Onions n' fungus could make fake meat smell meatier
The aroma of food plays a huge role in its perceived flavor, and unfortunately many plant-based meat alternatives don't smell much like real meat. That could be about to change, though, thanks to fungus and onions.
Currently, some plant-based meat alternative products contain "flavor precursor" chemicals that produce a meaty favor when cooked. Due to the fact that these chemicals are produced via synthetic processes, however, foods containing them can't be labelled as "natural" in many countries.
Certain fungi have previously been shown to produce a meaty flavor, but they've had to be combined with synthetic ingredients in order to do so. Led by researcher YanYan Zhang, a team of scientists at Germany's University of Hohenheim set out to see if those ingredients could be replaced with vegetables.
After experimenting with different combinations of various fungi and veggies, the best results came when onions were fermented with Polyporus umbellatus fungus for 18 hours. The aroma was described as "a fatty and meaty scent similar to liver sausage."
When gas chromatography-mass spectrometry was used to identify the odorants which were produced, five of them were found to be ones that are largely responsible for different flavors in meats. This is no coincidence, as both onions and those odorants are naturally high in sulfur.
More research still needs to be conducted, but it is hoped that the team's findings could ultimately be used to produce more palatable all-natural meat alternatives. A paper on the study was recently published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Source: American Chemical Society