Researches Discover Fermentation Technique For Development Of Plant-Based Cheese

In Education

University of Copenhagen researchers are harnessing the ancient fermentation technique to develop plant-based cheeses that match the taste and texture of traditional dairy. This innovative approach aims to convert protein-rich plants like beans and peas into a sustainable cheese alternative, contributing to a climate-friendly cheese generation.

Demand for sustainable cheese on the rise

In Denmark, cheese is a popular food item, with people consuming around 30 kilos (66 pounds) of it each year. However, there’s a growing demand for sustainable alternatives to traditional dairy cheese, leading scientists to work on creating plant-based cheeses that mimic the taste and texture of dairy cheese.

Although there are already some plant-based cheese options available in the market, they face a challenge due to the distinct nature of plant proteins, which differ from milk proteins. To achieve the desired cheese consistency and flavor, current plant-based options often include ingredients like starch, coconut oil, and various flavors.

The University of Copenhagen’s Department of Food Science has found that fermentation can be a natural alternative to enhance the flavor and texture of plant-based cheeses. Bacteria can quickly improve the firmness of non-dairy cheese and reduce the yellow pea protein’s bean-like aroma, which is the primary protein source.

Yellow pea protein a foundation for plant-based cheese

In recent research, Masiá expanded on her prior work that highlighted yellow pea protein as a viable foundation for plant-based cheese. When incorporated into the yellow pea protein base, these combinations produced cheese-like gels similar to fresh soft white cheeses in just eight hours.

Masia said that every bacterial mixture resulted in robust gels, indicating that a fermentation-induced gel can be achieved without the requirement of supplementing the base with starch or coconut oil. In terms of fragrance, researchers’ objectives were twofold: firstly, to diminish the compounds that are associated with the inherent bean-like aroma of yellow peas, and secondly, to generate compounds typically encountered in traditional dairy cheese. It was observed that certain bacteria exhibited superior capabilities in producing specific volatile compounds compared to others, although all strains effectively mitigated the bean-like aroma, which is a highly favorable outcome.

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