If you ever use canned beans and simply pour the liquid down the drain, you’re missing out on a highly versatile ingredient called aquafaba.
“Aquafaba is the liquid that beans are cooked in,” says Siera Holley, a registered dietitian nutritionist with the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus. Most commonly, the liquid from a can of chickpeas produces the best aquafaba, but “the liquid can come from any kind of beans.”
Most people toss the liquid from the can, but Holley notes that “using aquafaba rather than discarding it is also a nice way to maximize ingredients to their fullest potential” and reduce food waste.
What Is Aquafaba?
Aqua-what? “The name comes from the Latin words for water — aqua — and beans — faba,” says Janeen Miller, a wellness coordinator and exercise physiologist with Providence St. Joseph Hospital in Orange County, California.
Aquafaba is a great option to have on hand, says New York City-based registered dietitian Jamie Feit of Jamie Feit Nutrition LLC. “It can be used as a binder, as a vegan replacement in baking for eggs or egg whites. It’s also used in baking for people with egg allergies.”
Miller adds that it can be a good choice for those who “want to avoid the risk of foodborne illness that comes from raw egg whites.”
An Egg-cellent Vegan-Friendly Alternative
Following a vegan diet presents certain challenges, especially when it comes to making desserts and other recipes that contain eggs. Holley notes that in general, the following conversions usually work if you’re looking to swap out eggs with aquafaba.
— 1 tablespoon of aquafaba = 1 egg yolk.
— 2 tablespoons = 1 egg white.
— 3 tablespoons = 1 whole egg.
Aquafaba offers a plant-based solution for many recipes that calls for eggs, Miller says. To make it, save the brine from canned beans and “whip it up with a hand or stand mixer until it’s light and fluffy.” Adding some cream of tartar helps it whip up faster. Once you have a meringue-like product, you can begin adding it to make a range of dishes.
Options to make with aquafaba substitute include:
— Marshmallow fluff.
— Frosting or buttercream.
— Homemade mayonnaise.
— Vegan cheese.
— Ice cream.
— French toast.
— Whipped cream.
“Aquafaba provides lift and nice crumbs to vegan baked goods,” Feit says, and it “can also be used to make that foam you see on the plates in some fancy restaurants.”
Health Profile of Aquafaba
Aquafaba can be a healthy and budget-friendly inclusion to your diet, especially if you’re avoiding eggs for any reason. Aquafaba is:
— Low in calories.
— Low in sodium, provided that if you’re using canned beans, you’re choosing no-salt-added or low-sodium varieties.
— Cholesterol free.
— Free of trans fats.
On the down side, there’s not much to aquafaba, Holley notes. “Aquafaba contains some trace nutrients, but is nowhere near comparable to those found in an egg.”
It also has significantly less protein — 1% of the recommended daily value versus 10% protein in egg whites. “Store-bought egg substitutes may have added protein, but if you’re using aquafaba alone, you’ll need to find more plant-based foods to meet the recommended daily values,” of protein, Miller says.
Whole eggs have a much longer shelf life, while aquafaba only lasts about two to three days in the refrigerator, Holley says.
Aquafaba also may not be a good choice for everyone, as it contains “oligosaccharides, which are sugars that the body can’t digest until they reach the colon,” Miller explains. This can result in bloating and gas for some people, especially those with irritable bowel syndrome.
“Aquafaba also contains saponins, another compound that can be hard to digest,” Miller says. Those saponins can contribute to the slightly bitter taste some people say aquafaba has.
If you’re using canned beans as your main source of aquafaba, you should also be aware that bisphenol A, also called BPA, may be a concern, Miller says. Many cans are lined with it, and some health experts believe that BPA can leach into the food inside the can. BPA is a chemical that’s been linked with hormonal disruptions, brain and behavioral problems in kids, cancer and heart problems.
How to Make Aquafaba
But the good news is, you can make your own if you want to avoid any chance of BPA contamination. Make your own aquafaba by soaking or cooking legumes such as chickpeas in water for an extended period of time.
