Odds are you’ve heard about the miraculous starchy liquid called aquafaba. It’s a great emulsifier and binder to begin with, but what really makes it magical is its foaming ability. Since aquafaba is able to trap air, it gives items structure while providing fluffiness and lift. This opens up an array of possibilities for those who don’t (or can’t) eat eggs.
In this post, you will learn everything you need to know about aquafaba – what it is, how to obtain it, and how to use it in recipes.
What is Aquafaba
Aquafaba is the liquid leftover from cooked legumes. “Aqua” and “faba” literally translate to “water” and “bean”
In theory, you could use any legumes you like, but legumes high in soluble plant solids – chickpeas are one of the highest – yield superior results. This is because during the bean cooking process, carbohydrates, proteins, saponins, and other water soluble plant solids migrate into the cooking water, producing gelatinous liquid with properties similar to egg whites.
Another reason for using chickpeas is color – the cooking liquid from those legumes is clear with a yellow tinge. It looks very similar to egg whites, and does turn white when whipped. What about other light-colored beans, such as cannellinis and limas? Unfortunately, white beans of any kind don’t release enough soluble plant solids during cooking to make strong and reliable aquafaba.
How to Make Aquafaba
There are two ways to obtain aquafaba – by cooking dried chickpeas and reserving the cooking liquid or by draining a can of chickpeas and reserving the liquid.
Every time you prepare beans from scratch – rinse, soak, and cook the beans until tender – you make aquafaba. This method can be time-consuming, but it’s cheap and great for those who prepare beans from scratch anyway. There are only a few simple tips you need to follow.
- Rinse. Add the chickpeas into a strainer and rinse them under cold running water to remove any dirt.
- Soak. Transfer the chickpeas into a pot and cover them with water. The chickpeas expand as they soak, so make sure to use a large enough pot.
- Cook. Leave the chickpeas in the pot with the soaking water. Do not discard the soaking water as it contains a lot of soluble plant solids. If the chickpeas aren’t completely submerged, add just enough water to cover them. Add a piece of kombu seaweed (optional but recommended – kombu adds a lot of minerals that make the aquafaba stronger). Bring the chickpeas to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the chickpeas until tender, 45-60 minutes. Long, slow cooking extracts the most active ingredients from the beans, so you will get best results in a slow-cooker or on the stove top, not in a pressure cooker.
- Cool. I like to refrigerate the whole pot (with the chickpeas and the cooking liquid) so that the beans continue to marry with the liquid (and release even more soluble plant solids).
- Strain. Once cool, strain the aquafaba into a large liquid measuring cup. You should have about ¾ cup to 1 cup/180-240 ml of liquid and the consistency should be similar to that of raw egg whites.
- Reduce/Thin. If the chickpea liquid is thin, transfer it into a small saucepan and bring it to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until there is only ¾ cup to 1 cup/180-240 ml of liquid. Conversely, if the liquid is too thick, you’ve probably cooked it down too much. In that case, bring it to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, add some water to dilute it, and stop cooking when you have the right amount.
Find the complete “recipe” with measurements below.
If you don’t have much experience cooking dried legumes or are short on time, using the leftover liquid from canned chickpeas is both easier and faster. Aquafaba from canned chickpeas is also usually thick to begin with, so you don’t have to reduce it.
Use unsalted canned chickpeas if possible for more neutral taste.
How to Use Aquafaba
Aquafaba essentially acts as an egg replacer.
Egg replacers are common at this point, but they aren’t all the same, and not all of them work for all things. Aquafaba may be just another egg replacer, but it’s got some unique properties that other replacers don’t possess.
The problem is that eggs don’t serve only one purpose in a food. Rather, they serve three distinct and culinarily important functions outside of their taste and nutritional roles: emulsifying, coagulating and foaming. For aquafaba to fully replace eggs, it needs to act as a poly-functional ingredient as well.
