Taste & flavorings thread


#1

Hi all,
I’ve been DIYing soylent for a few weeks, and here are my thoughts so far on making it taste good.

It’s all about the macros

This is the single most important thing. By mass, soylent is mostly water, protein, carbs, and oil. Yes, yes, your micronutrient sources can affect the taste, but not as much as the macros. Measure water as carefully as you would measure anything else; I found myself often adding too much, making it too thin. The type and amount of carbs will obviously affect the level of sweetness. The type and amount of protein will affect the taste and texture. Get the water and other macros right first. Specifically…

Water

My mix is still evolving, but 300 mL per drink (900 mL/day) is roughly the right amount for me. YMMV. That’s about 11 ounces BTW, for those of you still measuring things in barleycorns…

Also, if your water tastes bad, your soylent will taste the worse for it. I live in Boston, where the tap water is pretty great compared to most cities, but if I lived somewhere else I’d probably use a Brita filter.

Protein

Most whey protein isolate tastes and dissolves fine. If you’re vegan, try different soy/etc. brands until you find one that dissolves well. (If you’re against both whey and soy, you’re probably going to have a bad time.) Last I checked, Bob’s Red Mill soy protein doesn’t dissolve well, for example. But Trader Joes, if you live near one, has really great soy protein that dissolves really well.

And don’t assume all whey protein isolates are the same. I plan to try several brands to see which taste better. (I like NOW brand fine though so far.)

Carbs

Personally I’m using a bit of sweet whey powder (which is mostly lactose; more on that in another thread soon) and some sucrose. I would love to hear people describing their experiences with maltodextrins. I suspect using only sucrose would make it disgustingly sweet.

Oil

Many people don’t like the taste of EVOO, at least not by the glassful. This is especially a problem if you’re making a more high-fat/low-carb mix like I am. I have seen reports that soy lecithin as an emulsifier reduces the olive taste. I only just got my bottle of soy lecithin powder today, and a quick test seemed to confirm that this does help slightly.

But you may also want to consider alternatives. I haven’t looked into other oils extensively – I was hoping EVOO would work – but it seems like hemp oil is a pretty healthy non-olive oil. It tastes nice, a bit nutty, or like sunflower seeds (but not in a bad way – I’m not crazy about sunflower seeds and I like it), and 1/3 hemp + 2/3 EVOO tastes fine to me. Side benefit: it’s green. (Soylent green is hemple!)

Also, I have a bottle of “light” olive oil on the way, and I’ll report on how it tastes, but I believe <hearsay> that non EV olive oils tend to be more dubiously processed, so I’d prefer to avoid them if I can.

Flavorants

The next biggest factor is whether you’re adding cocoa to your mix, which I highly recommend. Again, my mix is evolving, but I’m finding 10 g/day to sometimes seem like to much, so I was going to try 5 g for the batch I’m making tonight. You should offset your magnesium/etc. by the appropriate amount though.

I haven’t tried vanilla, but I might do that soon. I will say, though, that there’s no reason to be afraid of vanillin (artificial vanilla). In blind taste tests by Cooks Illustrated, people actually preferred baked goods made with vanillin over vanilla, only preferring vanilla in custards. I suppose soylent is closer to custard than cookies, so natural vanilla might taste slightly better, but my point is that the two are very close in taste. And one of them costs 1/10th as much…

Micros

So now we’re ready to talk micronutrients. A few tips:

Salt

If you’re using table salt, you may find your nutritionally optimal amount of it tastes too salty. (Or you might not, depending on your macros and personal taste.) If so, try looking into other sources of sodium and chloride. I’m trying out potassium chloride, and I plan to check out magnesium chloride at some point. But you might just be able to stick with salt and use less. You don’t need 2.4 g/day; 1.5-2 g seems to be fine, and is perhaps actually healthier. (I’m not going to cite sources because this thread is about taste, not nutrition. Read Wikipedia > Sodium.)

Tablets

To my surprise, I’m finding many of the tablets I’ve checked out taste fine when ground up. Many of them have cellulose as their primary excipient, which I believe has a neutral taste. Point being, if your multivitamin or some other tablet you’re using tastes terrible, try another brand; you might find one that doesn’t.

Fish oil

If you’re using fish oil for omega-3s, keep it in the freezer or fridge! It starts to taste fishy (literally and figuratively) after awhile if you don’t. I tend to buy Nordic Naturals in liquid form, keep it in the fridge, and I’ve never had a problem.

Freshness

Lastly, be mindful of how fresh your ingredients are. I know it’s fun to think of soylent as distinct from “food,” but it’s still a form of food, and food usually tastes better the fresher it is. Yes, it’s sci-fi space food, but it still (as of 2013) is subject to entropy. So be aware of the shelf life of your ingredients. Oil especially. The enemies of freshness are generally water, oxygen, light, heat, and time, so keep your oil away from water, sealed, in opaque containers (or a cupboard), and cool. Consider buying smaller quantities to minimize the amount of shelf time between production and consumption.

Temperature

Oh, and one more thing – temperature is huge. It’s a dimension of taste in its own right, and it affects other dimensions as well. The mouthfeel of oils changes dramatically with temperature, for example, and so does the perception of saltiness. IMHO, soylent is generally better colder. Which means it’s good to plan ahead and leave it in the fridge for a bit, or else add some of your water in the form of ice.

Questions…

If you’re adding significant amounts of fiber to your mix, how is it affecting the taste and texture?

