Meat analogue made from fermented okara

Friday, 24 September, 2021

Meat analogue made from fermented okara

Researchers from Kaunas University of Technology (KTU) and the University of Helsinki have proposed an extremely nutritious meat analogue made using fermented okara (soy press cake). Described in the journal European Food Research and Technology, their product is claimed to have less salt, less saturated fat and more flavour than real meat.

New component for the industry

Experts say that the probiotics produced during fermentation can help restore the balance of friendly bacteria and, by enhancing the number of free amino acids as well as minimising the effect of anti-mitogenic substances, may alleviate some digestive problems. But although fermented foods are rich in nutrients and fermentation can produce ingredients that improve smell and taste, there are few who rely on this process in meat analogue production.

Researchers from the KTU Food Institute and the University of Helsinki produced meat analogues by adding fermented okara, the by-product of soy milk production, to plant-based matrices. Okara samples were fermented by applying probiotics L. plantarum P1 and L. acidophilus 308 strains. The products containing different amounts of fermented okara modelled under different conditions were then evaluated.

“[The] meat industry has deep-rooted traditions and people possess a clear expectation how a pork or beef burger, chicken sausage or other meat product should look, smell, taste and feel like,” said study co-author Dr Alvija Šalaševičienė, Director of the KTU Food Institute. For example, it was determined that although Lithuanian senior consumers are willing to use meat analogues produced from plant origin material, the sensory properties of the products that are currently available in the market are still less appealing in comparison with meat.

The researchers concluded that the use of fermentation makes okara a suitable component for meat analogues. According to the sensory and nutritional analysis, the optimum condition for producing meat analogues was the application of 6% okara in the matrices fermented by L. plantarum P1, when the matrices and okara are maturated at 4°C for two hours.

Health benefits

There are many health-induced reasons for reducing meat consumption: it is hard to digest, the amounts of saturated fat raise ‘bad’ cholesterol, and meat foods are usually over salted as fat reduces the flavour.

Meat analogues with fermented okara have more free amino acids, which diminish the antinutritional factors and are therefore more easily digested than meat. The meat analogues modelled at KTU laboratories also contain less fat and saturated fat but the same amount of protein — about 14–18%, depending on different recipe variations.

“Non-hydrogenated oils containing only small amounts of saturated fat were used while developing our products,” said study co-author Dr Gitana Alenčikienė, a senior researcher at the KTU Food Institute. “Thanks to the small amount of fat, we were able to create characteristic flavours by using only 1% of salt. Among the 11 ingredients used in our product are only natural spices, pigments and aromatic compounds, and no preservatives.”

Food from waste

Currently, there are no commercialised meat analogue products with okara. However, the researchers are convinced that, as organic waste recycling is becoming more and more relevant in today’s world, their meat analogue will find its way to the market. Indeed, it is just one of many products created by the KTU Food Institute; recently, their pea-based meat analogue won the local innovation fair.

“Both meat analogues are nutritionally valuable: our product with fermented okara is more easily digested and the pea-based meat analogue is enriched with iron, which is very important for the normal functioning of the human organism,” said Aelita Zabulionė, a researcher at the KTU Food Institute. “While creating our products we aim to solve at least one nutritional problem — be it calorie control, lack of fibre or iron, or sluggish digestion process.”

The researchers emphasise that every new plant-based product widens the choice for consumers and can reduce the usage of processed meat products. They claim that meat analogues enriched with fibre, microelements, vitamins and amino acids, processed to remove antinutrients from raw materials, are the future of food.

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