- Aquafaba as an emulsifier: eggs as emulsifier are the easiest to emulate. Aquafaba has a good hydrophilic (affinity to water) – lipophilic (affinity to oil) balance, which leads to stable water-in-oil and oil-in-water emulsions. This is why aquafaba has been often used in mayonnaise and salad dressing formulations to replace eggs.
- Aquafaba as a binder: eggs as binders aren’t difficult to replicate either. The main factor affecting binders is concentration. The more concentrated the binder, the better the binding. So, as long as the aquafaba is reduced enough, it works as a binder in cakes, muffins, breads, etc.
- Aquafaba as a coagulator: eggs as coagulators are more difficult to mimic. Eggs coagulate when either heat, strong acids or strong bases cause the proteins in them to denature (lose their structure). Most plant-based proteins don’t work well as coagulators, aquafaba included. The best plant-based coagulator is soy, which is why plant-based scrambled “eggs”, quiches, and cheesecakes are typically made with tofu.
- Aquafaba as a foaming agent: the foaming ability of eggs is the hardest to replicate. An ingredient’s ability to foam is affected by the method of beating, temperature, pH and water content. Some foods such as soy milk can create foams, but these foams are not stable at high temperatures, which is what you need to make meringues, including macaroons and pavlovas. This is where aquafaba comes in. A study has found that the main components of aquafaba are polysaccharides, sucrose, and various proteins. Chemically, this mixture has many of the same components as egg whites, so it makes sense that it can function in many of the same ways.
So how exactly do you use aquafaba in a recipe? If you’re using it as an emulsifier or a binder, you will have to lightly foam the liquid. If you’re using it as a foaming agent, you will need to whip it into either semi-stiff peaks (for pancakes, waffles, cakes, and muffins) or stiff peaks (for meringue-based desserts).
How to Whip Aquafaba
How exactly does a bowl of liquid become a shiny cloud? It’s all about the proteins. Some proteins in aquafaba repel water and others are attracted to it. As you begin whipping, the proteins will start to unravel (“denature”) and form bonds with the water (the main component of aquafaba) and the air created by the mixer. The result of these bonds is a whole lot of bubbles.
Here are my tips for whipping aquafaba perfectly every time:
- Start with concentrated aquafaba. The more thick and gelatinous the aquafaba, the easier and faster it will whip. If your aquafaba isn’t thick enough (usually not an issue with canned liquid), reduce it on the stovetop first. Thin aquafaba won’t whip properly. Keep in mind that there is no standardized aquafaba, so it takes some practice to recognize the right consistency.
- Cool the aquafaba. If your bean liquid is hot (either because you just finished cooking your chickpeas or because you decided to reduce it), let it cool to room temperature first. Warm (room-temperature) aquafaba works the best for whipping – it stretches faster and creates a higher volume than hot or cold aquafaba.
- Avoid plastic bowls and utensils. Plastic develops a thin coat of oil (fat) over time, which is very hard to thoroughly scrub off. Fat makes it nearly impossible for proteins in the aquafaba to unravel and start foaming bubbles. (The same is true for egg whites). So, metal, glass, or ceramic bowls and utensils are preferred.
- Use a mixer. A hand or stand mixer is your best bet. Aquafaba does take longer to whip than egg whites, so don’t attempt to whip by hand. It generally takes 8-10 minutes to see semi-firm peaks using a hand mixer and 3-5 minutes using a stand mixer. The higher the speed, the better. However, just like whipped egg whites or heavy cream, you can over-whip aquafaba. Once stiff peaks form, no matter how many minutes it took, stop whipping. Whipping too long can cause the aquafaba to deflate. How do you know you have reached stiff peaks? Stiff peaks are firm, glossy, without any visible air bubbles. Soft peaks, on the other hand, lean slightly and have a few tiny air bubbles. The ultimate test is flipping the bowl of whipped aquafaba upside down and the aquafaba not falling out.
