Soybeans are the typical replacement for ground meat in patties. But patties made with black-eyed peas and peanuts could be just as good, say University of Georgia food scientists.

Using black-eyed peas and peanuts may sound new to Americans, but in countries like Korea, they’ve been used for decades, said Manjeet Chinnan, a food engineer with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Under Chinnan’s guidance, UGA graduate Hannah Smith developed several formulations composed of soybeans, black-eyed peas and peanuts.

“The idea to use black-eyed peas actually came from one of our collaborators in California,” said Chinnan. “He and his son were visiting Korea back in the late 1960s and saw street vendors selling sweet potato patties on demand. He returned to the U.S. and experimented using soybeans to make these texturized patties.”

Chinnan has worked on numerous research projects funded by the federal Bean/Cowpea and Peanut Collaborative Research Support programs. Replacing soybeans with black-eyed peas and peanuts isn’t far fetched, but the process isn’t easy.

“When you subject cowpeas or legumes to high temperatures under certain conditions, the proteins get unfolded and form chains just like a meat,” he said. “We decided to try and mimic pure soybean products by adding black-eyed peas and peanuts while at the same time creating a palatable product.”

Most American children probably won’t jump to the front of the line for these patties, or snacks. But children in some countries are in need of high-protein meals, said Smith, whose goal was to create a healthy snack for preteens.

“I used software that helped me create formulations appropriate to meet the protein requirements for preteen children 10 through 12 years of age,” Smith said. “They’re snackers, and they need to be snacking on something healthy.”

Nutritional content was the driving factor of Smith’s recipes. The patty recipe needed to be high in proteins made up of the indispensible amino acids.

“We used high-protein legumes that are readily available in developing countries to devise a product that would be highly nutritional,” she said. “The formulations can be varied to target specific markets and countries. Adding more peanuts is an easy way to add more protein and more fat.”

Smith said American palates would most likely prefer the formulation that contains a higher percentage of peanuts.

After several possible formulations, she had to determine which moisture level and cooking temperature should be used to cook them.

“I first had to make sure the formulations would form a dough. Then I discovered some of the mixtures were too dry to cook,” she explained.

The patty — shaped like a rice cake or small tortilla — is designed to be cooked much like the sweet potato patties made by Korean street vendors. The patties are cooked between two plates that physically press the soybeans into a patty.

“Our goal was to develop a formulation that can be used by village-scale vendors and be scaled up and used in more sophisticated extruders,” Chinnan said. “We have our prototype, and it shows potential.”

UGA food scientists now need to find out if people will like the new patties. Smith was pleasantly surprised the first time she tried one.

“It’s almost like the processing frees some of the natural sugars,” she said. “They’re sweet like a sweet potato, not candy sweet.”