What is Aquafaba and Why Should We Care?

Aquafaba was borne out of a search to create a better vegan meringue. Read ‘Egg-Free!’


photo credit, Vegan Meringue Group

What is Aquafaba? 1

Aquafaba is the name  for the liquid drained off a can or pot of cooked chickpeas, or other legumes. 2 (Loosely, Latin for water = aqua, bean = faba.)

How in the world did anyone ever think of using chickpea liquid to make meringues?

Goose saw a French video in which chocolate mousse was created using the whipped liquid. We later discovered the (as far as we know) originator of this technique, Joël Roessel, who has also joined our community.

How to make these meringues?

The basic recipe for aquafaba meringues is aquafaba to sugar somewhere in between 1:2 and 2:1 ratio, with completely optional ingredients to help stiffen the peaks, like vinegar or cream of tartar. You then bake it between 80C/176F to 110C/230F, depending on your oven.

A basic recipe to get you started

  • drain the liquid from one 15oz can of chickpeas (with or without salt) until you have 1/2 to 3/4 cups.
  • obtain about 1.33 times the volume of your liquid in sugar (any kind, really, but granular sugar is a safe bet).
  • whip the liquid in a mixer until stiff peaks form. Don’t worry, you can’t really overwhip, and you need good whisk attachment and high speed.
  • after you have your peaks, add the sugar, slowly, a tbsp at a time and incorporate it well each time.
  • after all the sugar is incorporated, feel the foam and if it has any grittiness, keep whipping till it’s gone.
  • then deposit or extrude it onto a dry, clean baking mat or parchment paper covered cookie sheet in 3cm/1.5 inch blobs, and bake at 100C/215F for 1.5 hours.
  • after the time is up, crack the door, and let them cool to room temperature.
  • store the completed meringues in an airtight container to keep them from getting gooey.

For a more detailed look at making basic meringues, click here.

How was the proverbial ‘vegan egg’ cracked?

Feb 1, 2016 by Aquafaba Facebook Group

Aquafaba was born out of a search to create a better vegan meringue. It was made possible by a few essential steps, each building on the discoveries before it. What follows is a short timeline of how the proverbial vegan egg was cracked:

The Status Quo: Bananas, apple sauce, prunes, pumpkin, flax, chia, nuts, and garbanzos have been long used as whole egg replacers in recipes. These work well as whole eggs in some recipes, but they don’t work for delicate egg white recipes like meringues. Commercially available egg replacers like Ener-G, Bob’s Red Mill, and Orgran have been available to home cooks for years, and obscure gastronomical foaming and gelling products also exist that allow you to mimic recipes like meringues with varying results.

The problem: The egg replacers are primarily processed starches, gluten, concentrated soy proteins, and other foods that conscientious eaters choose to avoid. They also have tastes and textures that many find disagreeable or lacking. Gastronomical products are expensive and not readily available. A simpler, whole-food approach to egg whites that tasted better and performed reliably was needed.

Some discussion about a person named Susie appeared briefly in the (Post Punk Kitchen (PPK) forums, discussing her experimentation with a promising new egg replacer and vegan meringues using a mystery ingredient. It has been speculated that it may have been based on mucilage from flax, bran, psyllium, or the one of the protein isolates. Her posts encouraged more people to think about alternative forms of egg replacers in the kitchen.

The problem: The secret was never revealed, and it seems to have had issues with taste and complexity of preparation.

  • Should I remove the foam when cooking chickpeas?
    A simple question by a user on a cooking forum asks if anyone has tried using the foam from cooking chickpeas for any other uses. Years go by before a comment from Jeanne appears — the world’s first Aquafaba hit or miss report for a vegan meringue from made from chickpea aquafaba and sugar!

The problem: It collapsed in the oven. Too much heat? Not enough liquid? No telling what went wrong in the oven, but without the fervent community of like-minded explorers, the comment remained dormant.

  • Extracting the mucilage from flax (lignan) has been in cookbooks for over 30 years, but it wasn’t until Miyoko Schinner shared her experience making meringue from the gel at artisanveganlife.com, that vegan meringue experimentation took a much needed turn. By having her discovery on her blog, it encouraged people to experiment, discuss, and contribute what they learned in the cooking and vegan forums. It was the first real publicly disclosed step away from the shackles of protein isolates, gums, and refined starches…

The problem: Flaxseed meringues were a bit tricky. The foams didn’t always hold up to heat well, and the flavor of flax was often present. Also, to make flaxseed meringues, you had to first make the gel from flaxseeds, and that was a bit much for many people.

  • In late 2012, a patent was filed for a novel meringue composition made from saponin-rich plants, suitable for vegans. The meringue was a simple one, based only on the saponin extract, sugar, and water. No starches, gums, or other ingredients were necessary, and it overcame some of the drawbacks of flax-based meringues, further encouraging the exploration of existing foods as possible alternatives to eggs and egg replacers.

The problem: Soapwort isn’t a commonly recognizable or readily available ingredient, and saponin-based meringues tend to have a disagreeable aftertaste. Similar patents exist based on protein isolates, but they, too, result in meringues that don’t have the simplicity and taste of those based on egg whites.

  • Using aquafaba as a flavor enhancer and thickener in breaded batters was accidentally discovered and shared in a Denver Post article.

The problem: While the author’s focus was on flavor and thickening, the ability for aquafaba to act as a binder as well hinted that it might have a role to place in general egg replacers.

  • While actively looking for egg substitutes, Joël Roessel, a ténor from France, discovered through a systematic investigation into vegetable foams, that liquid from beans and hearts of palm can be coerced into a foam in the same way as flax mucilage. He posted his results on his blog at revolutionvegetale.com, providing a key contribution to unlocking the secret of aquafaba.

The problem: Joël’s foam wasn’t stable enough on its own and needed starch and gum to make meringue. It was too technical to be adopted by a wide audience and was specific to foam applications. Like previous vegan meringue attempts, they just did not have the same delicate taste or texture that egg whites have.

  • A few months after Joël’s discovery. A pair of unrelated French ‘foodists’ also show in a video, Le Défi FUDA chickpea challenge that you can whip chickpea liquid into a foam with chocolate ganache to make a chilled dessert.
  • Meanwhile, Goose Wohlt, a software engineer in the US, was experimenting with vegan egg whites and existing meringue techniques based on hydrocolloids. Hearing about the French video, he wondered how the foam could be used to make a stable vegan meringue. This led him to a surprising key discovery — that with the right adjustments, chickpea liquid by itself can act as a direct egg white replacer. He showed that you can create perfect meringues with unrivaled taste and texture using normal egg white techniques. All you needed was just sugar and properly filtered and adjusted bean liquid. He posted his discovery to the popular vegan facebook page, What Fat Vegans Eat, as a simple meringue recipe with two ingredients, sparking a minor revolution of sorts.
  • This discovery was crucial, in part, because of its accessibility. It meant that anyone in the world could use the ubiquitous liquid from legumes as a general egg replacer through technique alone, not additional ingredients. There was no longer a need for protein isolates, gums or refined starches to achieve simple and delicate egg-like textures. This discovery removed all the previous and remaining obstacles in vegan meringue making and opened up a whole new exciting world of eggless recipes.