- Stabilize the aquafaba (optional). If you need to make the aquafaba peaks firmer, add a little bit of acid, such as cream of tartar (tartaric acid), lemon juice (citric acid) or apple cider vinegar (mainly acetic acid). A little acid loosens the proteins present in aquafaba and allows them to whip up faster and with more volume. Speed and volume are nice, but the biggest advantage of the acid is that it helps keep aquafaba foam moist and elastic, thus sturdier. This allows you fold ingredients into the foam (or the foam into a batter or mousse) easily, with a few strokes of the spatula, without breaking the air bubbles and deflating the mixture.
How much aquafaba do you need to replace one egg will depend on the recipe and the consistency – aquafaba should ideally be the same consistency of egg whites to function as a proper egg replacement. Remember that aquafaba has none of the fat of eggs, so it’s really more like egg whites.
As a general rule, the ratios are:
- 1 whole egg = 3 Tbsp./45 ml aquafaba
- 1 egg white = 2 Tbsp./30 ml aquafaba
To measure aquafaba, whisk it first. While it may not be visible to the naked eye, the starches in the chickpea liquid settle to the bottom. In order to take advantage of them, you’ll need to agitate them to ensure they’re evenly distributed throughout the liquid.
Aquafaba is still very new to the world of baking. It has been around only for the last few years, so there a lot of uses that are yet to be experimented with.
So far I have used it in chocolate mousse (recipe coming on the blog soon), marshmallow fluff, pancakes, and mayo (recipe coming on the blog soon).
A step-by-step guide to making homemade aquafaba.
- 1 1/2 cups dried chickpeas
- 4 cups water
- kombu (optional)
Rinse. Add the chickpeas into a strainer and rinse under cold running water.
Soak. Transfer the chickpeas into a pot and cover with water. Let the chickpeas soak for 8-12 hours. The chickpeas expand as they soak, so make sure to use large enough pot.
Cook. Leave the chickpeas in the pot with the soaking water. Do not discard the soaking water as it contains a lot of soluble plant solids. If the chickpeas aren’t completely submerged, add just enough water to cover them. Add a piece of kombu (if using) - kombu adds a lot of minerals that make the aquafaba stronger.
Bring the chickpeas to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the chickpeas are tender, 45-60 minutes. Long, slow cooking extracts the most active ingredients from the chickpeas, so you will get best results in a slow-cooker or on the stove top, not in a pressure cooker.
Cool. I like to refrigerate the whole pot (with the chickpeas and the cooking liquid) so that the beans continue to marry with the liquid and release even more soluble plant solids, making the aquafaba stronger yet again.
Strain. Once cool, strain the aquafaba into a large liquid measuring cup. You should have about ¾ cup to 1 cup/180-240 ml of liquid and the consistency should be similar to that of raw egg whites.
Reduce/Thin** (if necessary). If the liquid is thin (and you have more than ¾ cup to 1 cup/180-240 ml), you will need to reduce it. Transfer the liquid to a small saucepan and bring it to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer until there is only ¾ cup to 1 cup/180-240 ml of liquid.
Conversely, if the liquid is thick (and you have less than ¾ cup/180 ml), you’ve probably cooked it down too much. In that case, bring it to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, add some water to dilute it, and stop cooking when you have the right amount.
Store. Leftover aquafaba keeps well in the refrigerator for 5-7 days, For longer term storage, freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months, For ease, I like to freeze the aquafaba in 1-Tbsp./15-ml portions in ice cube trays. Once the aquafaba is frozen solid, transfer to an airtight container for future use. Frozen-then-thawed aquafaba whips just as well as fresh aquafaba.
*If you'd like to use canned aquafaba, 1 15-oz/425-g can of chickpeas yields ~ 1/2 cup/120 ml aquafaba.
**The more reduced the liquid, the more pronounced the chickpea flavor.
***Prep time includes soaking and cooking the chickpeas (~9 hours total).