Aquafaba: a vegan miracle

This post originally appeared on the ABC Radio National website: Friday 26 August 2016 11:53AM

There’s a new ingredient being hailed as a game-changer for vegans, and it comes from a surprising source.
Buffy Gorrilla investigates aquafaba, the mysterious substance that could be the missing link for vegans seeking egg white substitutes.

Listen to the full story

The slimy, smelly liquid from your tinned beans and chickpeas that you’ve been pouring down your kitchen drain can, in fact, be whipped into perfect peaks, just like egg whites.

It’s called aquafaba and it’s seen as a vegan miracle.

I was basically looking up Latin for bean and Latin for water, but fabaaqua was just hard to say, so I figured ‘aquafaba’, and it stuck.

GOOSE WOHLT

Until recently, vegans the world over have been denied a suitable and tasty egg white substitute enjoyed by those who eat eggs.

Goose Wohlt, a vegan from America, is the man responsible for introducing aquafaba to a wider audience.

He and his wife thought the boxed version of egg replacers tasted like cardboard, and began experimenting ways to make meringues that were delicious and free of animal products.

Wohlt’s wife happened upon a video of a man whipping this strained bean water into chocolate mousse and thought it could work on her husband’s meringues.

‘I ran down to my kitchen to try it; it worked the first time,’ says Wohlt.

‘Unlike previous attempts, they tasted great. I realised this could be a magical egg replacer.’

Given the countless ways egg whites are used in cooking, aquafaba represents something of a missing link for the vegan community.

Mayonnaise, marshmallows, macaroons, butter and royal icing are all potentially on the menu now for vegans. The community of aquafaba enthusiasts is growing.

Vegans and non-vegans across the globe post their meringue hits and misses in a Facebook group boasting over 50,000 members. It’s quite a reception for an ingredient that until recently was readily thrown away.

Wohlt coined the name in 2015, after a range of names like ‘bean juice’ and ‘bean gloop’ started to appear. Wolht suggested aquafaba and started using it in his vegan meringue community posts.

‘I was basically looking up Latin for bean and Latin for water, but fabaaqua was just hard to say, so I figured “aquafaba”, and it stuck.’

The science behind what makes this bean water replicate an egg white is still being explored. The simple explanation is the proteins, starches and stabilisers left behind in the water tend to mimic the proteins in egg whites.

‘As you cook a chickpea, what happens is the proteins, starches and all the rest of the material, which includes some natural vegetable gums, all come out of the bean into the cooking water in the ratio you need,’ says Wohlt.

‘It really is amazing.’

Aquafaba meringue

But what does it taste like?

As a non-vegan, I whipped up a batch, to test Wohlt’s findings. It was incredible to see my cannellini bean water triple in size and transform into a lush-looking egg white consistency. Through the baking, my treats stayed in their bite-sized meringue shape, but they did lose the stiff peaks. I was nonetheless impressed by the look and they were by no means unpleasant to eat, if a little saltier than an egg-white meringue.

For vegans who used to eating fibreboard meringues, it’s easy to see why this is a big leap forward.

Goose Wohlt’s aquafaba tips:

* You can use any canned beans or chickpeas.
* The consistency of your aquafaba is key. If it is too runny, reduce it on the stovetop and let it cool. You want the consistency similar to an egg white. Slowly add the sugar to the mixture.
* Oil is the enemy of aquafaba. Make sure all your kitchen utensils are free of grease and baking paper is your friend.
* Keep the temperature low. You want to dry out the meringues.

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