How scientists turn microalgae into realistic vegan calamari with 3D printing

Author: Liam Gilliver

Read Time:   |  15th August 2023

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Researchers in Singapore are still perfecting the plant-based calamari alternative, which has the same nutritional profile as squid…


Scientists have successfully created a plant-based calamari using 3D printing.

Researchers at the National University of Singapore say the product replicates the ‘flakiness and mouth feel of real fish’ as well as a ‘fishy’ taste.

They say the vegan squid alternative has the potential for commercialisation and could help those ditching seafood for environmental and ethical reasons.

3D-printed plant-based calamari

Scientists extracted microalgae and legume proteins and combined them with plant-based oils containing omega-3 fatty acids.

The high-protein vegan paste was found to have a similar nutritional profile to squid. Then, it was subjected to temperature changes, allowing it to be easily squeezed out of a 3D printer’s nozzles and layered into rings.

Researchers explain that ‘depositing the edible ink layer by layer created different textures, some fatty and smooth and others fibrous and chewy’.

Air-frying a 3D printed plant-based calamari ring resulted in a quick, tasty snack. Photo © Poornima Vijayan

Air-frying a 3D printed plant-based calamari ring resulted in a quick, tasty snack. Photo © Poornima Vijayan

‘Addressing sustainability’

“Plant-based seafood mimics are out there, but the ingredients don’t usually include protein,” said Dejian Huang, Ph.D., the principal investigator of the research.

“We wanted to make protein-based products that are nutritionally equivalent to or better than real seafood and address food sustainability.”

However, graduate Poornima Vijayan says more work needs to be done before the calamari alternative becomes available to buy.

“The goal is to get the same texture and elastic properties as the calamari rings that are commercially available,” she explained.

“I’m still seeing how the composition impacts the product’s elasticity and the final sensory properties.”

Worked up an appetite? Check out these vegan fish recipes that taste like the real thing

Featured image © Joshua Resnick

Written by

Liam Gilliver

Liam is a journalist working for the Mirror, Daily Express, Daily Star and OK! Magazine. He's also the author of We're Worried About Him and has been published in the likes of The Independent, Huffington Post, and Attitude Magazine.

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