The word itself sounds like the name of a fabulous new water park, doesn’t it? Of course it’s not (or I wouldn’t be writing about it here), but judging by the growing number of aquafaba fans, “fabulous” might indeed be an apt description of this culinary wonder ingredient. I’m a bit late to the aquafaba party, but I’m ready now to get more familiar with this intriguing ingredient; here’s what I’ve found out…
What exactly is aquafaba?
Aquafaba (a word created from the Latin for bean and water) is, as you might suspect, the liquid in canned beans. It’s touted for all sorts of culinary uses on the internet (there’s even a website devoted to it and a few aquafaba-related Facebook groups like this one and this one that’s about vegan-only applications. Chickpeas seem to be the most popular source of aquafaba, though the liquid from other beans would also work (but may taste more “beany” than the chickpea aquafaba). If you’ve ever drained a can of chickpeas, you’ve seen this cloudy, thick liquid, which contains protein, dissolved starch and a tiny amount of natural plant chemicals called saponins—all of which come from the chickpeas themselves.
What does one do with aquafaba?
Aquafaba is used as a vegan replacement for egg whites—basically doing all the same jobs that eggs do in cooking: thickening, emulsifying, binding, foaming, etc. This means it can be used in a wide variety of recipes such as making meringues (and wonderful meringue-based Pavlova desserts), mayo, baked good of all kinds, mousses, icings and more.
Is aquafaba healthful?
Aquafaba appeals to anyone who is avoiding eggs in their diet—vegans or people with egg allergies, for example. Many recipes suggest using organic canned chickpeas, but regular chickpea “water” would work, too. Calories from aquafaba are minimal (an analysis showed 3-5 calories per tablespoon).
Chickpeas canned with salt will yield aquafaba with salt (not too surprising, I know). That may not work too well in your finished recipe, and in general I recommend rinsing canned beans to wash off some of the salt—something you obviously won’t be doing to the liquid itself. To get around this salty issue, simply purchase no-added-salt chickpeas to get around this issue. What about those saponins? They are found in legumes as well as several other plants (such as quinoa) and they may have health benefits including cholesterol- and blood sugar-lowering abilities. On the flip side, saponins are also implicated in a few negative health effects (such as perhaps contributing to a condition called “leaky gut syndrome”), although the amounts of saponins one would get from using aquafaba on occasion would be quite low.
How do you get started with aquafaba?
There are all manner of aquafaba recipes on Pinterest. Some require more culinary expertise than others. Some also suggest reducing the aquafaba (simmer on stove until some of the liquid evaporates), but many allow using the liquid as is. If you’re just looking to avoid eggs in baked goods, then cookies and quick bread or even simple pancakes would be an easy place to start—maybe save the angel food cakes and homemade marshmallows for when you’ve got more aquafaba experience under your belt. If you’re looking for savory recipes, there are plenty of those too. Starting with homemade mayonnaise would be a good way to experiment, then perhaps move on to dips, vegetable patties, croquettes or casseroles—even quiche.
As for what to do with the chickpeas you’re left with after draining off the aquafaba? Hummus is an obvious solution, but we’ve got plenty of other options here.