"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Making plant-based meats more 'meaty' — with fermented onions

Plant-based alternatives reminiscent of tempeh and bean burgers provide protein-rich options for those looking to cut back their meat consumption. However, replicating the flavors and aromas of meat has proven difficult, with corporations often counting on artificial additives. A recent ACS study uncovered a possible solution: onions, chives and leeks produce natural chemicals that resemble the delicious aroma of meat when fermented by a typical fungus.

When food producers wish to flavor plant-based meat alternatives, they often add precursors present in meat which might be converted into flavor agents during cooking. Or, the flavour is first produced by heating flavor precursors, or other chemical manipulations, after which added to the product. Because these flavors are created through a synthetic process, many countries is not going to allow food manufacturers to label them “natural.” Accessing plant-based, “natural” meat flavor would require the flavoring chemicals to be physically extracted from plants or produced biochemically with enzymes, bacteria or fungi. So, Yan Yan Zhang and his colleagues desired to see if fungi known to supply meat flavors and odors through artificial means may very well be used to make the identical chemicals from vegetables or spices.

The team fermented different fungal species with a spread of foods and located that meaty aromas were only produced by family foods, reminiscent of onions and leeks. The strongest-smelling sample got here from an 18-hour long fermentation of onions using fungus, which produced a fatty and meaty aroma just like liver sausage. With gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, the researchers analyzed onion yeast to discover flavor and odor chemicals, and located many which might be liable for different flavors in meat. One chemical they identified was bis(2-methyl-3-furyl) disulfide, which produces a powerful odor in meaty and savory foods. The high sulfur content of alliums contributes to their ability to supply meaty flavor compounds, which frequently contain sulfur, the team says. These onion yeasts could someday be used as natural flavorings in a wide range of plant-based meat alternatives, the researchers say.