In search of the perfect plantbased burger or steak, fat plays a big role. The animal fat in meat has a certain creaminess and mouthfeel that can be hard to replace. Researchers at Wageningen University & Research have now found a way to 3D print a blend of vegetable oil and pea protein paste that mimics lard in its structure. The solution is all natural, cheap and sustainable. Next step is to perfect the taste as to create the base for a juicy meat analogue.
Dr. Simha Sridharan (former PhD) worked together with supervisor Dr. Costas Nikiforidis from the Biobased Chemistry & Technology group on the lard-like structure. A paper on the research was recently published on Advanced Functional Materials.
“We were experimenting with different structures and that’s when the 3D printer came into play. With that it’s possible to create shapes that have a same build-up as the animal fats we try to replace. Our research wasn’t solely focussed on foods by the way; we see this as one of the possibilities. Other uses can vary from replacing synthetic polymers in dental fillers or scaffolds for generating soft tissues.”
The way the structure mimics animal fat, led to focus more on the food part of the paste. Next step is to take the mixture into actual production as one of the ingredients in a plantbased burger.
The researchers work on that with the meat analogue industry. The collaboration focusses on how to tastefully incorporate the fatty protein paste in plantbased ‘meats’. Also the possibilities of creating fat fibres and adding vitamins will be further explored. “First we focussed on creating the perfect juicy structure, next step is taste.”