It turns out the brine from your chickpea can be a viable egg replacer. Hot new discovery aquafaba—literally “bean water”— has been showing up in the culinary world recently. When whipped with sugar, aquafaba makes passable meringue; mixed with oil, the substance turns to mayo. For the most part, anything egg whites can do, aquafaba can match with equal fervor. All it takes to geek out on this liquid is a can of beans and a hand mixer. We’ve broken down the basics of this superhero upcycled ingredient so that when the occasional bird flu strikes or your vegan friend comes over for high tea, you’ll be ready, waste in hand, to whip up some magic.
Aquafaba’s discovery is shrouded in as much intrigue as its mysterious copycatting abilites. It all started when Frenchman Joël Roessel was putzing around in his kitchen, trying to figure out if he can create foams from leftover bean and veggie brine. Roessel—who is also an opera singer and wears ruffle shirts like they’re going out of style— was surprised to discover that his experiments had proven fruitful. He documented his findings online where American Goose Wohlt took them one step further. A software engineer by day and home cook when he’s not coding, Wohlt whipped the bean brine, added sugar, baked that fluffy stuff into meringue and coined the term “aquafaba.” Cue massive media attention and the humble bean brine spread to the kitchens of inquisitive cooks nationwide.
To start, you can use brine from black, cannellini, navy, and other beans including tofu—since it is essentially comprised of pressed soybeans. However, chickpea brine has proven to mimic the protein structures of egg whites best (and with no beany aftertaste.) Crack open a can, drain into a bowl, set aside the chickpeas and go to town. Add a bit of sugar and cream of tartar, whip until soft peaks form, pipe onto a pan, and bake at a low temp until you’ve got yourself some grade-A meringue cookies or macarons.
Fun Fact: Fabanaise by condiment brand Sir Kensington’s is the first commercial product to utilize aquafaba in its formulation. The company partnered with hummus producer Sabra and bought their would-be wasted brine in bulk to make their egg-free mayo.
Aside from meringue and mayo, aquafaba can be used in a wide array of eggless creations:
Substitute into recipes that call for liquid egg whites and make hummus with the chickpea leftovers while you wait for your cake to bake.
That strange dessert from the 70s that just won’t go away can be revamped with a bit of bean juice.
When left unbaked, whipped aquafaba can be used as a luxurious frosting on cupcakes, sandwiched between cookies, or just scooped on a spoon that heads straight to your mouth.
The trick here is to emulsify coconut oil with aquafaba using a stick blender while drizzling the oil slowly. Once all is incorporated, a quick chill in the fridge will produce a Euro quality butter.
Drinks such as the Peruvian Pisco Sour traditionally call for egg whites to create their distinctive foam. However, aquafaba can be dolloped on top for a strikingly similar effect.
For more ‘faba inspiration, check out the 50K member-strong Facebook group dedicated to playing around with its possibilities.