The Bizarre New Use For Canned Chickpea Liquid That People Are Freaking Out Over
Like most people, the first thing you probably do after opening up a can of chickpeas is drain off all that juice and give the beans a good rinse. Considering how weirdly viscous and unappetizing it looks, what else are you supposed to do?
Back in 2015, a guy named Goose Wohlt was trying to find a way to make delicate—and delicious—vegan meringues. Wohlt is a software engineer, not a chef, but he somehow figured out that whipping canned bean liquid yielded the same foamy, stiff texture as beaten egg whites. He posted about his discovery on a vegan Facebook page, and the idea took off fast. Within a month, others were chiming on with their own tips on how to use the liquid in everything from egg-free mousse to ice cream to mayonnaise.
Of course, “canned bean liquid” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. So Wohlt decided to call his new egg white replacer “aquafaba.” Which only sounds strange for a second, until you find out that aqua is Latin for water and faba is Latin for bean.
Recently, I’d been seeing aquafaba pretty much everywhere. There was this post about using it in pancakes. This one about using it in cocktails that are traditionally made with egg whites. And then, the endless parade of bloggers making pillowy aquafaba meringues.
Since so many people seem to love cooking and baking with the stuff, I figured aquafaba must be pretty good. But because I still couldn’t totally wrap my mind around how you could make anything delicious with yucky chickpea liquid, I decided I had to try it for myself.
In an effort to raise the odds for success as high as possible, I decided to try making simple aquafaba meringues. Which is a lot like making egg white meringues, just a little more time consuming. After dumping a can of chickpea liquid into my stand mixer, the aquafaba took a good 15 minutes to whip up into egg white–like stiff peaks. It looked really good, until I added in my sugar—about ¾ cup. The mixture, though still thick, softened up considerably.
Still, it held together enough for me to carefully spoon tablespoons of the mixture onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Just like egg white meringues, these guys needed a long time to dry out in the oven. So I baked them at 250° for about an hour and a half.
But when I took the meringues out of the oven? This is what I got.
Tastewise, yeah, they were almost exactly like real meringues. But the meringues were totally flat and crunchy, like potato chips. Not crisp on the outside and pillowy on the inside, like they were supposed to be. I wouldn’t call them a success, but then again, maybe I did something wrong?
The sort-of failure didn’t exactly motivate me to try cooking with aquafaba again.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying, especially if you’re vegan or have another reason to want to avoid egg whites. Maybe I made some kind of mistake. Or maybe, like with egg whites, the exceptionally humid weather stopped the aquafaba from reaching it’s full meringue-like potential.
There’s also the fact that aquafaba only has about 5 calories per Tbsp—so it’s worth experimenting with if you’re trying to lose weight, too. Georgie Fear, RD, author of Lean Habits for Lifelong Weight Loss, likes to replace 2 Tbsp of the oil in baked goods with aquafaba, since it seems to help the baked goods stay moist. “I often can’t even tell the difference, but I wouldn’t recommend replacing more than half the oil,” she says.
Just be sure to buy clean chickpeas. Since the liquid that comes with most canned beans is loaded with sodium, it’s a good idea to choose low- or no-sodium beans over their regular counterparts, Fear says. And since BPA can leach from the lining of cans or cartons into the liquid, opt for BPA-free containers whenever possible.