Miller offers this simple recipe:
— Soak chickpeas in water overnight. Rinse and drain them.
— Add 2 cups of water and pressure cook until they’re soft, about 15 minutes.
— Drain out the cooking liquid. Use it right away, or refrigerate the liquid for one to two weeks in a clean, air-tight container.
And as Holley notes, chickpeas and white beans make a lighter aquafaba that’s more often used in light-colored recipes like meringues and marshmallows. “Using aquafaba from darker beans, such as kidney or black beans, can result in a final product that is darker in color.” Plan accordingly.
Following are a few recipes that feature aquafaba. Experiment and enjoy.
Vegan French toast casserole
Miller offers up a delicious, make-ahead breakfast option.
Yield: 8 servings.
Prep Time: 15 minutes. Cook Time: 1 hour.
— 1 ripe banana.
— 1/4 cup maple syrup.
— 1/2 cup aquafaba.
— 3/4 cup almond milk.
— 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
— 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon.
— 1 loaf (about 13 to 16 ounces) gluten free bread cut into 1-inch chunks.
— 2 cups berries of your choice.
— In a small bowl mash the banana. Stir in the maple syrup and set aside for a moment while you prep the aquafaba.
— Pour the aquafaba into a large mixing bowl. Using a stand mixer or a handheld electric mixer, whip up your aquafaba into semi-soft peaks, about five minutes.
— Add the banana mixture to the whipped aquafaba along with the almond milk, vanilla extract and cinnamon. Mix to combine.
— Lightly grease a 9- by 13-inch casserole dish.
— Add the bread chunks and half of the berries to the casserole dish and spread out as evenly as you can. Pour the aquafaba mixture over the top. Gently toss the bread around in the aquafaba to make sure it’s all fully covered. Scatter the remaining berries over the top. Cover and let the aquafaba mixture soak into the bread in the fridge overnight.
— Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. When the oven is hot, bake the French toast for 50 to 60 minutes.
Chai Chocolate Mousse
Feit says aquafaba is great for making pareve mousse if you’re keeping kosher and offers this simple and delicious option:
— 1 cup aquafaba (liquid from two 15-ounce cans of chickpeas).
— 4 chai tea bags.
— 1 tablespoon coconut oil.
— 1 (9-ounce) package pareve bittersweet or dark chocolate chips.
— In a small pot, combine aquafaba and tea bags and simmer over medium-low heat for five minutes.
— Meanwhile, in a microwave-safe bowl, combine coconut oil and chocolate chips. Microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring after each, until everything is fully melted and combined (about two to three minutes total).
— Remove aquafaba mixture from heat and discard tea bags. Transfer mixture to a stand mixer or a medium bowl if you’re using a hand mixer. Whip the aquafaba until it doubles in volume and forms foamy peaks.
— Gently fold in melted chocolate until incorporated, but be careful not to over mix. Spoon mousse into four ramekins (or martini glasses) and refrigerate for at least two hours before serving. Top with fresh berries before serving. Keeps in refrigerator (covered) for up to three days.
This recipe has been adapted from Jamie Feit’s cookbook, “Kosher Cookbook for the Family,” published by Rockridge Press.
Miller’s super simple aquafaba mayo recipe tastes a lot like conventional mayo.
— 3 tablespoons aquafaba (for best results use canned chickpeas).
— 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice.
— 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar.
— 1 teaspoon brown rice syrup.
— 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, to taste.
— 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard powder.
— 3/4 to 1 cup grapeseed oil or pure refined olive oil.
— Add the aquafaba, lemon, vinegar, syrup, salt and dry mustard to a tall container. With an immersion blender, blend to combine. Alternatively, use an upright high-speed blender and blend on low to medium speed.
— While blending, slowly spoon in the oil (a tablespoon or two at a time) until it thickens into a white, creamy mayo. (Miller usually uses 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of oil, but you might need anywhere from 3/4 to 1 cup.)
— Store leftovers in an airtight container or jar in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
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Update 03/14/22: The story was previously published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.