Aquafaba- something you’ve probably heard of and may well have even used in your cooking, particularly with the rise in popularity of vegan food, but what exactly is it?
Aquafaba is actually a Latin word and it literally translates to water bean, ie it is the water left over from cooked chickpeas or other pulses. We can obtain this water from a can of chickpeas that we might buy off a supermarket shelf, or we can make it ourselves by cooking the dried chickpeas- I admit I have never done this before because it takes a very long time! This water, which kind of resembles, well, I won’t go there but let’s just say it’s not all that appealing, is actually very versatile stuff that has a wide variety of uses!
The liquid contains materials that have transferred from the bean into the water, such as carbohydrates and proteins. These dry materials make up about 5% of the water which means that it’s slightly thicker. Amazingly this bean water containing small amounts of carbohydrates, proteins, and soluble plant fibres has very similar properties to those of egg whites, so therefore we can use this leftover liquid as an egg replacement in vegan cooking and baking.
Aquafaba has a wide variety of uses in both sweet and savory cooking; it can be whisked up to create a heat stable foam, it can act as an emulsifier and bind ingredients together as well as gelatinizing them, and can help give cakes and other desserts that light and fluffy texture.
From what I’ve read the water from chickpeas tends to be the best, particularly when whisking up to create a foam because it contains higher amounts of proteins and carbohydrates. Essentially the dry matter is slightly more concentrated, but you can use other pulses as well.. it is best just to experiment and see what results you get!
I have made vegan aquafaba meringues in the past and I did find that the liquid didn’t whisk up to quite as stable a foam as egg whites do but I was kind of expecting that.. perhaps next time I will reduce the liquid slightly so that it is a little bit thicker to make the consistency more like an egg white.
Aquafaba can also be used as an egg substitute in a whole load of other products such as macarons, marshmallows, icings, mousses, ice cream, cakes.. the list really does go on – it’s pretty amazing stuff! It is important to bear in mind that it doesn’t contain quite as much protein as an egg white, in fact I think it’s only about 10% of that of an egg white, so the liquid won’t be as suitable for use in products that massively rely on the eggs for structure such as a whisked sponge cake. However it does have the ability to trap air and create a foam which is stable at high temperatures, and that pretty much makes it the best fairly natural egg replacement out there at the moment.
Although it does have a slightly funny smell which will make you want to immediately pour the liquid down the sink (eek!), don’t be put off by this as it will disappear when combined with other ingredients and baked- you won’t taste it at all I promise!
Let me know how you get on experimenting with aquafaba 🙂