Researcher shows fermentation offers opportunities for making tasty climate-friendly cheeses

Researcher shows fermentation offers opportunities for making tasty climate-friendly cheeses

In just eight hours, the researchers produced a solid plant cheese that resembles a white fresh cheese in both taste and texture using fermentation. Photo: Department of Food Science.

A researcher from the Department of Food Science at the University of Copenhagen has succeeded in giving a plant-based cheese made from yellow peas both taste and texture.

Carmen Masiá,  by using the same natural fermentation process with bacteria as is done with cheeses made from milk for thousands of years, transformed protein-rich plants into a new generation of plant cheeses that possess the same tasty properties as milk cheeses.

“Fermentation is a very powerful tool for developing flavour and texture in plant-based cheeses. In this study, I show that bacteria can develop a solid texture in a plant cheese in a very short time and reduce the bean-like aroma from the yellow peas, which are used as a protein source,” explains industrial PhD. Carmen Masiá.

The result builds on another research result from last year by the same researcher who found that yellow peas were a good “protein base” for making a plant-based cheese. In the new result, the researcher has examined 24 bacterial compositions made from bacterial cultures from the biotech company Chr. Hansen, of which Carmen Masiá is an industrial PhD. with.

“The whole point of this study has been to find different bacterial compositions that are suitable for fermentation of a plant raw material so that it can develop taste and texture, and all the bacterial compositions actually met that goal,” says the researcher.

To study the action of bacteria, the scientist mixed them in a bucket with the protein base made of yellow peas. Here, the mixture fermented for seven days, but already after eight hours the result was a firm “cheese gel” that reminded of a white fresh cheese in both taste and texture.

“All the mixtures gave solid gels, so that means you can get a gel with fermentation instead of using palm fat, starch or coconut oil. From a taste perspective, I had two goals: to reduce the taste of the yellow peas and to produce milky notes. Here we saw that some bacteria were better at reducing the pea taste than others, but that everyone actually reduced it, which is very positive. In addition, all mixtures acquired milky notes in different strengths,” explains Carmen Masiá.

The researcher points out there is still some way to go to complete plant-based cheese.

In order to get the optimal plant-based cheese, requires completely new bacterial compositions and cultures, rather than using ones that are not tailored to the purpose, which is the case in this study. In addition, the plant cheese must mature over time to develop flavour and character, as milk cheeses do.

“The most challenging thing right now is that there are many people who want to eat plant-based cheese, but they are not satisfied with the taste. Ultimately, this means that no matter how sustainable, nutritious, etc. something is, people don’t want to buy it if it doesn’t taste good,” says Carmen Masiá, who adds: “You have to remember that cheese production made from milk has been refined over thousands of years, so it’s not something we just imitate overnight. Nevertheless, I hope that over the next few years we can move closer to making the plant cheeses taste really good.”

The study was conducted in collaboration between the Department of Food Science and the enzyme company Chr. Hansen, which manufactures ingredients for the food and pharmaceutical industries.

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