Pulse innovation leads to nut-free ‘peanut’ butter

Monday 22 August, 2016

Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre Staff Corporate Portr

Dr Ken Quail

Dr Ken Quail, AEGIC General Manager – Research & Technical Services, discusses innovative research which led to the creation of a delicious new “peanut butter” – without the peanuts.

Pulses are the edible dried seeds of legumes. They include lentils, chick peas, dried peas and faba beans. The United Nations have made 2016 the year of the pulses, to recognise the significance these seeds play in global nutrition. Across the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East, pulses are consumed as a food staple. Pulses have a high protein content, are rich in dietary fibre and are a powerhouse of micronutrients.

Apart from baked beans and hummus, the average Australian rarely encounters pulses in their diet. In 2003, I questioned why Western diets did not include more pulses. After searching for answers, I concluded that flavour was at the heart of the issue. Many of the pulses have a strong “beany ” or “grassy” flavour that in many cases is considered bitter and unpleasant. This is often masked when pulses are eaten with curries and other strong flavours.

My team at BRI (now AEGIC Sydney) set out to modify the flavour of pulses to make them more acceptable to Western tastes. The starting objective was to neutralise the flavour so that pulses could be used to add nutrition to a range of mainstream foods. A wide range of methods including chemicals, enzymes, wet and dry heat, and washing treatments were evaluated.

mung beansAfter many attempts without success, the team struck a ‘Eureka!’ moment. With five panellists, trying yet another mung bean flour-and-water paste (yuck!), we finally had a pleasant surprise! Everyone in the room identified a pleasant, strong roasted peanut aroma and flavour.

From this small ray of hope, we further developed a heating technology which allowed the management of the flavour of three key pulses. With this technology it was possible to deliver a range of flavour profiles including neutral and nutty. Further refinement of the process was then required to achieve a consistent flavour.

Using the new technology, mung beans gave the strongest roasted peanut flavour. The logical next step was to produce a ‘peanut butter’, but without peanuts. The modified mung bean flour worked well in a spread and this product is now under commercialisation as NotNuts.

jars-small2This innovation delivers a highly nutritious food spread that is free of nuts, soy, gluten and dairy. It provides an incredible alternative for families, child care centres and food outlets seeking to avoid the risk of nuts. Mung beans are not a listed allergen and are considered extremely safe for those with allergies. NotNuts now includes a range of spreads with a nut-free alternative to Nutella and a crunchy NotNuts butter option. The product has even been used to produce nut-free satay sauce which has the potential to remove the risk of peanut exposure for food service, airlines and restaurants. Out of an innovation to modify pulse flavour, a solution to reduce the risk of peanut allergy has been discovered.

A Brisbane company, Foods from the Earth, purchased the rights to the technology, including the patents that protect these developments. They are now exploring a wide range of applications for the pulse flours and kibbles beyond the highly successful spreads. Many of the applications provide nutrition and flavour for gluten free products including: batters, breakfast cereals and baked goods.

It is anticipated that this technology will create a new market for Australian pulses as the opportunities for export are significant. This will benefit Australian pulse farmers and our food industry.

– Dr Ken Quail

A version of this article first appeared in Australasian Baker Magazine

Media contact:
Keir Tunbridge
0409 991 817