Capacity-Building Projects

Pea Tempeh

The Pea Tempeh research project was launched under the guidance of Prairie Research Kitchen to train a culinary research student in the process of developing cultured food products.

One of the project’s secondary goals was to bolster outreach to the local community and disseminate knowledge generated by the research. The project entered to compete in RRC Polytech’s 2019 Applied Research and Innovation Day, an annual event where students across the College present and promote their own applied research projects. The Pea Tempeh project placed second at the competition. The project was led by Anna Borys, a culinary research student at the time and now a Culinary Research Assistant at PRK.

Tempeh is a nutrient-dense, fermented soybean protein cake first produced in Indonesia thousands of years ago. Fermenting the soybeans with the aid of a tempeh mold culture in a controlled environment promotes the growth of Rhizopus oligosporus mycelium. The mold and soy form a cake-like product that can be used as a protein source in everyday dishes. The fermentation process triggers an increase in certain amino acids, which improves the nutritional value of the protein found in tempeh.

Rising consumer demand for allergen-free products led Anna to explore the possibility of developing a tempeh made with yellow peas instead of soy that would be suitable for commercial production.

Anna also researched the impact of pH on taste, texture, and fermentation culture growth. Reducing pH is important to food safety: a pH level above 4.6 encourages the growth of pathogens such as E. coli and Salmonella spp. Adding an acid such as vinegar to the tempeh fermentation process prevents this growth and leads to safer food production. However, acid also impacts texture and cooking time.

Results from the project demonstrated that tempeh can indeed be made allergen-free using peas instead of soy – a discovery that opens possibilities for black, navy and fava beans, as well as other prairie-grown legumes.

The research determined that the optimal pH level for the safe production of yellow pea tempeh was 4.3 (0.1 grams of vinegar) and a cooking time of 38 minutes with a fermentation time of 48 hours. Anna concluded that pH levels do impact the texture of peas. Lower pH levels result in firmer cooked peas and a pH below 4.3 results in an unpleasant taste and aroma.

The tempeh was used by students participating in the Manitoba Agriculture competition.

The Pea Tempeh project benefitted enormously from the assistance of Sam Owsianski, Industry Liaison Manager for Research Partnerships & Innovation (RPI) at RRC Polytech, who acts as a vital link between our research team and the vast college ecosystem that supports RRC Polytech’s research mandate through resources and expertise.