whichever way you prefer to eat it, the key thing to cooking with seitan is to take advantage of its versatility. “I see a lot of my friends trying out recipes,” reflects Walch. “A lot of people I never expected to are trying things out. It’s all I could ever hope for; it’s so much fun, so adaptable. It’s a very fun medium to work with.”
Header image by Chowhound, using photos from Westend61 / Getty Images and Amazon