Vegan Food Trend: Aquafaba

What is aquafaba and how can you use it in recipes?
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The United Nations declared 2016 the “International Year of the Pulses.” Pulses include dry beans, peas, lentils and garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas). Another trendy theme this year is reducing food waste. If you put both of those together, you get aquafaba, or the liquid used to soak beans. Instead of tossing it, try using it in some of these creative ways.

The History Behind Aquafaba

One of the main uses for aquafaba is as a replacement for eggs. Although prunes, applesauce and beans have been used to replace whole eggs, and egg substitutes like Bob’s Red Mill and Ener-G have been available for years, they don’t always do the exact job some recipes need, specifically meringues. Plus, some of the store-bought egg substitutes are costly.

Between 2007 and 2014, several folks tried to create a natural egg replacer, but it was very tough to do with vegan ingredients. In 2014 a French tenor named Joel Roessel used the juice or “brine” from canned hearts of palm and chickpeas, and it seemed to do the trick. And in 2015 U.S. software engineer Goose Wohlt discovered that the liquid of garbanzo beans can be whipped and used as a direct egg replacer in meringues.

Nowadays the water of chickpeas, white beans, red beans and pinto beans is used in a variety of recipes. The frothy texture is very light and fluffy, and it takes on the flavors mixed into it. You can use the water from soaking dry beans or the water from the can — both work! The only difference is that the canned version may contain sodium.

The Nutrition Lowdown

Aquafaba contains starches, some protein and minerals that leach into the water from whatever pulse is used. The combination of these nutrients provides aquafaba with an array of culinary advantages; its uses include gelatinizing, emulsifying and thickening of recipes.

Culinary Uses
  • For an egg replacer, whisk pulse water until it turns white and foamy. Use the foam to make meringues, or gently fold it into cookies, cakes, muffins, brownies and bread. Three tablespoons of aquafaba equals one egg.
  • Make homemade vegan mayo by blending aquafaba, apple cider vinegar, mustard, salt and oil.
  • Create an eggless chocolate mousse using whipped aquafaba, unsweetened cocoa powder and melted dark chocolate.

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of  The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day .

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