Can people report on any non-sucrose carbs they’re using and how they taste?


The "Flavoring Soylent" thread
#2

Out of maltodex, using potato starch…how’s that for an alternative? xD
It’s not hard to drink at all, but requires constant mxing or the starch starts to collect on the bottom of the container. Although corn and potato starch are close in the nutritional spectrum, potato difinitely, as of my experience, has a bit of raw potato root taste to it, while corn starch is more or less neutral. The potato starch does add an interesting taste, that I wouldn’t really call unpleasent.

Great intro zach, hope to read more in the future!


#3

Thanks!

Oh, and I’d love to hear from anyone else who cooks for a living, cooks a lot for fun, or is otherwise some kind of foodie on their experience with (or thoughts about) soylent more broadly. Including any skeptical lurkers…

Personally, I think having a super quick but super healthy “default meal” frees you up enormously to appreciate food on a deeper level. You can cook only when you feel like cooking, and pull out all the stops to make it awesome. You can buy food only when you feel like buying the best food and really enjoying it.


#4

Having a well-blended mixture helps. When I first started, I was using blender from the 70’s; when I replaced it with a modern blender, results got better.


#5

Absolutely. I’m using a Blender Bottle, which isn’t as good as a blender, but lets you shake it pretty vigorously without spilling.


#6

Great post. I use vanillin for flavoring with great results. Also, Honey works great to sweeten it up if it’s too bitter. Just adjust on the carbs if you are concerned about that. I welcome the extra calories.


#7

On the salt issue:

One way you can still use whatever micronutrients you need without affecting the taste is to buy empty gelatin capsules and make yourself a “salt” pill. I think a little salt in the drink still tastes fine, but the full amount may be too much for some people. People are using salts other than sodium chloride that can have adverse effects on taste as well, and the most of the powdered magnesium supplements can be either sour or bitter. If you get the taste right and need to add something in, just bypass your tongue by swallowing it as a pill. There are vegetarian gel caps available as well, but they are slightly more expensive.


Sources for Potassium
#8

I was wondering about this because I’m usually pretty picky on taste. What would be a good source for cocoa? Is it as simple as buying Hershey’s cocoa for baking? http://www.thehersheycompany.com/brands/hersheys-cocoa/natural-unsweetened.aspx

Doesn’t mention magnesium, but it does seem to have some iron.


#9

My experience:

I’m now dissolving it in 1L and drinking 200ml 5 times a day. I’m not dissolving it all in the morning though. Since I’m eating fat apart (almonds, like rob suggested), I carry it in powder form and add some spoons of it and some water in a shaker bottle at work whenever I feel hungry (usually 3h apart).

My protein is vanilla flavored and it tasted horribly, like sawdust xD So I changed my regular maltodextrin into strawberry flavored maltodextrin and now it’s awesome.


#10

About the strawberry…good to hear, as I’m planning to use strawberry whey \o/


#11

Thanks! I find grape seed oil a VERY nice alternative to Olive oil in general. Im tired of the OO taste in things non Italian. Give it a try.


#12

One more general “taste” tip. If you decide to use additional salt try “sea salt”. The mouth feel is softer and it does not have the harsh bite that table salts have. Their are many kinds. Cheap to pricy. Just get the basic and see.


#13

Wow, where do you find strawberry maltodextrin?


#14

I don’t know if you can find that, but if it helps, I’m gonna use plain maltodextrin and strawberry whey (by Optimum Nutrition).


#15

I’d just hate to buy a minimum of 9 days’ worth of a flavored protein, then find that I hate how it tastes. My source for maltodextrin sells packets that are basically one days worth (8oz, ~ 226g. if I add more I might try a slower carb to add, like that oat powder stuff)


#16

I’m a huge fan of cooks illustrated! Though I haven’t cooked in a long time I love their scientific approach.

Good point on the vanillin. I started with vanillin and lately moved to ethyl vanillin which is more potent. Combined with the creaminess of the oat powder and sweetness of the maltodextrin it really is delicious. A lot of people who don’t seem to like the taste are not adding enough water. I use 2.5L / day. This provides enough volume to fill my stomach and gets the texture just right, though others may like it thicker or thinner.

I’m glad I moved away from supplement protein powder. I get pure unflavored whey isolate which gives me complete control over the taste. However, I know a lot of manufacturers put a lot of work in to their flavor profiles so I wouldn’t be surprised at all if one provides a great flavor on its own.


#17

Today I did my first batch, and I used flavorless Whey and flavorless Maltodextrin with Grapeseed and Olive Oil and crushed flaxseeds. I used not too much water - I like the creamy texture, it was milkshake-like.

Tasted… interesting. Not bad, but not good either. A bit salty. But at least I had no problem with the taste of olive oil, but even If I don’t like my food that sweet, I will try to flavor my soylent with honey, stevia or maybe some other aroma. Has anyone tried cocoa powder?


#18

Cocoa powder works ok, be conservative with the amount you use though. It curbs the saltiness quite a bit but I prefer plain.


#19

Tried it today with cocoa, but… ney. It’s just not for me.
Sadly, my overall “flavorless” mixture tastes still like salty, wet towel or something. It seems I don’t get near the taste Rob describes in his Blog.

I think I will try oats and test if this will improve the overall taste. If not - maybe vanilla could help.
Why the hell isn’t there Whey ‘bacon-flavored’? D:


#20

Does it tastes like chicken?

Just kidding, I decided to put out oil and salt from mine cause it makes really disgusting.