Aquafaba is a trendy new food that has many interesting uses.
Often featured on social media and health and wellness websites, aquafaba is a liquid in which legumes such as chickpeas have been cooked or stored.
It is a sought-after ingredient in vegan cooking and most commonly used as an egg substitute.
This article takes a detailed look at aquafaba, including what it is, how it’s made and if you should be adding it to your diet.
Aquafaba is the name for the water in which any pulse like chickpeas or white beans has been cooked or stored. It’s the liquid that some people pour out when they first open a can of chickpeas, for example.
Fittingly, the substance was named by combining the Latin words for water and bean — aqua and faba.
Pulses are edible seeds that come from the legume family of plants. Common types of pulses include beans and lentils (1).
They contain a relatively high amount of carbohydrates, primarily starch. Starch is the storage form of energy found in plants and composed of two polysaccharides called amylose and amylopectin (2).
When pulses are cooked, the starches absorb water, swell and eventually break down, causing amylose and amylopectin, along with some protein and sugars, to leach into the water.
This results in the viscous liquid known as aquafaba.
Although this liquid has been around for as long as pulses have been cooked, it wasn’t given much attention until 2014 when a French chef discovered that it could be used as an ingredient in recipes.
He realized that it made an excellent substitute for egg whites and could also be used as a foaming agent.
This finding spread quickly among food enthusiasts and before long, aquafaba was being used by chefs around the world.
This finding was particularly popular among vegans because aquafaba makes an excellent vegan-friendly egg replacement.
Since aquafaba most commonly refers to the liquid from cooking or storing chickpeas, this article focuses on chickpea aquafaba.
Summary The term aquafaba refers to the liquid in which pulses like chickpeas have been cooked or stored.
Since aquafaba is a relatively new trend, there is limited information regarding its nutritional composition.
According to the website aquafaba.com, 1 tablespoon (15 ml) contains 3–5 calories, with less than 1% coming from protein (3).
It may contain trace amounts of certain minerals like calcium and iron, but not enough to be considered a good source.
Although there is currently no reliable nutritional information on aquafaba, more details regarding its health benefits may be available in the future as it becomes more popular.
Summary Aquafaba is a new food trend and little is known about its nutritional composition.
While research on acquafa’s nutritional makeup and potential health benefits is limited, it has been shown to have many culinary uses.
Egg White Replacement
Aquafaba is best known for being an amazing substitute for eggs.
Although the exact science behind why aquafaba works so well as an egg replacement is unknown, it may have to do with its combination of starches and small amounts of protein.
It is most commonly used as a replacement for egg whites, but it can also be used as a stand-in for whole eggs and egg yolks.
Also, it is vegan-friendly and suitable for people who are allergic or intolerant to eggs.
This syrupy liquid has been celebrated by vegan bakers for its amazing ability to mimic the action of eggs in recipes, providing structure and height to baked goods like cakes and brownies.
It can even be whipped into a fluffy meringue just like egg whites or made into delicious, vegan and allergy-friendly desserts such as marshmallows, mousse and macaroons.
Aquafaba is also a popular ingredient in savory vegan versions of traditionally egg-based recipes like mayonnaise and aioli.
It is even used by bartenders to create vegan and egg-allergy-friendly versions of cocktails that are traditionally made with egg whites.
Experts suggest substituting 3 tablespoons (45 ml) of aquafaba for one whole egg or 2 tablespoons (30 ml) for one egg white.
Vegan Dairy Replacement
As well as being a stellar egg substitute, aquafaba makes an exceptional dairy substitute.
Vegans or people with lactose intolerance often search for dairy-free options to add to recipes.
Aquafaba can be used in place of milk or butter in many recipes without impacting the texture or taste of the food.
For example, you can make a delicious dairy-free butter by combining aquafaba with apple cider vinegar, coconut oil, olive oil and salt.
It can be whipped into a luscious whipped cream that is sometimes used by baristas to add the signature froth to cappuccinos and lattes.
