How many times have you drained a can of chickpeas or white beans and watched that slightly bubbly, sort of gloppy liquid wash down the drain?
Every time, right?
Perhaps no longer.
That bean water, or aquafaba as it has been dubbed (aqua, Latin for water, and faba, Latin for bean), is one of the hottest food trends going.
This viscous liquid is being used as an egg-white substitute in foods from mayonnaise and meringue to the frothy topping on cocktails.
I had to wonder: Who first looked at that liquid and saw the potential for something more?
The honor goes to a vegan food blogger from France named Joel Roessel. He first started talking about bean water’s use as a potential egg-white substitute in December 2014.
Building on Roessel’s work, an American software engineer named Goose Wohlt began experimenting with meringue techniques a few months later and discovered that just like an egg white, the bean water could be whipped into a meringue, with the simple addition of sugar.
He coined the name aquafaba, and the ingredient now has its own website and Facebook page.
Bean water has seen rapid growth as an egg-white substitute and it even has sparked a new product, Fabanaise, a vegan mayonnaise substitute.
Kara Neilsen, an Oakland, California-based food-trends analyst, said anytime a new ingredient comes along, there is a certain amount of excitement to see how much staying power it has.
Fabanaise, she noted, is getting its aquafaba from a hummus-maker. The fact that a former waste product is being turned into food makes the water part of the larger trend to eliminate food waste.
There are some faddish elements to aquafaba, Neilsen said, but like all fads, it will be refined over time.
Beyond the vegan community, the bean water could prove helpful for those with egg allergies, or in parts of the world where eggs are difficult to come by, she said.
“It may never become a mainstream alternative, but it’s really nice to have those alternatives,” Neilsen said.
To try it out, I headed to Dispatch Kitchen for a little experimenting with aquafaba meringue.
My first attempt, made with the liquid drained from a can of traditional chickpeas, was salty and tasted a lot like chickpeas.
My second attempt, using low-sodium chickpeas, produced a much more neutral-tasting meringue and produced a successful cookie.
It’s worth noting that meringue made with bean water requires more sugar — three-quarters of a cup — than traditional meringue, which might use only a quarter cup.
Just three-quarters of a cup of the bean liquid, however, produces a large volume of meringue — easily enough to top two pies.
Here’s a recipe for making aquafaba meringue cookies. I tested them with almond extract, instead of peppermint. The resulting cookie has a slightly nutty, toasted-marshmallow flavor.
Recipe adapted from www.cookinglight.com
Makes 50 or more
¾ cup aquafaba, drained from a can (14-16 ounces) of salt-free chickpeas
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon almond or peppermint extract
Heat the oven to 250 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper; spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray.
Combine the aquafaba and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a wire whip attachment; beat on high until white and glossy soft peaks form, 2 to 5 minutes.
With the mixer running, slowly add sugar 1 tablespoon at a time to the aquafaba mixture. Continue mixing until peaks are more defined and stiff, 10 to 15 minutes total. Add extract and mix until incorporated.
Transfer meringue mixture to a pastry bag fitted with a ¼-inch round or star tip; squeeze 2-inch mounds onto prepared sheets, about 1 inch apart. Bake for 2 hours, or until dry and firm to the touch.
PER SERVING: 12 calories, 0 g protein, 3 g carbohydrates, 0 g fiber, 3 g sugars, 0 g fat (0 saturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 0 mg sodium
— Lisa Abraham writes about food for The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch. Email her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter at @DispatchKitchen.