Aquafaba is the name for the cooking liquid of chickpeas (as well as other legumes), which is used as an egg white substitute for making beaten egg whites. The name comes from the Latin words for water (aqua) and beans (faba). Thanks to its wide range of uses, it is particularly important in vegan cuisine and for people with an egg protein allergy.
Aquafaba, the viscous cooking water of chickpeas or legumes,1 is used to make meringues, macaroons, ice cream, and mayonnaise.
Like egg whites, aquafaba has the ability to form a stable foam when whipped. However, aquafaba remains stable for hours after whipping and doesn’t collapse as beaten egg whites often do. For this reason, the most common way to use aquafaba is as an egg white substitute.
Aquafaba works well in desserts such as the following: meringues, macaroons, nougat, ice cream, chocolate mousse, and marshmallows.2
For most recipes, use two tablespoons of aquafaba in place of one egg white from a medium-size egg or 3 tablespoons in place of a whole egg of medium size.
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Differences to egg whites: In contrast to egg whites, once aquafaba has been collected, it can easily be frozen, thawed, heated, and cooled without losing its ability to foam up. Aquafaba also remains stable for hours after whipping and doesn’t collapse.
Aquafaba has about one tenth of the protein that egg whites have for a given weight. The difference in protein content may enable a way for people who cannot properly metabolize proteins (e.g., PKU) to enjoy egg-based foods. However, the lower amount of protein also means that using it as a substitute for egg whites in food applications which rely heavily on egg protein for structure, such as angel food cakes, is not recommended.2
It is easiest to drain store-bought chickpeas and use this chickpea water to make aquafaba, although we also encourage you to also make it yourself. More information is provided below in the section “Making aquafaba.” Some supermarkets now sell canned aquafaba, and you can also find instant aquafaba powder online, which you can use to make liquid aquafaba.
The best aquafaba seems to be made using the cooking liquid of chickpeas or white beans. Other legumes (e.g., peas, soybeans, lentils, kidney beans, and black beans) can also be used to some extent. However, these foods have a somewhat different composition than chickpeas and white beans, so you may have to try different concentrations before you are satisfied with the final product.
Even if you have a good cooking liquid, you might initially have difficulty whipping the aquafaba. If so, you may need to bring the liquid to a boil again so that it will thicken until the desired consistency is achieved.
Here is a small selection of our recipes that call for chickpeas and will provide you with the aquafaba you need: Quinoa Bowl with Chickpeas and Corn, Hummus, and Baked Green Falafel with Pea Protein by Terry Hope Romero.
- Homemade version: To make your own aquafaba, use 1½ cups (about 300 g) of dried chickpeas. Soak for at least 8 hours and then cook covered in a pressure cooker for 15–20 minutes. The liquid should reduce and get slightly thicker. Drain the chickpeas, collecting the chickpea water (the aquafaba) in a container. You can also use other types of legumes, for example, white beans.
Whipping aquafaba made in this manner is a little more difficult. You may have to bring the liquid to a boil again so that it will thicken even more. And you will have to whip the aquafaba longer (sometimes more than 10 minutes) to obtain the desired consistency.
- Quick version: It is easiest to drain store-bought chickpeas and use this chickpea water to make aquafaba. However, even organic products can contain unhealthy preservatives, which is why we recommend making aquafaba from dried chickpeas.
- Jars instead of cans: If you are going to use the quick variety (see “Chickpea water from canned chickpeas”), then make sure to buy organic chickpeas. These are often processed more gently, and most importantly they usually contain very few or no additives at all. And it is even better to buy organic chickpeas in glass jars (organic brands often choose glass jars). These do not contain any aluminum or BPA (bisphenol A) and are more environmentally friendly. The inside layer of cans are lined with epoxy resins and these contain bisphenol A (BPA), which exhibits estrogen-mimicking, hormone-like properties. Studies have shown that BPA can affect reproduction in animals, in particular, in the organs involved. In addition, long-term exposure is often associated with cardiovascular disease and obesity but has not yet been proven. A study conducted in 2011 showed that eating canned foods regularly quickly leads to high BPA exposure. You can find the study here.
Tips for achieving good results:
• Don’t use a blender to make aquafaba because the blades destroy the foam you are trying to achieve. Instead use an immersion blender with a whisk attachment.
• The consistency of the aquafaba can be improved by storing the cooking water with the legumes in the refrigerator overnight. This allows more soluble substances to be transferred to the liquid and reduces the beating time required to achieve a stable foam.
• To achieve fluffy but stiff peaks, it is necessary to beat the aquafaba for 6–8 minutes (sometimes up to 15 minutes). It is not possible to overbeat the aquafaba as it is with egg whites. If you would like to increase the stability of the foam peaks, you can add whipping cream stabilizer or weinstein baking powder (not to be confused with cream of tartar).
• Just as with egg whites, using a clean bowl helps to more easily achieve a nice meringue. You can accelerate the process considerably if you put the bowl in the freezer for 10 minutes before using.
• Make sure that utensils that come into contact with the aquafaba have no traces fat on them.
• Meringues should be prepared at temperatures of < 100 °C — it is therefore more of a drying rather than baking process.
Special: According to information from Zsu Dever, the author of a cookbook on vegan recipes using aquafaba, it works well to add kombu, an edible algae also known as Japanese kelp, to your aquafaba. Cook two 2.5 x 2.5 cm pieces of kombu together with 400 grams of chickpeas and 2 liters boiling water on the lowest heat for about 4 hours and then remove the kombu. Kombu not only releases minerals that make the legumes softer but also makes the aquafaba thicker. The homemade version yields around 600–700 ml of aquafaba and 6 cups of cooked chickpeas.
You can store liquid aquafaba in the refrigerator in an air-tight container, for example, a screw-top canning jar, for 4–6 days. Alternatively, aquafaba can be frozen for several weeks before using. You can make sure that the aquafaba is still good by simply doing a smell test. As long as it doesn’t smell rancid, the aquafaba is good and can be used.
Aquafaba contains carbohydrates, proteins, and other plant substances that have passed into the cooking liquid during the cooking process. This gives aquafaba its foaming, emulsifying, binding, and gelling properties.4 As the temperature and pressure increases and the seeds cook for a longer period of time, more substances are transferred into the cooking solution.2
It is assumed that aquafaba consists of approximately 95 % liquid and 5 % carbohydrates and protein. Even if aquafaba contains fewer calories than, for example, egg whites, the sugar that is usually added to dishes containing aquafaba increases its overall calorie content. It is therefore difficult to give general nutritional information about aquafaba as this varies greatly depending on the preparation method. The nutritional information is therefore different for each brand, and the source of the aquafaba is also definitive (e.g. soybeans or other legumes).
Aquafaba doesn’t have the hidden danger of salmonella as is the case with raw eggs, and products such as aquafaba mayonnaise can still be eaten after they have been left out at room temperature for several hours.
Since aquafaba is the cooking water of legumes, people who are allergic to the legume at hand (e.g., peas, beans, lentils, chickpeas, or soybeans) may in rare cases show allergic reactions. In this case, however, intolerance symptoms and/or illness can often be easily avoided by using a legume to make aquafaba that you are not allergic to, for example, white beans instead of chickpeas.
From Wikipedia: In December 2014, vegan French musician, Joël Roessel, discovered that water from canned beans and other vegetables can be made to form foams much like protein isolates and flax mucilage. Roessel shared his experiments anonymously on a blog in France showing that the canning liquid can be used as a foaming agent. He also published recipes for floating island of Chaville, chocolate mousse, and he made a meringue made from chickpea liquid, sugar, corn starch and guar gum to demonstrate its foaming capabilities.
Around the same time, others in France began to experiment with using chickpea foam in desserts, which caught the attention of software engineer and vegan food enthusiast Goose Wohlt, in the United States. Wohlt discovered that the cooking liquid can be made and used in such a way as to completely replace egg white on its own without the need for stabilizers. He disclosed this to a popular vegan Facebook group in March 2015 by way of a recipe for an egg-free meringue using only two ingredients: chickpea cooking liquid and sugar. A few days later, a new group was created on Facebook to encourage development, support even more discoveries, and popularize the new egg white substitute.2
Additional information about aquafaba and its many uses can be found on the official website at aquafaba.com.