From making perfect meringues to baking hacks and tips on storing this liquid gold, our comprehensive guide to aquafaba has you covered.
Aquafaba, or the brine from a can of beans, may not sound the most romantic of ingredients, but it makes a brilliant natural egg replacement, showing you can’t always judge a book by its cover.
Although it’s made from the juice of a can of chickpeas, aquafaba does not have a pronounced chickpea taste. In most recipes, especially when used in sweet treats like meringues and desserts, the flavour is virtually undetectable.
It can be used as a thickener, emulsifier, binder and more, so is perfect for forming many vegan dishes from meringues and macaroons to marshmallows and waffles – even vegan mayonnaise and cheese.
This liquid is very close in consistency to egg whites, and the proteins and starches in the brine are similar to the ones found in eggs – this is why they work as a foaming agent and an emulsifier.
Chickpeas are the legumes that have been mainly used for this purpose, but all other beans should give similar results.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into what aquafaba is, where to get it, and the myriad of ways you can incorporate it into your recipes to achieve delicious results.
What is aquafaba?
Aquafaba is the liquid found in canned or cooked chickpeas, which, when whipped, mimics the properties of egg whites. The term “aquafaba” is derived from Latin, where “aqua” means water, and “faba” means bean or seed.
This unique and extraordinary plant-based ingredient has won the hearts of the vegan community thanks to its remarkable ability to replace eggs in vegan recipes.
This fascinating liquid is rich in proteins, carbohydrates, and other soluble plant compounds that give it its versatility.
Aquafaba’s discovery as an egg replacer can be traced back to the early 2010s when a French cook named Joël Roessel shared his findings on an online vegan forum. Since then, aquafaba has revolutionised the culinary landscape, providing an egg-free alternative that works wonders in both sweet and savoury recipes.
The term "aquafaba" is derived from Latin, where "aqua" means water, and "faba" means bean or seed. Photo © Olga Chzhu via Adobe Stock
How to use aquafaba
The beauty of aquafaba lies in its versatility. You can use it as a direct egg white substitute in a wide range of recipes, including meringues, vegan macarons, mousses, and marshmallows. The process of whipping aquafaba creates a foam with a structure similar to that of egg whites, allowing it to perform similar functions in recipes.
To use aquafaba as an egg white substitute, start by ensuring that your aquafaba is at room temperature. Using a stand mixer, hand mixer, or even a whisk, beat the liquid until stiff peaks form, just like you would with egg whites. This can take anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes, depending on the method and equipment used.
For recipes that call for egg yolks, aquafaba can be used as a binding agent. It works well in dishes like veggie burgers, falafels, or even as an egg wash for baked goods.
To achieve the best results, remember that not all aquafaba is created equal. The thickness and consistency of aquafaba can vary depending on the brand of canned chickpeas used or the cooking method for homemade aquafaba.
As a general rule, a thicker aquafaba works better for meringues and similar recipes where binding the ingredients is key.
Aquafaba is a versatile ingredient which can be used to make a range of sweet and savoury recipes from marshmallows to mayonnaise. Photo © RHJ via Getty Images
How to make aquafaba
Getting your hands on aquafaba is incredibly easy. The simplest way is to use the liquid from canned chickpeas. Just drain a can of chickpeas into a bowl, and voilà – you have aquafaba ready to use! Make sure to choose canned chickpeas with no added salt or seasoning to preserve the neutrality of the liquid.
For those who prefer a more sustainable and cost-effective option, cooking chickpeas at home and saving the cooking liquid is the way to go. Simply soak dried chickpeas overnight to ensure they are plump and hydrated. This process softens the chickpeas and prepares them for cooking. After soaking, drain and rinse the chickpeas thoroughly.
Next, transfer the soaked chickpeas to a large pot and cover them with fresh water. Bring the water to a boil and then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Allow the chickpeas to cook for about 1 to 1.5 hours or until they are tender but not mushy. Skim off any foam or impurities that may rise to the surface during cooking.
Once the chickpeas are perfectly cooked, carefully strain the liquid into a bowl or container using a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth and allow to cool fully before using. Congratulations, you’ve just made your homemade aquafaba!
The best part of using canned or cooked chickpeas is that you get the added bonus of delicious chickpeas to use in other recipes, minimising waste.
To make it, drain a can of chickeas and voilà – you have aquafaba ready to use! Photo © porosolka via Getty Images
How to make aquafaba meringue
To make aquafaba meringue, you’ll need a few simple ingredients and some patience. The process involves whipping the aquafaba until it forms stiff peaks, just like you would with egg whites.
In a standing mixer, beat up the foam from a tin of chickpeas and whip it up, adding sugar until it reaches the consistency of stiff-peaked egg whites.
Be patient, especially if using a hand mixer and don’t cut back on the time needed to beat.
The meringue must be shiny, very thick (almost a paste) and not too airy, otherwise it may collapse during cooking. Adding lemon or cream of tartar will help stabilise the meringue and help it too dry. Have fun adding colours and flavours and use it to top a delicious vegan lemon meringue pie!
It can even be used in place of egg whites to create perfectly crisp vegan meringues. Photo © qwartm via Adobe Stock
Simple aquafaba meringue recipe
Aquafaba meringue can be used to create an array of delightful desserts, such as vegan pavlova, lemon meringue pie, or even baked Alaska. The possibilities are endless, so let your creativity run wild!
Below, we’ve shared the recipe to make baked vegan meringues with a crisp exterior. However, if you’d like to use the meringue in recipes such as lemon meringue pie, simply follow the recipe below and skip the baking.
