Did you know that every time you open a can of beans and drain off the liquid into the sink, you are throwing away a precious ingredient? Yes, that’s right! You are discarding aquafaba, which is literally bean water (aquafaba is Latin for “water” and “bean”). It turns out that the liquid left from canned beans has the amazing property to create a foaming agent when whipped, much like egg whites. The discovery of aquafaba is something of a legend, as home cooks, food scientists, engineers, foodies, and the vegan community came together and shared their experiences of creating a foam from bean liquid that was thick enough to make a meringue. By 2015, a new cooking method was born.
What’s so special about aquafaba?
The Norwegian Food Research Institute analyzed aquafaba and reported that it is primarily composed of starches and proteins, with galactose and saponins possibly playing a role in the liquid’s unique structure. We still have much to learn about the properties of aquafaba. But we do know that aquafaba has the ability to be whipped into a foam and even into a meringue. Entire online communities and cookbooks are praising the joys of aquafaba today as a way to reduce food waste and provide solutions to people avoiding eggs for allergies or dietary preferences.
How do you make aquafaba?
It’s very easy; you simply drain the liquid from a can of beans, place it in a clean mixing bowl, and whip it with an electric mixer (a Kitchenaid works wonderfully) until you achieve the desired foam or meringue consistency. I have been experimenting with aquafaba for about two years now. Every time I open a can of beans, I save that precious liquid to use in cooking. One 15-ounce can of beans has about one-half cup of aquafaba, which takes the place of about two eggs in a recipe. You can use any canned bean liquid for aquafaba, such as chickpeas (very popular), cannellini, black bean, kidney bean, and navy beans. It’s difficult to detect any “beany” flavor in the whipped aquafaba, so you can use it in all types of recipes, such as the following:
- Raw: Mousse, fluffs, creams, whips, drinks, and pie toppings
- Baked: Meringues, pavlova, macarons
- Confections: Marshmallows, fudge, nougat, icings
- Baking: Cookies, breads, waffles, pancakes, muffins
- Savory: Burgers, quiches
- Save canned bean liquid in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days for use in future recipes.
- Whip aquafaba until stiff peaks form, then gently fold into recipes such as mousse and baked goods in place of eggs.
- Add desired sweetener to aquafaba when making meringues and macaron.
- If you use canned beans with salt, you may need to reduce the salt used in the recipe.
- Darker colored bean liquid, such as from black beans and kidney beans, will result in a darker colored foam or meringue, which may impact certain recipes.
One of my favorite ways to use aquafaba is in baked goods, such as cookies and waffles. Check out my latest recipe for using aquafaba in these pretty, light, and crisp lavender cookies.
Lavender Almond Cookies (Vegan)
- Aquafaba* (about 1/2 cup liquid reserved from 1 15-oz can of light-colored beans)
- ¾ cup softened dairy-free margarine (i.e., Earth Balance)
- ¾ cup organic cane sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ¾ cup almond flour or meal
- 1 ½ cups enriched, unbleached wheat flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ – 2 tablespoons dried lavender flowers
- ¼ cup finely chopped almonds
- Preheat oven to 350° F
- Whip aquafaba with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Set aside.
- In a medium mixing bowl, mix together margarine sugar and vanilla with a fork until smooth.
- Gently fold in aquafaba.
- Mix almond flour, enriched flour, baking powder, salt, lavender flowers, and almonds together.
- Fold dry ingredients into moist ingredients gently, until well distributed.
- Spray two baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray. Drop batter by spoonfuls on a baking sheet.
- Place in oven and bake for about 25 minutes, until firm and golden brown along edges.
- Remove from oven and cool.
Makes 20 cookies.
By Sharon Palmer, RDN
The Plant-Powered Dietitian