It’s probably the stuff you’re probably pouring down the sink as waste. But the murky liquid found in canned chickpeas is actually a magic ingredient that should be preserved — especially if you are allergic to eggs (see egg allergy) and can work wonders when making egg free meringues!
You see, the liquid actually doubles as the perfect egg white substitute. And with a quick whisk, it can transform from a murky mess into a fluffy meringue or indulgent chocolate mousse. It can replace eggs in pancakes and other confectionery delights.
The liquid, dubbed “Aquafaba”, is growing in popularity among those avoiding animal products or those with egg allergy. The name Aquafaba is a mash up of the Latin word for water (aqua) and bean (faba), and has become the perfect egg substitute in cooking.
The best way to use the liquid is straight from a chickpea can, but for those who like to cook from scratch — slowly cooking dried beans in water for a few hours until the water ‘turns’ to aquafaba will give you similar results.
The ingredient – and its name – was discovered by an American software engineer named Goose Wohlt, who posted an article about his “miracle” discovery to a Facebook group called What Fat Vegans Eat.
His post, which displayed several photos of fluffy white meringues, read: “Dead simple, delicious two ingredient whole food meringues … one can chickpea brine mixed with half cup sugar. perfect-O”
How does this ingredient work?
So for those who cannot, or are unable to, consume eggs — how does this ‘lifesaving’ ingredient actually work?
While there have been no scientific studies that determine why Aquafaba gives the same results as eggs in cooking, several food scientists indicate that it is most likely a combination of proteins and starches in the water.
Egg whites can create and hold a foam because it has the unique mix of polar and non-polar proteins that possess these ‘whipping’ properties.
Chickpea proteins, like egg proteins, have parts that hate water and parts that love water. When you shake or beat Aquafuba, the proteins unravel, so that the water-hating parts interface with air, and the water-loving parts with water. Hence, bubbles and foam. The starches help thicken and stabilise the foam.
Some egg proteins are good at providing foam formation, such as globulins, while others are good at stability (ovomucin-lysozyme). The balance, or ratio, between lysozyme and globulin is just as important to the foam construction than them just individually existing – which is kind of why it’s always been so hard to come up with an egg-substitute.
As a general rule, three tablespoons of Aquafaba replace one whole egg, and two tablespoons equals just the white of an egg.
It’s worth buying low, or even no-sodium beans, because tinned chickpeas can be loaded with salt (sodium chloride).