What is aquafaba actually made of?

The day you became vegan was the day you knew you were turning your back on more than just pork, beef, lamb, and chicken. You were also saying no to butter, cheese, and all manner of dairy, as well as quiches and omelets (because of the eggs, of course). But thanks to aquafaba, you may not need to walk away from dishes that might have otherwise needed an egg white (or more), like mayonnaise and meringues... and yes, even macarons and macaroons

Aquafaba comes from an unlikely ingredient — the juice that we throw out when we drain a can of chickpeas. Its discovery as an egg white substitute was revealed in 2015 by an American software engineer named Goose Wohlt, who suggested mixing a can of chickpea brine with half a cup of sugar could create pillowy meringues. Taking a cue from Wohlt's discovery, which he announced on a Facebook vegan group site called What Fat Vegans EatThe Guardian experimented with the chickpea liquid to find that it did what Wohlt said it could do: mimic egg whites that could literally give rise to baked goods like meringue, breads, waffles, muffins, and mousse. 

How to use aquafaba

If you're curious enough to try aquafaba, America's Test Kitchen suggests you begin by taking an unopened can of chickpeas, shaking it vigorously, then extracting the liquid by pouring the can's contents into a bowl. Reserve the chickpeas for later use (hummus is always an option, since shaking the can may have bruised the chickpeas anyway), whisk the bean water, and then measure it out. 

Like egg whites, aquafaba performs best with help from cream of tartar, which America's Test Kitchen says allowed it to rise and reach stiff peaks in under five minutes. Minimalist Baker recommends using a hand or stand mixer for the whipping, otherwise, the process takes much longer than expected (the site says aquafaba starts delivering semi-firm peaks between 3 and 6 minutes), and you're likely to end up with a disappointing mess if you attempt to whip the liquid by hand with a balloon whisk. Once the aquafaba is whipped, you use it as you would use whipped egg whites. 

Does it work with the juice of other canned beans? America's Test Kitchen says it tried using the liquid from drained black beans but said the chickpea liquid was the clear winner. If you've bought the chickpeas, drained the liquid and decided you'd rather make some hummus first, you can freeze the aquafaba in individual ice cube trays to experiment with some other time. America's Test Kitchen says there's no difference between fresh and thawed aquafaba, and both behave the same way.