Replacing saturated fats with oleogels in cream cheese

August 9, 2016

A study published in Food Research International shows that oleogels may be able to replace a majority of the saturated fat in cream cheese while providing a similar texture. The researchers at Ohio State University are using a new method that replaces solid saturated milk fat in cream cheese with substances called oleogels to produce a healthier and cheaper product.

The main purpose of this study was to produce something with a familiar texture and behavior by building up a solid network of microscopic fat molecules similar to that of full-fat cream cheese but without saturated fats. Oleogels are created by turning an oil—such as vegetable oil—into a gel by heating the oil with “organogelator,” a substance that causes the oil to restructure itself as a semi-solid gel. The researchers used two different organogelators: rice bran wax, made from oil that comes from rice, and ethylcellulose, an engineered version of regular old cellulose.

When they tested the oleogel-based cream cheeses against original, fat-free, or homemade vegetable oil–based cream cheeses, with both lab equipment and a tasting panel, they found the rice bran wax cream cheese was just as spreadable, sticky, and hard as regular full-fat cream cheese. The oleogel cream cheese’s total fat content was 25% lower when compared to the full-fat commercial control, and its saturated fat content was 90% lower.

Now the researchers are working on creating cream cheeses with deodorized rice bran wax, plus some added flavors, to make something that tastes more like traditional cream cheese.