Vegans and food waste prevention advocates alike are heralding the newfound popularity of aquafaba. Derived from the Latin words for “water” and “bean,” aquafaba is the viscous liquid you pour out when you drain a can of beans, especially chickpeas. This bean water makes a terrific egg replacer.
It turns out that the liquid left from canned beans has the amazing property of creating a froth when whipped, much like egg whites. The bean protein and starch remaining in the water can replicate the role of egg whites in meringue, macaroons, mousse, custards, creams, cakes, mayonnaise, and sauces. Even waffles and pancakes can benefit from it by producing lighter and fluffier products. Savory foods, such as homemade hummus, can use aquafaba in lieu of some of the oil.
Aquafaba has been an ingredient for some time, but it really jumped in popularity within the last year or so thanks to magazine and newspaper articles and recipes featuring it. Look for foods such as vegan mayonnaise containing it on supermarket shelves in the near future.
The balance of starch to protein is ideal for its many uses. One tablespoon of aquafaba contains only three to five calories and only trace amounts of carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals.
Aquafaba is vegan.
One big plus: It’s a boon for family members with egg allergies, one of the most common food allergies in young people.
If you’re not a bean fan due to its “musical fruit” properties, aquafaba may not be for you. The liquid from canned beans can cause digestive distress, gas, and well, you know. These side effects originate from the presence of oligosaccharides, complex sugars that can be difficult to digest due to a lack of the digestive enzyme needed to break them down. The water used to soak and cook dry beans contains many of these oligosaccharides, which may well cause discomfort for some individuals.
But the amount matters. If you use what’s drained from one can of beans in a recipe that serves four or six, the total amount of bean sugars in each serving is quite small and should not cause any problems.
A 15-ounce can produces approximately three-quarters cup aquafaba. Cans with pop-top lids make it easier to drain the liquid without “spilling the beans.” Pop it open just enough so that only the liquid pours freely.
About three tablespoons of the viscous liquid can replace one whole egg, with two tablespoons equal to one egg white.
How do you use it? Whip it slightly with a fork until it’s a bit foamy prior to adding it to recipes as a binder to replace whole eggs. Or, mix the bean liquid with an electric mixer. Its beauty is it can be whipped into either soft or stiff peaks. If stiff peaks are desired, stabilize it by whipping it with a bit of acid such as cream of tartar, lemon juice, or vinegar for a few minutes.
Although vegan egg substitutes are available, they’re best used to replace whole eggs, not the whites.
Will it taste “beany?” No, not in most cases.
There is no need to heat or cook the aquafaba because it was already “cooked” during the canning process.
So embrace aquafaba as a way to reduce food waste and replace eggs in cooking. Rather than draining off the liquid into the sink every time you open a can of beans, save this precious ingredient for the next time a recipe calls for an egg.
Christine Palumbo is a Naperville-registered dietitian nutritionist and Fellow of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Follow her on Twitter @PalumboRD, Facebook at Christine Palumbo Nutrition, or Chris