The protein transition makes the frikandel healthier

The development of a fully plant-based frikandel by TOP BV was no easy feat. Fortunately, the product developers at the Wageningen technology company knew that their colleagues in the snack industry used the ‘bounce test’ when creating frikandels. Thanks to that small piece of vital information, the Wageningen team managed to successfully complete the project in a remarkably short time.

When product developer Justus Veenemans and his colleagues started developing a plant-based frikandel in 2022, he used the recipe for a vegan sausage developed by TOP as a starting point.

“There was still a lot of work to be done,” says Veenemans. “To begin with, a vegan sausage has a casing in the form of a plant-based equivalent of an intestine. A frikandel doesn’t have that.”

Another difference is the texture. A good sausage has a coarse and juicy mouthfeel that cannot be compared to the mouthfeel of a frikandel.

“We were able to solve those problems by finding the right combination of texturized vegetable protein, flavorings, and thickeners, and the right process,” says Veenemans. “We heard from our contacts in the meat industry that they sometimes subject their designs to the ‘bounce test’. When a frikandel is pre-cooked and thawed, it should be able to bounce a little when you throw it on a table. A good frikandel should, to use the industry jargon, be bouncy.”

That tip became the guiding principle in Veenemans’ project. By using a plant-based protein, they were able to create a frikandel with the right properties. However, there was still another problem: the frikandels became crispy when fried. “When fries and croquettes become crispy, it’s desirable, but it’s not the intention with frikandels,” says Veenemans. “But we were able to solve that too. We removed the starch, for example in the form of breadcrumbs, from the recipe and replaced it with another thickener.”

The similarity to the regular frikandel is significant. TOP even managed to make the frikandel shrink a bit during the frying process, giving the prepared plant-based frikandel the same wrinkled surface as the frikandel from the snack bar.

Giving flavor to the plant-based frikandel is not a problem, according to Veenemans. “A regular frikandel is made from chicken separator meat. That is tasteless. The taste comes from added herbs.”

The end product that TOP eventually achieved is in many ways similar to a regular frikandel, but differs significantly on one critical point: the plant-based frikandel is healthier. For starters, it contains significantly less fat. “Without fat, a frikandel becomes dry,” explains Veenemans. “Thanks to our technological knowledge, we needed less fat to imitate the fatty mouthfeel of a regular frikandel. The amount of fat could be reduced by a factor of three.”

TOP has already managed to make 100% plant-based chicken nuggets based on the plant-based frikandel.

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