In a world where many people are being aware of sustainability issues and are choosing to consume more plant-based proteins, it is the food scientist’s job to find novel strategies in order to look out for alternative plant proteins that can produce similar functionalities to the animal based ones.
Let’s look at egg proteins, they are quite challenging to replace. Eggs are used thanks to their important emulsification properties (look at mayonnaises or hollandaise sauce) as well as the foaming properties (how about meringues?). However, due to environmental concerns, our use of eggs is decreasing in favour of alternatives from the plant world.
We can replace some eggs proteins’ functionalities by using emulsifiers, flour products, perhaps gums or alternatives to dairy like soy milk for example but none of them could possibly totally replace egg’s functionality in a food formulation.
At the moment, pulses present a high potentiality as egg replacers such as lentils flour and gram flour (chickpea flour) but most of the times the use of extra hydrocolloids (i.e. emulsifiers and thickeners) is needed.
One very good alternative to egg proteins is “aquafaba”, a product already very popular among the vegan community. It is a very cheap liquid to obtain and comes from the viscous liquid produced during the canning of chickpeas.
According to a paper published in the International Journal of Food Science and Technology in 2018, Mustafa and co-workers produced an egg-less sponge cake and observed that aquafaba and egg white present comparable physical and foaming characteristics thus making aquafaba one of the best candidates as egg replacer in baked goods.
However, regardless of the good functionality of aquafaba, the different chickpea cultivars and methods of preparation might influence the functionality which means that in order to produce a standardised product, several studies need to be carried out as well as further formulation optimisation trials alongside with sensory evaluations.
It seems thought that the world of pulses based proteins is rising, perhaps we might be consuming chickpea milk soon?
Mustafa R., He Y., Shim Y.Y., Reaney M.J.T. (2018). Aquafaba, wastewater from chickpea canning, functions as an egg replacer in sponge cake. International Journal of Food Science and Technology. 53, 2247 – 2255.
Shao Y., Lin K., Chen Y. (2015). Batter and product quality of eggless cake made of different types of flours and gums. Journal of Food Processing and Preservation. 39, 2959 – 2968.