PhD Candidate University of Alberta Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Gelatin gel has been widely used in various food and pharmaceutical applications for its unique properties of being transparent and thermo-reversible. As the emerging market of vegan, Halal and Kosher products, much attention has been put on looking for the replacement of gelatin from plant-based ingredients. Pea protein has been one of the key ingredients in plant-based foods in recent years owing to its competent nutritional value, functionalities and low allergenicity. In this work, we studied the feasibility of identifying conditions (pH, temperature, and protein concentration) to generate transparent thermo-reversible pea protein gel as potential gelatin alternative. Within a range of acidic pH (pH 2.4-4.2) and protein concentration of 10-15%, pea protein gel formed below 33 °C and melt at a range of 40 °C to 50 °C. This allows its application as gelatin alternatives in various food formulations such as yogurt, desserts, and other fermented products with mild acidic pH environment to provide texture and “melting in the mouth” sensation. With the modulation of pH value and protein concentration, gel mechanical properties and transparency can be manipulated yet the thermo-reversibility is maintained. In addition, gel thermo-reversibility was found to be stable upon repeated heating and cooling process as the gels were physically crosslinked through hydrogen bonds. This work demonstrates that the prepared pea protein gel shows high similarity to gelation gels in terms of thermo-reversible gelation and transparent appearance, which provides great potential as a novel source of gelatin alternative in the applications of various vegan products.