Summary Aquafaba is most commonly used as a vegan and allergy-friendly egg substitute. It can also be used in recipes as a replacement for dairy.
The low protein content of aquafaba makes it an excellent choice for people with phenylketonuria, commonly known as PKU.
PKU is an inherited disorder that leads to very high blood levels of an amino acid called phenylalanine.
This disease is due to a genetic mutation in the gene responsible for producing the enzyme necessary to break down phenylalanine (4).
If blood levels of this amino acid get too high, they can result in brain damage and lead to severe intellectual disabilities (5).
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, and protein-rich foods like eggs and meat are high in phenylalanine.
Those with PKU must follow a very low-protein diet for life in order to avoid foods that are high in phenylalanine.
This diet can be extremely limiting, and finding low-protein substitutions is challenging.
Aquafaba may be an excellent choice for people with PKU since it can be used as a very low-protein egg replacement.
Summary PKU is a disease in which the body can’t break down an amino acid called phenyalanine. People with this disease must follow a very low-protein diet, making aquafaba a safe choice for those with PKU.
Although aquafaba makes an excellent egg substitute for those with dietary restrictions and food allergies, it is not a good source of nutrients and can’t compete with the nutritional contents of eggs or dairy.
Preliminary nutrient analysis suggests that aquafaba is extremely low in calories, protein, carbohydrates and fat, and it contains little, if any, vitamins or minerals (3).
On the other hand, eggs and dairy are nutritional powerhouses. One large egg delivers 77 calories, 6 grams of protein and 5 grams of healthy fats.
While aquafaba makes a convenient stand-in for eggs or dairy, especially for people who are allergic or don’t eat these foods, it is important to note that it contains significantly fewer nutrients.
By replacing eggs or dairy with aquafaba, you will miss out on all the nutritional benefits they have to offer.
Summary Eggs are a nutritionally dense food, and it may not be a good idea to replace them with aquafaba unless you have an egg allergy or follow a vegan diet.
It’s easiest to get aquafaba from canned chickpeas. However, you can also use the leftover water from cooking chickpeas yourself.
To use the first method, simply drain the can of chickpeas over a colander, reserving the liquid.
Ways to Use Aquafaba
You can use this liquid in a variety of sweet or savory recipes, including:
- Meringue: Beat aquafaba with sugar and vanilla to form an egg-free meringue. You can use this to top pies or make cookies.
- Foam it as an egg replacement: Whip it into a foam and use it as an egg replacement in recipes like muffins and cakes.
- Whip it as an egg replacement: Substitute eggs with whipped aquafaba in pizza crust and bread recipes.
- Vegan mayo: Blend aquafaba with apple cider vinegar, salt, lemon juice, mustard powder and olive oil for a vegan, dairy-free mayonnaise.
- Vegan butter: Mix aquafaba with coconut oil, olive oil, apple cider vinegar and salt to create a dairy-free, vegan-friendly butter.
- Macaroons: Replace egg whites with whipped aquafaba to make egg-free coconut macaroons.
Because aquafaba is such a recent finding, new ways to use this interesting ingredient are being discovered every day.
You should store aquafaba much like you would store raw egg whites. It should remain fresh in the fridge for two to three days.
Summary You can make aquafaba by saving the water left over from cooking chickpeas or simply keeping the liquid after you strain canned chickpeas.
Aquafaba is an interesting and versatile ingredient that is just beginning to be investigated for its many culinary uses.
Not much is known about its nutritional content, but initial research has shown that it is very low in protein, making it a safe choice for those with PKU.
While aquafaba isn’t a good source of nutrients, it is recognized as an excellent egg and dairy substitute for vegans and those with food allergies.
This liquid can be used to make delicious vegan and allergy-friendly versions of baked goods. However, keep in mind that it’s best to keep your intake of sugary foods to a minimum in order to promote optimal health.
Aquafaba has already made a big splash in the culinary world and continues to grow in popularity as inventive cooks discover new ways to use this versatile ingredient.