We’re talking Aquafaba, the fancy name for chickpea brine or bean water. The water from a can of chickpeas or leftover water from pressure cooking chickpeas, just happens to be the magical egg white substitute that the vegetarian/vegan/allergy-prone world has been waiting for. Joël Roessel from France discovered that chickpea liquid could be whipped up into a stiff foam that would yield a vegan meringue when baked, but it was software engineer Goose Wohlt who introduced the proper technique for baking a stable vegan meringue minus any extra ingredients. The website on aquafaba states that “The proteins and starches in aquafaba tend to mimic the proteins in egg whites in many respects, but the science is still pending”. Since its discovery in March 2015, the Aquafaba community on Facebook has over 30,000 members who actively contribute recipes towards the development of this revolutionary find. You can consider donating a sum of money to help fund a phytochemical analysis for the Aquafaba community by clicking here.
Now, let’s get down to business. The rule of thumb is that three tablespoons of aquafaba equals one egg white. The semi-opaque chickpea liquid that you’ve strained from the can works perfectly the way it is because it’s close to the texture of raw egg whites, which means it’s yucky to touch. If the liquid you have on-hand is looser than this, reduce it on a sim till it reaches the right consistency. You don’t want to overcook this, as it may turn into a kind of gross jello.
If you’re cooking the chickpeas in a pressure cooker, drain the leftover water from the cooking process, and let it sit undisturbed for a while, as this will thicken and turn into aquafaba. My mother insists I let some of the cooked chickpeas sit in this aquafaba, as it accelerates the thickening process, but this is mere observation.
We started off with a basic meringue recipe that called for 2 egg whites (6 tablespoons of aquafaba) and a little over 100g of granulated sugar. The goal was to whip the aquafaba to firm peaks, and boy did we whip! Don’t attempt this with a hand whisk, not even if you’re a seasoned mayo-maker. Beat the aquafaba with an electric whisk or stand mixer for up to fifteen minutes, if need be, and you’ll see it go from frothy to that very familiar white foam. Add the sugar or sweetener after this stage until it’s combined and glossy. Adding a bit of vinegar/cream of tartare doesn’t hurt, and feel free to throw in some vanilla essence in there too. You can now hold the bowl upside down over your head.
Scoop the meringue mixture onto a pre-lined sheet and bake in a preheated oven at 100o celsius for about an hour and a half. Aquafaba seems to fall apart at 115o celsius so you’ve got to be careful. Let it rest inside an oven with the door open till completely cool. The meringue may not rise as much, but it’s firm, crunchy, and tastes just like meringue, if not better. There is no beany taste to it, which is what really makes all the difference.
The aquafaba can be substituted in pretty much any recipe that relies on egg whites. This includes meringues, macarons, waffles, mousse, financiers, marshmallow, pavlova, some cakes, mayo, bread and even vegetarian burgers as a binding agent. Aquafaba does not lead to satisfactory results when baking an Angel Food Cake unfortunately. Other bean juices seem to work too, red kidney beans and liquid from tinned peas are the ones we’ve spotted recipes for so far.