Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

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


3D-Printed Vegan Seafood Could Someday Be What’s For Dinner (Video)

Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!

SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 13, 2023 — In the refrigerated grocery store aisle, meat alternatives greatly outnumber plant-based seafoods. But more mock seafood options are needed because of unsustainable fishing and aquaculture practices, which can deplete the supply and harm the environment. Today, researchers present a new approach for creating desirable vegan seafood mimics that taste good, while maintaining the healthful profile of real fish. They 3D-printed an ink made from microalgae protein and mung bean protein, and their proof-of-concept calamari rings can even be air-fried for a quick, tasty snack.

The researchers will present their results at the fall meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS). ACS Fall 2023 is a hybrid meeting being held virtually and in-person Aug. 13–17, and features about 12,000 presentations on a wide range of science topics.

A video on the research is available at

“I think it’s imminent that the seafood supply could be very limited in the future,” adds Poornima Vijayan, a graduate student who is presenting the work at the meeting. “We need to be prepared from an alternative protein point of view, especially here in Singapore, where over 90% of the fish is imported.”

People around the world eat a lot of seafood, but the oceans are not an infinite resource. Overfishing has depleted many wild fish populations. That lack of sustainability, combined with heavy-metal and microplastic contamination, as well as ethical concerns, have pushed some consumers toward plant-based mimics. But such alternatives are still difficult for seafood lovers to find.

While some mock seafood products — such as imitation crabmeat made from minced and reshaped pollock or other white fish — are already on the market, making mimics from plants has been a challenge. It’s hard to achieve the nutritional content, unique textures and mild flavors of cooked fish meat using vegetables or fungi. “Plant-based seafood mimics are out there, but the ingredients don’t usually include protein. We wanted to make protein-based products that are nutritionally equivalent to or better than real seafood and address food sustainability,” says Dejian Huang, Ph.D., the principal investigator of this research.

Recently, Huang and his research group at the National University of Singapore used legume protein to develop better seafood mimics. And they replicated the flakiness and mouth feel of real fish by 3D printing a protein-based ink with a food-grade 3D printer. Depositing the edible ink layer by layer created different textures, some fatty and smooth and others fibrous and chewy, in a single product.

“We printed salmon filets with protein from red lentils because of the protein’s color, and we’ve printed shrimp,” says Huang. “Now, we wanted to print something else interesting with the potential for commercialization — calamari rings.”

In this work, the team tested two sustainable, high-protein plant sources: microalgae and mung beans. Some microalgae already have a “fishy” taste, which Vijayan says made them a good candidate to use in the squid-ring analogue. And mung bean protein is an underutilized waste product from manufacturing starch noodles, also called cellophane or glass noodles, which are a popular ingredient in many Asian dishes.

The researchers extracted microalgae and legume proteins in the lab and combined them with plant-based oils containing omega-3 fatty acids. In the end, the nutritional profile of the high-protein vegan paste was similar to that of calamari rings from squid. Then, the paste was subjected to temperature changes, allowing it to be easily squeezed out of a 3D printer’s nozzles and layered into rings. Finally, the team assessed the finished rings’ taste, smell and appearance.

3D printing gave the seafood mimic structure and texture, but consumers will still want to bake, fry or sauté it, just like they do with real squid, says Huang. So, in an initial cooking test, Vijayan air-fried some of the samples as they would be prepared for a snack. The researchers tried the plant-based calamari, remarking on their acceptable taste and promising texture properties.

Before conducting consumer tests, though, Vijayan wants to optimize the product. “The goal is to get the same texture and elastic properties as the calamari rings that are commercially available,” she says. “I’m still seeing how the composition impacts the product’s elasticity and the final sensory properties.”

And while this plant-based mimic might provide a seafood fix for people with allergies to mollusks, which includes squid, Huang isn’t sure whether people could be sensitive to its ingredients. “I don’t think that there are many known cases of allergies to microalgae proteins or mung bean proteins. But we don’t know yet because it’s still a new combination,” he says.

In the near future, the team plans to develop many prototypes and assess how easily they can be developed for large-scale food manufacturing. Huang expects that in the next few years these calamari-like products could be available in fine-dining restaurants or specialty outlets. “I think people will like our plant-based mimic. From a novelty perspective, it has that seafood taste but comes from only sustainable plant-based sources,” concludes Vijayan.

The researchers acknowledge support and funding from the National University of Singapore. This research is supported by the National Research Foundation, Prime Minister’s Office, Singapore under its Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise (CREATE) programme. CREATE is an international collaboratory housing research centres set up by top universities. At CREATE, researchers from diverse disciplines and backgrounds work closely together to perform cutting-edge research in strategic areas of interest, for translation into practical applications leading to positive economic and societal outcomes for Singapore. The interdisciplinary research centres at CREATE focus on four areas of interdisciplinary thematic areas of research, namely human systems, energy systems, environmental systems and urban systems. More information on the CREATE programme can be obtained from

Effects of microalgae and mung bean protein combination on 3D printing of seafood analogs 

The employment of 3D printing technology using sustainable alternative protein sources can potentially aid in resolving global food challenges by offering customizable and nutritious food products. Recently, seafood mimics using alternative proteins are gaining traction due to the growing concerns associated with unsustainable practices such as overfishing, heavy metal contamination, and so on. Mung bean protein is an undervalued by-product of the mung bean starch noodle industry, which can be utilized for the development of high-protein seafood mimics. Another such sustainable protein source is microalgae, which is gaining interest due to its high protein content and technologically functional properties. We incorporated them into an ink-based formulation and applied them to a 3D food printer to obtain layer-by-layer deposition to simulate seafood products. The printing performance and characteristics were studied regarding rheology, microstructure, and post-processing stability of 3D-printed seafood analogs. The effects of gellan gum and calcium chloride solution (5 mM) in varying proportions were evaluated to obtain a printable, self-supporting three-dimensional structure. The ink exhibited shear-thinning behavior, and it was observed that adding microalgae protein up to 5% further improved the viscosity, printability, and self-supporting characteristics of the printed structure. The research contributes to the development of plant-based seafood analogs using natural and sustainable alternative protein sources via 3D printing technology.

Courtesy of the American Chemical Society, via Newswise. This research was presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society. A recorded media briefing on this topic will be posted Monday, Aug. 14, by 10 a.m. Eastern time at

Featured image: Air-frying a 3D-printed plant-based calamari ring resulted in a quick, tasty snack. Image credit: Poornima Vijayan.

Have a tip for CleanTechnica? Want to advertise? Want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

EV Obsession Daily!

I don't like paywalls. You don't like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it!! So, we've decided to completely nix paywalls here at CleanTechnica. But...
Like other media companies, we need reader support! If you support us, please chip in a bit monthly to help our team write, edit, and publish 15 cleantech stories a day!
Thank you!

Tesla Sales in 2023, 2024, and 2030

CleanTechnica uses affiliate links. See our policy here.
Written By

We publish a number of guest posts from experts in a large variety of fields. This is our contributor account for those special people, organizations, agencies, and companies.


You May Also Like

Climate Change

A new method for attacking blue-green algae blooms could pack a carbon sequestration punch in red and blue states alike.


Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News! Pouring flecks of rust into water usually makes...


Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News! In the search for ways to fight methylmercury...


After stumbling on biofuel, algae finds its footing and steps up to help the concrete industry cut its carbon footprint, too.

Copyright © 2023 CleanTechnica. The content produced by this site is for entertainment purposes only. Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by and do not necessarily represent the views of CleanTechnica, its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries.