One of the trickier parts of vegan cooking can be replacing eggs. Vegan egg replacers have definitely come a long way, but they still often call for ingredients that can be pricey or, at the very least, require a special trip to the store. What if there were an egg replacer that worked for most egg-containing recipes, and you already had it in your kitchen?
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It’s called aquafaba, which is just our fancy name for bean cooking liquid. The stuff that you drain away when you dump canned or homemade beans into a colander, not the bean soaking liquid. It sounds kind of iffy, but stay with me, y’all.
The aquafaba revolution all started when a plucky vegan cook named Goose Wohlt wondered whether he could make meringue using the liquid from a can of chickpeas after seeing a video based on Jöel Roessel’s experiments. After 10 or 15 minutes of whipping, he had the beautiful, stiff peaks that you’d expect from egg whites.
And the vegan community had a general freakout.
This is still a very new technique, and we’re discovering where it will and won’t work every day. There’s a Facebook group dedicated to experimenting with aquafaba. Members share hits and misses, ask questions and post helpful and drool-worthy pictures. If you’ve got a very specific aquafaba question, you can search the group or post your question there.
I’ve shared some basics about how and what to make with aquafaba, and I’m thrilled to also share a Q&A with Wohlt about how this whole thing started.
In most baking recipes, three tablespoons of aquafaba will replace one egg. This works well where eggs are the binder and add moisture. Think cookies, brownies, and most cakes. Somer McCowan cracked the baking code with this chocolate chip cookie recipe.
Your results can vary depending on the bean, and I’ve been seeing the best results with white beans or chickpeas. Chickpea aquafaba is probably the better egg replacer, but in some recipes I’ve noticed a slight beany taste. For meringues, I prefer white beans, hands down. Bean meringue might sound kind of crazy, but I challenge you to try my white bean meringue cookie recipe before writing this off. They’re crispy and light, just like a good meringue should be.
Related: 5 Decadent Vegan Desserts
For meringues, I’ve had the best luck starting off with one part aquafaba to one part sugar, adding more sugar by the tablespoon as needed to get stiff peaks. I know, that’s a lot of sugar, but you need a lot of sugar to make meringue, whether you use aquafaba or egg whites. The sugar is key to those stiff, glossy peaks that you need to make a meringue cookie, pavlova or any other whipped baked good.
What People Are Making
The one consistent miss with aquafaba seems to be angel food cake. Folks are still trying, though. And who knows what will happen in the next few months!
For every miss there are lots of definite, delicious successes. Folks are using this stuff to make fluffy chocolate mousse, waffles, and macarons. The possibilities almost seem endless. I definitely recommend browsing the Facebook group for inspiration.
So what are we doing with all of those leftover beans? Most of the meringue experimenters are getting pretty tired of eating hummus, so the group now has a thread dedicated to bean recipes. Aquafaba also freezes and dehydrates well, so you can build a stash of bean liquid as you cook your way through the week.
I’m constantly amazed by how creative and innovative vegan cooks can be. Vegan food has come a long way since the grainy “cupcakes” and dense cookies of the ’70s or even a few years ago. I’m excited to see what other uses we discover for aquafaba and where the world of vegan baking goes from here!
Interview with Goose Wohlt
Goose Wohlt was kind enough to answer a few questions about aquafaba. Read on to learn about this magical ingredient’s fascinating history and why it works so well as an egg replacer!
Becky Striepe: I think a lot of folks are curious about the aquafaba origin story. What inspired you to take an electric mixer to bean juice? Can you share some of the science behind what’s happening in the bowl?
Goose Wohlt: I had been playing around with making vegan sunny side up eggs for a while when my family tasked me with creating a vegan meringue. I was playing around with trying to use a combination of commercial egg replacers and Miyoko’s flax seed gel, with limited success when my wife saw a French video by Le Défi FUDA, where they added chocolate to Joël Roessel ‘s technique of whipping chickpea liquid, and without even watching the video, I knew that I could do something similar for meringues.
I guessed the perfect amount of sugar on the first try, baked it like all my others, et voilà, we had perfect meringues. I snapped a picture and posted to What Fat Vegans Eat out of habit, almost facetiously calling it the ‘two ingredient meringue.’
Both of those ingredients are available in every trade store and grocery store around the world, which means that meringues and all their derivative recipes are accessible to vegans everywhere, and that’s why it took off the way it did. Vegans who didn’t have easy access to meringue or pavlovas could now whip them up in their kitchen.
Our best guess about the science of it is that it is not attributable solely to one component of the liquid. There are seed proteins like albumins and perhaps globulins that mimic some of the properties of egg whites. But there are also soluble fibers, sugars, and small quantities of glycosides that provide foaming action.
I believe it is the broad combination of each of these that make aquafaba unique in the world of egg replacers. A fundraiser is being discussed to help offset the cost of a detailed chemical analysis, so that we can share that in the development group.
Becky: Do you have any notable initial successes or failures you could share? I think readers will be really interested in the process!
Goose: The biggest failure I had was the one many people have when they first learn about using aquafaba as an egg white substitute–the angel food cake. It was a horrible mess, with foul smelling batter all over the counter and down the floor.
But, that’s exactly why we set up the development group for aquafaba. It’s a place for people to come, learn from the mistakes of others, and contribute back what they discover. We can prevent people from wasting time and energy trying what we know doesn’t work and instead crowd source innovation, letting people try different variations on recipes until we hone in on those that work well.
Becky: Have you found any bean liquids that don’t work well? Which ones work best?
Goose: Chickpeas, soy, and the white beans like great northern are by far the best in my experience. I haven’t found any bean liquids that don’t work once you adjust for concentration.
I had a really hard time in the beginning with lima beans, for instance, but later learned that there simply wasn’t enough dissolved material in the solution. Doubling the liquid, and then reducing it by half made them whip the expected way.
Even chickpea and soy liquids don’t work well for some people, because of the huge variation in brands and cooking methods, but there are techniques developed in the group to work around these variations.
Becky: Are there any egg uses where aquafaba doesn’t work well?
Goose: Absolutely. The commercial products, and most traditional egg replacers, like apple sauce, are intended to replace the full egg or just the yolk. Aquafaba is a a bit different. It has some of the properties of egg yolks and some of the properties of egg whites, but not all of both.
For low temperature applications, like mayonnaise, icing, marshmallows, meringues, and macarons, it mimics the characteristics of egg albumen very well.
For higher heat applications, it provides some of the binding, leavening, and liquid component that you might find in a whole egg or egg yolk, but the egg white component of it breaks down, so you can’t use it in a recipe that relies on that under high heat. This is why the angel food cake fails, but also why it works amazingly well for cookies, breads, cakes, etc.
As long as you realize it straddles both domains but doesn’t provide the full complement of characteristics of both, you’ll have better outcomes.
Becky: I’ve noticed that you’re very diligent about mentioning Joel’s work when you talk about your own aquafaba adventures. Can you speak a little bit to why that’s important to you?
Goose: The spirit of our development group is such that we share our discoveries and recipes to the group, so that everyone may benefit and use them, and encourage people to share back to the group any discoveries they make.
I come from a background in open source software where this spirit has allowed some tremendous development that simply wouldn’t be possible otherwise. Anyone is free to use the recipes we develop with our blessing, but we ask that they link back to our group or to the official site at aquafaba.com if they post those recipes on their blogs, sell them in their stores or write about them, so that their audiences and customers know where to go to join the ongoing aquafaba party.