You can use this mixture on top of pies, puddings and more and it can even be lightly browned using a blow torch or hot grill – but be careful as it browns quickly!
- 240ml (1 cup) of aquafaba
- 100g (1/2 cup) to 150g (3/4 cup) of granulated sugar (adjust according to your sweetness preference)
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar or lemon juice
- Before you start, make sure that your bowl and beaters are clean and free from any grease or residue. Any trace of oil can hinder the whipping process.
- Preheat your oven to 120°C (250°F). Baking at a low temperature ensures even cooking and prevents the meringue from browning too quickly.
- In a mixing bowl, add the aquafaba and the cream of tartar or lemon juice.
- Begin whipping the aquafaba on low speed and gradually increase the speed to medium-high.
- As the aquafaba starts to froth and become bubbly, gradually add the granulated sugar in small increments.
- Continue whipping until stiff peaks form. Stiff peaks mean that the meringue holds its shape when the beaters are lifted, and the mixture is glossy and smooth. Be patient during this process, as it may take anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes, depending on your equipment and the consistency of the aquafaba.
- While beating the meringue, line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. This prevents the meringue from sticking to the surface and makes it easier to transfer the meringue to serving plates later.
- Depending on your dessert recipe, you can shape the meringue in different ways. For individual meringues, you can use a spoon to create small, evenly-sized mounds on the prepared baking sheet. Alternatively, for a large pavlova or meringue pie, you can spread the meringue into a circular shape with a slightly higher rim on the edges to create a well for the filling.
- Place the baking sheet in the preheated oven on the middle rack. The baking time will vary depending on the size and thickness of your meringue. Generally, smaller meringues will take around 1 to 1.5 hours, while larger pavlovas may take 1.5 to 2 hours. The meringue is ready when the exterior is crisp and dry to the touch, and it easily lifts off the parchment paper or baking mat. It should be firm and hold its shape.
- Turn off the oven and leave the meringue inside with the oven door slightly ajar. Allowing the meringue to cool gradually prevents cracking and ensures the interior sets properly.
- Serve the aquafaba meringue dessert immediately after filling for the best texture and flavor. If you have any leftovers, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The meringue can last for a day or two, but it’s best enjoyed fresh.
Tips for perfect aquafaba meringue:
- Consistency is key: The success of aquafaba meringue depends on achieving the right consistency. A thicker aquafaba generally results in a more stable meringue. If your aquafaba is on the thinner side, you can reduce it slightly by gently simmering it in a saucepan until it thickens.
- Patience pays off: Whipping aquafaba takes time, so don’t rush the process. Stay vigilant and stop whipping as soon as you reach stiff peaks. Over-whipping can cause the meringue to deflate and lose its structure.
- Avoid moisture: Any moisture in the mixing bowl, beaters, or utensils can affect the whipping process. Make sure everything is dry and free from water or any other liquid.
- Flavour enhancements: You can add flavourings like vanilla extract, almond extract, or even a hint of rosewater to your aquafaba meringue for a unique twist on traditional meringue flavours.
Aquafaba meringue can be used to create an array of delightful desserts, such as vegan pavlova, lemon meringue pie, or even baked Alaska. Photo © Angelina via Adobe Stock
Tips for baking with aquafaba
1. Whip it properly
When using aquafaba as an egg white substitute, whip it until stiff peaks form, just like you would with egg whites. This is crucial for creating the desired structure and stability in recipes. It can take some time to form stiff peaks (anywhere between 5-15 minutes), so be patient.
The key to making achieving the fluffy texture is to use a stand or hand mixer.
While aquafaba can create a foam on its own, adding a stabiliser can help maintain its structure. Common stabilisers include cream of tartar or lemon juice. Add a small amount (about 1/4 teaspoon per 240ml (1 cup) of aquafaba) during the whipping process to enhance its stability.
3. Sugar syrup
In some recipes, like meringues, adding a sugar syrup (prepared by dissolving sugar in water and boiling until it reaches the soft-ball stage) can further stabilise the foam and create a glossy finish.
Baking with aquafaba may require some trial and error. Don’t be discouraged if your first attempt doesn’t turn out perfectly. Keep experimenting, and you’ll soon become a master at using this wonderful vegan substitute.
The key to making achieving the fluffy texture is to use a stand or hand mixer. Photo © Fascinadora via Adobe Stock
How to store aquafaba
If you find yourself with leftover aquafaba, fear not! You can store it in an airtight container or ice cube trays in the refrigerator for up to a week. For more extended storage, transfer it to a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to three months.
Freezing aquafaba in small portions, such as in ice cube trays, allows you to thaw only what you need for a particular recipe.
This way, you won’t have to thaw the entire batch each time.
Each standard-sized ice cube compartment typically holds about two tablespoons of liquid, which is equivalent to the liquid from one egg.
When you’re ready to use the frozen aquafaba, transfer the needed amount to a bowl and allow it to thaw in the refrigerator. This slow thawing process prevents the separation of components and helps maintain the liquid’s structure.
Avoid microwaving or using hot water to thaw aquafaba, as this can cause the liquid to become too runny, affecting its performance in recipes.
Is aquafaba healthy?
Aquafaba is not only a versatile culinary tool but also a nutritious addition to your vegan diet. It is low in calories and contains no fat, cholesterol, or sodium.
Additionally, it provides a good amount of protein, fibre, and various essential minerals.
Now you’ve got to grips with how to use it, put your skills to the test with these aquafaba recipes
Featured image © Jane Vershinin via Getty Images