Pro Tip: Using fava beans for protein supplementation in baked foods

Pro Tip: Understanding the benefits of fava beans can help formulate high-protein bread, cakes and cookies.

Pulses are a category of legumes that are characterized by low oil content and include peas, lentils and fava beans. Compared to other pulses, fava beans (Vicia faba), also called faba beans and broad beans, contain high levels of protein and minerals such as iron and zinc, which makes them well-suited to formulating high-protein bread, cakes and cookies.

Fava bean protein concentrates (65% to 90% protein) and isolates (>90% protein) are both commercially available, though substantially more research has been conducted using fava bean protein concentrates. Concentrates are commonly produced by milling dry fava beans and separating a fine, protein rich flour from the larger particles that contain relatively more starch.

Figure 1:

Left Fava bean 7S original structure which each protein monomer in the trimer colored separately (Temperature of denaturation ~83°C).

Right Fava bean 11S native structure with two trimer halves, that come together to form a hexamer, colored green and red (Temperature of denaturation ~95°C). Images produced from amino acid sequences in NCBI (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/) and models generated in SWISS-MODEL (https://swissmodel.expasy.org/).


Replacing part of the wheat flour with fava bean concentrate has been studied in cakes, cookies, bread and pasta formulations. In bread, it was found that substituting 15% of the flour for fava bean concentrate did not change the amount of water to optimally mix the dough, though due to a dilution of the gluten and a hydrophobic attraction between fava bean proteins, dough rheological stiffness was reduced.

This led to bread with a lower overall loaf volume with a relatively coarse crumb structure. This may mean that when supplementing fava bean into bread formulations, adjustments to emulsifiers and dough stabilizers should be used to maintain loaf volume during proofing. The crust color was also significantly darker, likely from an increase in Maillard browning and the beans’ naturally reddish color, a trend also seen in cookies.

Bake temperatures, times and sugar levels should be adjusted to control product color when working with fava bean concentrates, though some color change may persist from the inherent color of the beans if they are not treated to remove the natural pigments.

In pasta production, up to 30% fava bean concentrate supplementation produced pasta that was acceptable in sensory testing. The nutritional properties of the pasta, including the amount of digestible protein and mineral content (iron, zinc, etc.), significantly increased if the concentrate was fermented before it was added to the pasta. Similar enhancements to nutritional value were observed in the production of sourdough bread with fermented fava bean concentrate as well. However, noticeable bitter and earthy flavors were associated with the addition of fava bean concentrates, and these off flavors were more pronounced by fermenting the concentrate before adding it.

Therefore, pre-fermentation, such as sponge and dough processes, may promote nutritional improvements but enhance undesirable flavors. For this reason, flavor masks, or the use of complimentary strong flavors such as cocoa in sweet foods, can help increase the consumer acceptability of products made with fava beans.

(Alvarez-Ramirez et al., 2018; Aydemir & Yemenicioğlu, 2013; J. Boye et al., 2010; JI Boye et al., 2009; Kaur & Singh, 2007; Sanchez-Vioque et al., 1999).

Harrison Helmick is a PhD candidate at Purdue University. Connecton LinkedIn and see his other baking tips at BakeSci.com.

His research is conducted with the support of Joseph Kokini, Andrea Liceagaand Arun Bhunia.

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