Aquafaba Replaces Egg Whites for Meringue, Mousses and More
It sounds crazy: a replacement for egg whites that comes from a can of beans. Aquafaba — the name for the liquid surrounding chickpeas and other neutral-tasting beans — is having a moment, and not just among those who suffer egg allergies.
Here’s a look at some of the benefits of this surprising ingredient and what you can do with it.
Water of the Bean
Aquafaba, which comes from the Latin words for water and bean, is made up of small amounts of protein, carbohydrates and soluble plant matter that migrate from canned beans to the liquid in which they are cooked and stored. It’s the protein that allows aquafaba to mimic egg whites’ power to whip and foam, giving many desserts and other recipes a fluffy lift that vegans and those with egg allergies sorely miss. Chickpeas are the most familiar source of aquafaba, but the liquid from any neutral-tasting bean will work. Aquafaba also can be stored in the fridge for later use; unless your recipe calls for it cold, be sure to bring the liquid back to room temperature or it may not blend or stiffen properly.
Aquafaba is a relatively new phenomenon — first documented in 2014 — so not a lot of studies have been done. But analysis by the Norwegian Food Research Institute and others suggests that one tablespoon of aquafaba contains about 3 to 5 calories and is composed of less than 1 percent protein, along with trace elements of iron, sodium and calcium as well as very small amounts of starch and “free” — or added — sugar, mostly glucose, fructose and galactose. (Because the liquid has been little studied so far, it’s possible that more elements will be identified in the future.) It’s the ratio of protein to other elements that creates the thickening properties. The institute found no evidence of lipids or other fats.
A Safe Alternative
Although every individual is unique — so what’s good for one might not be good for another — in general aquafaba is considered a safe egg-white alternative for people who:
- Follow a vegan diet and therefore eat no animal products.
- Suffer from egg-white allergies.
- Have genetic disorders like phenylketonuria — sufferers cannot shed certain excess amino acids naturally, leading to conditions including seizures, developmental delays and psychiatric disorders — that require a very low-protein diet.
Aquafaba is generally tolerated even by people who have digestive issues with beans, although it’s best to start by experimenting with small amounts. For example if you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome and don’t tolerate legumes well, it’s possible that the water from those vegetables might also cause problems. On the other hand, the fermentation of legumes in the gut by our own “good” bacteria — which can cause gas or cramps — is driven by their fiber, which has not been found to cross over into the liquid. Trial and error is the only way to be sure of your tolerance.
The Bottom Line
Aquafaba is a great discovery — a healthy, vegan, low-calorie substitute for those watching their protein or egg-white intake that makes a huge difference in recipes like chocolate mousse, macaroons and angel food cake. Give the chocolate mousse recipe below a try and see for yourself.
Carol Guedes’ Favorite Aquafaba Chocolate Mousse
Adapted from the web site vanillacrunch.com
Makes 2 large or 4 small servings
- 1 can of chickpeas (you will need only the liquid, about 1 cup)
- 1 cup roughly chopped dark chocolate
- 2 tablespoons coconut nectar (or maple syrup or agave syrup)
- Read notes below before you start.
- Melt chocolate in a bowl placed over a pan of simmering water or in microwave.
- Add the coconut nectar or syrup.
- Let chocolate mix cool while you prepare the next step.
- Whip the chickpea liquid with an electric whisk or blender; whisk until the stage where, if you flipped the bowl, the mixture would not fall out. (Total time will depend on how powerful your whisk or blender is.)
- Gently fold in the chocolate mixture with a spatula; stir very slightly.
- Pour into individual serving bowls and place in the fridge for one hour.
- Make sure your whisk, blender, bowls and cutlery are soap- and oil-free.
- Cold aquafaba will whip to peaks much faster than room temperature.
- If using maple syrup, add to the bean juice before beating so it does not seize the chocolate.