Replacing butter in baked goods with insect fat – researchers highlight taste trials

Waffles with and without insect fat (courtesy of Ghent University)

In a blind test, a taste panel was unable to tell the difference between baked goods made with butter from those made with insect fat, positioning the latter as a more sustainable alternative to dairy-based butter.

Researchers from Ghent University in Belgium found that when less than half of the butter in bakery products was replaced by insect fat, a panel was unable to taste the difference.

The research team used fat from black soldier fly larvae in waffles, cookies and cake. They baked three types of each version – a normal one with only butter; a version in which a quarter of the butter was replaced by insect fat, and a version in which half of the butter was replaced by insect fat.

These three different versions were then served to a taste panel of consumers, asking if they could taste the difference.

The cake with a quarter of insect fat passed the test: the taste panel did not notice that insect fat was used, the researchers said. In the case of waffles, they did not even notice the presence of insect fat when half of the butter had been replaced. Also, the texture and colour were hardly affected as compared with butter.

The findings back up claims from the researchers that insect fat is more sustainable and healthier than butter made from cow’s milk.

“The ecological footprint of an insect is much smaller compared to animal-based food sources” said researcher Daylan Tzompa-Sosa.

“Besides, we can grow insects in large quantities in Europe, which also reduces the footprint of transport. After all, palm fat is often imported from outside of Europe.”

He added: “Insect fat contains lauric acid, which provides positive nutritional attributes since it is more digestible than butter. Moreover, lauric acid has an antibacterial, antimicrobial and antimycotic effect. This means that it is able, for example, to eliminate harmless various viruses, bacteria or even fungi in the body, allowing it to have a positive effect on health.”

Despite these findings, at present the price of producing bakery goods with insect fat is still too high because it is only produced on a small scale. However, researcher Joachim Schouteten said that it is “possible” that bakery goods with insect fat could be on supermarket shelves.

“We will have to investigate what consumers think on a larger scale. Products with insects such as insect burgers have not yet proved to be a great success,” he said.

“Bakery products with insect fat are more likely to be appreciated, because the insects are merely a form of fat substitute.”

Findings were published in Food Quality and Preference.