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A new study by the University of Copenhagen has unveiled a method to produce cheese using yellow peas. Yellow peas, being protein-rich and locally grown in Europe, are viewed as a promising alternative to conventional dairy. The research focused on using natural fermentation to develop the flavor and texture of non-dairy cheeses. The result was a firm, cheese-like gel with a desirable taste, thus reducing the bean-like aroma commonly associated with plant-based foods.

  • University of Copenhagen scientists are developing plant-based cheese using yellow peas.
  • Researchers created a firm, cheese-like gel with a reduced “beany” aroma associated with pea protein through fermentation.
  • A study published in Future Foods reflects the growing interest in plant-based food research and the need for sustainable options.

Unlocking the potential of yellow peas

The use of yellow peas in this innovative cheese-making process marks a significant shift in plant-based food production. Yellow peas are rich in protein and can be grown locally in Denmark and Europe, making them an ideal candidate for sustainable food production.

The focus of the University of Copenhagen’s research was to explore how to harness this potential effectively. The primary challenge was to replicate not only the nutritional properties of dairy cheese but also its sensory qualities, such as taste and texture.

The power of fermentation

Fermentation, an ancient food processing technology, was the key to this challenge. The research team used a range of bacteria to ferment a protein base derived from yellow peas. This approach led to the development of a firm cheese-like gel that had a reduced ‘beany’ aroma, commonly associated with pea protein.

Notably, the researchers tested 24 different bacterial combinations. All combinations proved successful in producing firm gels and reducing the beaniness. This discovery showcases the versatility of the fermentation process and opens up a wide range of possibilities for future plant-based cheese production.

Collaboration for success

The work was a collaboration between the University of Copenhagen and Chr. Hansen, a leading microbial ingredients supplier. The project was funded by Innovation Fund Denmark, reflecting the growing interest in plant-based food research. The study has been published in the scientific journal Future Foods.

This collaboration between academia and industry is crucial for achieving a high-quality product that can compete with traditional dairy cheese. As Carmen Masiá, a researcher from the University of Copenhagen, previously told Innovation Origins, “To provide high-quality marketable products, we must give consumers a delicious tasting experience, otherwise, they won’t choose them”.

Facing the future: sustainability and taste

The implications of this study go beyond the dairy aisle. The production of dairy products requires large amounts of water and results in significant greenhouse gas emissions. By contrast, yellow peas have a lower carbon footprint and require less water, making this new cheese production method a more sustainable choice.

This research represents a step towards a more plant-based food system to tackle the growing pressure on Earth’s resources. The success of the University of Copenhagen’s work in creating a desirable taste profile for plant-based cheese bodes well for the future. It suggests that a rewarding sensory experience need not be compromised in the pursuit of sustainability.