Cheese-based ‘magic dust’ will make you love plant-based meals
Food researchers from the University of Copenhagen will, in collaboration with Lactosan A/S, investigate how cheese in powder form can boost umami taste and mouthfeel (kokumi) in plant-based food. The researchers will identify detectable delicious flavour combinations that are composed of carefully selected, naturally ripened cheeses, following Lactosan’s recipe.
What is kokumi?
Kokumi means ‘rich taste’ in Japanese, and can be described as a feeling of richness, body and complexity triggered by small pieces of protein composed of two or three amino acids.
Perhaps in the future we consumers will have – placed on the shelf of herbs and spices – a cheese powder mix, which will really be able to power up our plant-based meals. Or we will eat plant-based convenience food with a new complex cheese ingredient creating flavor and saliva in the mouth. Researchers from the Department of Food Science at the University of Copenhagen (UCPH FOOD) are working with the food company Lactosan A/S to find a method for boosting the umami taste (also known as ‘the meat taste’) in plant-based foods, using cheese as a vehicle.
The idea that cheese and different types of plant-based foods go well together is not new. What is novel is that the researchers will try to optimise the ingredients to achieve synergy effects that make the food taste even better. By combining plants with cheese, you can boost the umami taste in plant-based dishes. The boost is created when a mouthful of the food contains both the substance glutamate, which tastes of umami, and nucleotides, which do not taste of anything themselves but which – when ingested with glutamate – can boost the umami taste up to eight-fold.
‘If we want to cook food that is primarily plant-based, the taste quickly becomes a challenge for many consumers, who find it difficult to get ingredients from the plant kingdom to taste quite as good as dishes with meat. Therefore, we want to find cheese-based flavour compositions that can make plant-based meals taste as good as – or even better – than a similar dish with meat,’ says Associated Professor at UCPH FOOD Karsten Olsen.
Lactosan has many years of experience combining various powdered cheeses into food ingredients that taste good – and the next generation of cheese powders (the so-called NCB - Natural Culinary Boosters) exhibit a flavour release that will add the desired umami flavour to plant-based meals, even when used in proportions as small as 1 to 2 per cent.
Two ways to assess excellent taste
The researchers want to find the optimal combination of cheese powder in relation to umami and kokumi using aroma analyses performed in the laboratory at UCPH FOOD. The taste must also perform well in consumer tests carried out by the department’s taste-judging panel.
‘We are talking about cheeses that are up to three years old, so it is not cheap cheese,’ says Karsten Olsen.
The aroma surveys are made using gas chromatography, which can measure the volatile substances from a cheese powder, while the consumer surveys include the use of taste evaluators who are trained in the sensory assessment of the taste of different foods.
The project ‘How cheese can promote green eating behaviour’ is currently supported with DKK 1.5 million from the Danish Dairy Research Foundation, and the researchers are now in the process of finding the remaining funding of a further DKK 1.5 million to start the project.
Other UCPH FOOD researchers involved in the project are:
Associated Professor at the Department of Food Science at the University of Copenhagen (UCPH FOOD) Karsten Olsen, firstname.lastname@example.org
Communications Officer at UCPH FOOD Lene Hundborg Koss, email@example.com