Looking for that completely vegan, all-natural, and cheap binder for your mousse, meringue, and cookie recipes? Try aquafaba
This unique food trend is a wonderful discovery for vegan, vegetarian, and plant-based eaters or even those who are looking to reduce the quantity of processed ingredients in their diet. Put simply, aquafaba refers to the leftover “liquid in a can of chickpeas.” While you can use the liquid from any variety of your favorite bean, these other liquids don’t work as well when it comes to using it in recipes.
Let’s take a dive into this new vegan-friendly and cheap cooking agent!
What is Aquafaba?
We already mentioned chickpeas, yet the term aquafaba actually refers to any liquid leftover after either cooking your own legumes or that gooey stuff that comes in a can of pre-cooked beans. With that said, in general, the term refers to the leftover liquid from chickpeas or white beans.
Turns out this liquid is super useful, especially in a vegan kitchen!
Due to the high levels of starch leftover from those nutritious beans, aquafaba is a great ingredient for baking. The consistency mimics “the feel of egg whites and can be used for thickening, emulsifying, and binding.” Aquafaba has been found to be a great supplement to make whipped recipes — such as mousse and meringue — due to the fact that the liquid is “able to trap air, giving items structure at the same time it delivers a fluffy crumb and lift.”
Research into the nutritional value of aquafaba is still in its infancy, yet what’s been uncovered so far is positive!
A preliminary analysis of it was performed in 2016 by Dr. Legg at RL Food Testing Laboratories. The test was performed with a canned, BPA-free, salt-free aquafaba sourced from chickpea liquid provided by 365 Everyday Value Organic Garbanzo Beans. This information is important to make note of due to the fact that “brands of aquafaba vary in their consistency, salt, and preservative content.” For instance, some aquafaba is made from “soy or other legumes,” which may change the nutritional value.
With that said, these findings are a great ballpark to base your knowledge off of!
To begin, it was revealed that it’s low in calories, which means that if you’re looking for a low-carb addition to your baking schematic, this may be the right ingredient for you. With that said, it’s important to note that this substance is super low in protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals. This means it should not be used as a nutritional substitute, but only as an addition to an already nutritious diet. In fact, outside of the caloric value — about three to five calories per tablespoon — the concentrations of all other nutrients were so “low as to not even register on a US FDA food label.”
You may be thinking that an ingredient with a low nutritional content isn’t the best option, yet if you’re simply using aquafaba as a binding agent for your baking recipes, then you’re not missing out on anything!
How Aquafaba is Made
There are two ways to make aquafaba: from canned beans and from home-cooked beans.
Getting to the Liquid
When using home-cooked aquafaba, there’s the added step of actually cooking raw beans. This means a little more preparation is involved such as rinsing, soaking, and boiling before you actually get around to using that leftover aquafaba. Of course, as is true with all at-home cooking, you are in control of exactly what is used in your beans from the amounts of added salt to the level of rinsing and cleanliness that went into prepping your beans.
Once you have cooked your beans, the process lines up with the canned version.
When selecting a canned version, make sure to find one that is “no salt added” or at least “low sodium.” This will help with an overall healthy low sodium diet. Also, make sure the can is identified as BPA-free. If you’re really looking to incorporate clean foods, you can also look for both USDA organic certified and non-GMO certified stamps.
You’ll need to strain your beans — whether from the pot on your stove or the can from the grocery store — to capture the beans, as well as any leftover bean particles such as bean skin. It may take a couple of straining sessions to get everything, but you want to make sure your aquafaba liquid is as clean as possible! If not, your lemon meringue pie will have bits of surprise chewy bean skin.
Depending on how you’re using this natural cooking agent, you may need to add a few extra steps.
Prepping Aquafaba for Whipping
If you’re using aquafaba in lieu of egg whites to make a whip, you’re going to need a “fluffing” agent. Thanks to America’s Test Kitchen, we know that without any fluffing agent, it won’t hold it’s structure.
What are the other two agents you would traditionally use? Sugar or cream of tartar.
America’s Test Kitchen professionals tried both for us. While sugar did provide a good whip, the acidity in the cream of tartar did by far the better job. If you’re trying to avoid processed baking ingredients, you can also supplement lemon juice, which is filled with acid that will make that aquafaba whip right up!
Aquafaba as an Egg Yolk
While aquafaba is popularly used as an egg white supplement for whipping, you can also use aquafaba as an egg yolk supplement for binding. Luckily, you can use it as simply as you would an egg. Just add it to the ingredients in lieu of that whole egg.
Per Kitchn.com, “three tablespoons of aquafaba is equivalent to about one whole egg, while two tablespoons of aquafaba is equivalent to about one egg white.” If you want to break it down further, one whole egg is equal to three tablespoons of aquafaba, while one egg white is equal to two tablespoons of aquafaba.
If it comes out particularly watery and you would like to “thicken” it up a bit to mimic an egg texture, “you can thicken it slightly by simmering it on low in a saucepan on the stove until it’s reduced by about a quarter.”
We’ve covered how to prepare aquafaba and how to make it usable as a cooking and baking agent. So, now that you’re armed with the knowledge, what are you going to make? Where do you start with such a diverse ingredient? Here are a few ways you can infuse your kitchen with the magic of aquafaba!
This one is pretty obvious, but it’s really the best place to start. Using aquafaba as binding agent in vegan baked goods is how it all got started. Baking is also one of the more difficult artistries to master when you switch over to a vegan diet. This is almost exclusively due to the fact that you can’t use eggs, which act as the glue that holds that tasty cookie or cake together. Try your hand at some of your favorite baking recipes such as these Raspberry Mocha Macaroons, these Red Velvet Beet Brownies With Aquafaba Vanilla Cashew Cream Frosting, these Rhubarb Dream Bars, or this Tres Leches Cake.
As long as you’ve done your duty with straining the aquafaba liquid properly, then using it to whip up into a meringue or mousse is super simple! Add your fluffing agent — whether it’s sugar, cream of tartar, or lemon — set your handheld beater on high and go at it. One of the best recipes to start with is mousse, such as this Aquafaba Chocolate Coffee Mousse. It’s simple and filled with rich chocolate taste which will help you adjust to the aquafaba consistency and slight flavor. With that said, you can get creative and fun with recipes such as these Lemon Meringue Cookies, this Chocolate Mousse with Cranberry and Almond Crunch, these super fun Meringue Ghosts, or these Chocolate-Dipped Maple Meringues.
Just as you would have done with a whole egg or an egg yolk, you can use aquafaba to create crispy vegan foods. This can be done by either dipping into prepared aquafaba or using it to create the core of crispy delight. Since aquafaba is able to reduce down to a thickening agent, if you fry or sautee a food item covered in it, the moisture will burn off leaving a nice crispy shell! Here are a few recipes to get you started: Katsu Banh Mi, Baked Hash Browns, Polenta Fries Made With Aquafaba, or these High Protein Sun-Dried Tomato Seitan Bites.
Meatless recipes are integral to a vegan diet. For those that transitioned later in life, getting the experience of eating something that is meat-like without the actual meat can make veganism much easier to keep up. Aquafaba is a great binding agent for those “meatless” dishes such as binding “meatballs” — such as these Italian Meatballs — and “meatloaf” — such as in this Chickpea Loaf With Maple Glaze. If you used to love those fish sticks, try this Beer Battered Tofu ‘Fish’ With Lemon Mayo recipe. How about holiday ham? Here’s a unique and tasty Venezuelan Ham Bread recipe. And, what about those pigs in a blanket? We’ve got you covered! Try these aquafaba-based ‘Pork’ and Apple Sausage Roll.
We also highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 15,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!
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