bowl of cooked quinoa
Researchers in Spain report quinoa may be a feasible fat replacer in sausage.

MADRID – A “super grain” may be the key to reducing fat in pork sausage, according to a recent study out of Spain. The study, titled “Partial Fat Replacement by Boiled Quinoa on the Quality Characteristics of a Dry-Cured Sausage,” found that boiled quinoa is a feasible alternative for pork back-fat in dry sausages and other cured meat products.

“Fat equals flavor”, the saying goes. And sausage needs fat not only for flavor, but other sensory qualities such as appearance and texture. The study aimed to show the effects of replacing pork fat in sausage with boiled quinoa.

For the study, researchers prepared three types of small diameter, dry-cured sausage: a control with 30 percent back-fat with no replacement; a quinoa half-fat of 50 percent fat and 15 percent pork back-fat; and a quinoa low-fat option with 85 percent of fat replacement and 4.5 percent back-fat.

The researchers found that replacing up to 85 percent of pork back-fat with boiled quinoa resulted in sausages with higher protein content.

However, the fat replacement impacted sensory and aesthetic qualities of the sausages. For example, fat reduction resulted in “hardness, chewiness and redness values and spice-derived volatile levels, and in lower cohesiveness values,” the researchers reported. Additionally, taste-testers reported “a higher pungent flavor and lower juiciness” in the low-fat sausages compared with the control sausages.

“In spite of those differences,” the researchers said, “fat reduction did not result in a decreased overall acceptance of the sausages by consumers.”

Researchers concluded, in part, that using quinoa as a fat replacer provides manufacturers the opportunity to produce sausages to satisfy consumer demand for low-fat sausage options in addition to regions where supplies of pork fat are low.

The study recently appeared in the Journal of Food Science, a publication of the Institute of Food Technologists.