It’s been hashtagged over 34,000 times on Instagram, searches for it on Pinterest are soaring and its popularity sprouted from a Facebook page: aquafaba is having a moment. Not the latest cool club, design house or hangout; its rather chi-chi name belies the fact that it is, in fact, bean juice. Just why is simple bean brine getting so much attention? Let me egg-splain (all will become clear re: terrible egg pun below)...
What is it?
The slimy, briny stuff that chickpeas and other legumes float about in. HOW DELICIOUS. Once you get over the cloudy, gloopy mustiness, however, you can use said liquid as a replacement for egg whites. Seriously. A guy called Goose Wohlt drew on initial experiments by Frenchman Joël Roessel to whisk chickpea liquid into egg white-like peaks, combining with sugar to make otherwise elusive vegan meringues. He set about naming based on the Latin for for ‘bean’ and ‘water’, and aquafaba was the result. I believe he has since applied to the Oxford English Dictionary for his term to be officially recognised. And to think that you were just throwing that bean potion down the sink...
How is it used?
When slightly thickened (reduce on the hob if yours is a bit watery) it can be whipped up to resemble pretty convincing egg whites, making light work of mousse, meringues, cakes and frothy cocktails. Quiche, brownies, butter, mayonnaise, pancakes, fritters, Yorkshire pud and all manner of desserts also benefit from a spoon or three of aquafaba (roughly three tablespoons of aquafaba are equivalent to an egg).
If faffing with a whisk holds no appeal, you can now pick up aquafaba based foodstuffs at your local supermarket or trial them at a fast food joint. Gourmet condiment company Rubies in the Rubble specialises in giving surplus fruit and veg a new lease of life, and its new Aquafaba Mayo and Chipotle Mayo give the real deal creamy stuff a run for its money. Both blend aquafaba with a smidge of salt, lemon, rapeseed oil and dijon mustard, with added chilli where Chipotle is concerned. You can pick a jar up for £3.50 at Wholefoods or rubiesintherubble.com and soon you'll also be able to smother on your patty at Honest Burger.
What does it taste like?
Despite the initial bean pong, aquafaba is tasteless once combined with other ingredients. Promise.
Why use it?
If you’re vegan , allergic or just averse to eggs, it makes a nice alternative to less versatile/functional egg substitutes, which can include chia seeds, baking powder concoctions, tofu, flax seeds, arrowroot powder, apple purée and mashed banana. Plus, just whip it and you’re done- there’s no time lost making strange pastes or pretending that the apple you just puréed is behaving like a bonafide egg. Also, Nutritional Therapist Daniel O'Shaughnessy highlights that aquafaba's beauty is in its simplicity:
"A typical egg replacer has more ingredients and more starch (carbs), for instance potato starch, tapioca flour, calcium carbonate, citric acid, vegetable gum (stabilizer) methylcellulose are often used. Aquafaba is healthier as you're only working with one neutral element."
Are there any nutritional benefits?
In short, no, although it is low in calories (three per tablespoon). Nutritional kudos cannot compare to that of the well rounded egg, as protein, mineral and nutrient wise, it’s got pretty much nothing to offer. It’s seriously handy if you’re egg cartons running low, however, or if a batch of homemade hummus has left you with a slimy surplus of chickpea gloop.
Gimmick or gamechanger?
Total gamechanger if you’re allergic to eggs or vegan and want to experiment. Otherwise, stick with your egg whites, unless you’re feeling particularly resourceful as above. Daniel does recommend incorporating aquafaba into baking too if you're looking to lower your carbohydrate intake and don't want to, or can't, use eggs.
Curious about other food trends doing the rounds? Check out these quirky ingredients…
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