Aquafaba: Viscus Bean Crud We Love

Updated Apr 11, 2021

What is Aquafaba? I knew you’d probably ask that.

Let’s agree that aquafaba is the slithery and gelatinous crud that comes with your canned beans. It’s the slimy stuff Mario Batali said needed to be rinsed off canned beans and then you could call them pretty good, not far from homemade. Beans and their crud look better with some golden olive oil, but still:

beans with aquafaba
Beans with aquafaba and olive oil

I’ll let you in on a little secret, the stuff is useful.

aquafaba (is) a term coined by vegan baker Goose Wohlt. It can also be produced by home-cooking dried beans in water until it thickens. Either way, aquafaba (aqua is Latin for water and faba means bean) can be used as a substitute for egg whites in pretty much any recipe. That’s because the proteins and starches in bean liquid — made mostly of water, salt and naturally produced carbohydrates — act similarly to the proteins in egg whites. Use aquafaba in meringues, creams, icing, cookies, cakes, mayonnaise and as a butter substitute (by blending it with oil). — Cooking and canned liquids you shouldn’t toss

You see, as part of the new conditions imposed during the plague years, I was tinkering with pressure cooking organic beans. I discovered a use for the juice, and discovered if I cooked the beans a bit longer than usual this thick and useful crud got thicker and even more useful. Then, I discovered Goose Wohlt’s writings and then I bought a bagel from a new local bagel purveyor and found aquafaba as an ingredient on the bagel bag. It was used to stick the seeds on the pumpernickel bagels. I started using it on my sourdough, and the seeds no longer spewed themselves about the kitchen when when you slice the bread.

Aquafaba acts as a binder, emulsifier, and firmer when used. When whipped, aquafaba foams up like egg whites due to its water-soluble proteins. It creates tiny bubbles in a protein foam that gives foods structure and light, fluffy texture. When whipped into foam and folded into muffins, cupcakes, cakes, brownies, and cookies, it nicely lightens them. When aquafaba is whipped with cream of tartar, sweetener, and vanilla it can be used to make egg-free, vegan meringue with stiff, fluffy peaks. It can be useful in baked goods and for making marshmallows, marshmallow fluff, mousse, frosting, mayonnaise, marzipan, macaroons, meringue cookies,…

Can you imagine? They even have started to use the stuff in cocktails

What’s interesting about aquafaba is that it was “discovered” or perhaps “re-discovered” in 2015, “after finding a French chef’s video showing how the liquid from beans, or hearts of palm, could be used, in tandem with starch and gum, to make a vegan meringue for a chocolate mousse. After some experimentation, he found that chickpea liquid could be used all by itself to achieve the same effect – and posted his discovery to a popular vegan Facebook page.”

Despite its apparent modernity, the concept and uses of aquafaba, meets fully the requirements for it to be touted as cucina povera. At one time you chucked the viscus crud down the drain, now you elevate the “free” juice and use it as broth and thickener and sticker and whip it into vegan meringue. You can’t get much more povera than that.

And there’s another benefit of being recently honored as cucina povera, aquafaba has a website.