Prairie Plant Protein Project
More products featuring plant-based proteins are filling today’s grocery shelves than ever before, thanks to a growing market for food products containing alternative sources of protein. Prairie Research Kitchen has positioned itself at the forefront of many plant-based protein innovations – especially around pulses, which grow abundantly on the Prairies and present endless opportunities for research centred on new ingredient applications and product development.
In 2019, Prairie Research Kitchen led the Prairie Plant Protein Project in collaboration with the University of Manitoba’s Department of Food and Human Nutritional Sciences and the ARD-Food Development Centre (ARD-FDC), with funding from Manitoba Pulse & Soybean Growers (MPSG), Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP), and Ag Action Manitoba.
The project’s goals were to explore the functionality of different pulses for plant protein-based foods, foster partnerships integrating applied and culinary research into Manitoba’s research network, demonstrate new plant-based protein options for Canadian consumers, and help increase and diversify the range of foods Canadians eat while highlighting the versatility of plant-protein sources.
The first phase of the project was undertaken by our project partners. Various pulses were assessed at the University of Manitoba’s Food and Human Nutritional Sciences lab for specific protein attributes associated with tofu quality in soybeans. Results suggested fava beans featured a profile suitable for making tofu, which shaped the protein blends developed in later phases. Next, researchers at ARD-FDC established a process to extract the pulse proteins on a scaled-up basis.
The Prairie Research Kitchen team brought both pieces together by testing the variability of protein source combinations and the suitability of each for creating new tofu-like blocks. The team also tested the plant protein sources identified in the first phase of the project to determine their nutritional profiles. Our end goal was to combine complementary amino acids from pulses, soybeans, and hemp to create complete protein sources.
After several varieties of novel tofu were developed, including a new take on traditional soy tofu with hemp protein, Prairie Research Kitchen’s chefs transformed the tofu into delicious new food applications and recipes.
The knowledge derived from this project later became the basis for future research and product development with other partners, including Big Mountain and Prairie Fava.
This project was made possible thanks to funding from a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Innovation Enhancement grant, Manitoba Pulse and Soy Growers and the Canadian Agricultural Partnerships grant along with industry supplied ingredients.
Completing the Protein Puzzle: Humans need to consume complete proteins that provide all the amino acids (organic compounds) we need for optimal health. While proteins from animal sources are complete, proteins from plant sources often contain incomplete amino acid profiles. That’s why we often combine rice and beans, for instance, in a single dish: alone, neither has all the amino acids our bodies need, but together they do. That’s also why blending plant-based proteins from different sources is such an important element of our product formulation: we want to ensure the products we develop for consumers and clients contain a complete protein.