Are you a frugal chef? If you’re making hummus from canned garbanzo beans (chickpeas), don’t throw away the drained water — that ‘bean juice’ is called aquafaba, and it’s got a lot going for it!
According to the McGill University Office for Science and Society, aquafaba is an amalgamation of the Latin words for water and bean, and describes the liquid that remains after boiling (or steaming) legumes.
In 2014 a vegan French musician was searching for a replacement for egg whites and discovered that the liquid from canned beans could be whipped into a foam. A year later Goose Wohlt, a vegan software engineer, was inspired to create vegan meringues for his family’s Passover Seder.
As McGill reports, Wohlt drained the chickpeas and beat the liquid with sugar, and voila! The added sugar made shiny and glossy foam, just like egg whites. Aquafaba does sound like ‘abracadabra’ and it’s a magical substitute for eggs.
Eggs, and in particular egg whites, are integral parts of many ethereally light baked goods – what’s an Angel Food cake without egg whites? What gives macaroons their famously chewy but elegant texture? Egg-free meringue — isn’t that an oxymoron? How can you imitate the texture, and most importantly, the taste of these confections?
There are three functions that eggs bring to recipes — emulsifying, coagulating, and foaming. Emulsifiers stabilize a mixture between two immiscible liquids — silken tofu, chia and flax seeds, bananas and applesauce are common egg substitutes. Coagulators like lupine beans and various gums and wheat products are used in “vegan” baked goods.
Beaten egg whites create the foam that gives meringues and Angel Food cake the glossy sheen and chewy (or crispy) texture we crave.
So how do you use aquafaba in place of egg whites? Very simply — you beat it! Linda Brandt, a columnist for the Sarasota (Florida) Herald-Tribune writes that you can make your own aquafaba by cooking chickpeas in water, but she advises that it’s more reliable (and easy) to use canned. A 15-ounce can of garbanzos should yield about ½ to one cup of aquafaba. Shake the can; drain the liquid through a fine-mesh strainer placed over a bowl.
And should you wish to cook your own garbanzos (or any type of bean) the cooking liquid left over is aquafaba. Click here for instructions for cooking dried legumes from The Wimpy Vegetarian.
According to TheKitchn.com, three tablespoons of aquafaba is equivalent to about one whole egg; two tablespoons of aquafaba is equivalent to about one egg white.
A can of chickpeas will yield about a half to three-quarters of a cup of aquafaba, about eight to 12 tablespoons.
According to America’s Test Kitchen, to preserve leftover aquafaba just freeze in 1-tablespoon portions in ice cube trays, and then transfer to a freezer baggie for future use. Thawed whips up as good as fresh, and if you’re pressed for time, defrost in the microwave. Refrigerate for up to one week.
The aquafaba should be similar in consistency to egg whites — if it appears watery, just simmer on low in a saucepan until it’s reduced and reaches the desired thickness.
Want to learn more about aquafaba and interact with some aquafaba aficionados? The ‘official’ website Aquafaba.com links to their Facebook group, news, FAQs and more.
Besides meringues, the PETA website offers 17 vegan recipes you can make with aquafaba, ranging from mousse to mayonnaise to brownies and waffles. Here are 20 more from TheVeganSociety. Hmmm! Mousse au chocolat!
Try these super-easy egg-free meringues from LovingitVegan.com. Check out the video
- Place the chickpea liquid (aquafaba) and cream of tartar into the bowl of an electric mixer.
- Start at slow speed and whip until foamy.
- Then gradually increase speed until white and glossy and stiff peaks start to form.
- Add the sugar in slowly while whipping at fast speed.
- Add in the vanilla.
- Keep whipping until glossy stiff peaks form.
- Preheat your oven to 250°F (121°C).
- Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
- Pipe the meringue mix into cookie shapes onto the parchment lined tray. Alternatively, you can spoon it out, but I found piping to be much easier.
- Place into the oven and bake for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, switch off the oven but DON’T OPEN IT (excuse the caps, but this part is very important). Leave the oven off, but don’t open it for one hour. Time it.
- After the meringues have baked for 45 minutes and then sat in the oven for a further 60 minutes without opening the oven, remove them from the oven.
- They should be airy crispy perfection! If the weather is at all hot or humid, put them in an airtight container and store them in the fridge for the most long-lasting results.
*This amount of chickpea liquid is roughly half of what you’ll get from 1 15oz (425g) can of chickpeas when drained. You can throw out the rest or use it for other egg replacement purposes or for another batch of vegan meringue.
AmericasTestKitchen.com. What exactly is aquafaba, and how do I use it?LovingItVegan.com. Vegan meringue – airy and perfect!
McGill.ca. What is aquafaba?
TheKitchn.com. Aquafaba, the most magical egg replacement (and how to use it).
TheVeganSociety.com. 20 amazing things you can do with aquafaba.
Susan Burke March, a Cuenca expat, is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian, a Certified Diabetes Educator who specializes in smart solutions for weight loss and diabetes-related weight management. She is the author of Making Weight Control Second Nature: Living Thin Naturally—a fun and informative book intended to liberate serial dieters and make healthy living and weight control both possible and instinctual over the long term. Have a question for Susan? Email SusanTheDietitian@gmail.com