Aquafaba, which means "water bean," is the surprise ingredient in many vegan and egg-free desserts. Once you see its magical abilities, you'll want to try cooking with it yourself.

By Kimberly Holland
Updated November 14, 2020
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Aquafaba, or the liquid in a can of chickpeas, is a not-so-secretly prized ingredient for many in the vegan and egg-free communities. For these cooks, aquafaba has been in their arsenal of egg-free ingredients and vegan larder for some time, but other cooks are just discovering what the viscous liquid can do. Here, we discuss what aquafaba is and how to use it to make vegan aquafaba meringues, aquafaba royal icing, and other dishes.

What Is Aquafaba?

Aquafaba means "water bean," and it is literally bean water — the water you usually dump down the drain when you strain cans of chickpeas, or the liquid you pour out of the pot when you make your own batch of fresh chickpeas. But stop! Save the water, because it is an excellent vegan substitute for eggs and egg whites in recipes for all kinds of baked goods, meringues, and ice cream.

Note: We only recommend using the aquafaba from chickpeas. Other bean liquids have a flavor that is too strong or a liquid that is less viscous, which creates lackluster results.

The starchy leftover liquid is a great binder, and you can use it in place of water or stock for dishes like soups, hummus, and pasta. But the best use, the most magical use, for aquafaba is whipping it into a foam. Indeed, this thick liquid can trap air much the same way egg whites do, which adds structure and lift. For people who cannot eat eggs or prefer a plant-based lifestyle, aquafaba, the liquid most people throw out, is an essential egg substitute.

image of hands mixing aquafaba- chickpea's liquid water brine a, egg replacer in cooking
Credit: Kristina Ratobilska/Getty Images

What Does Aquafaba Taste Like?

The idea of using a leftover bean liquid might cause confusion, especially as it's most frequently used in baked goods and confections. It is true that the fresh liquid has a slight bean flavor and smell, but once it's cooked, it's imperceptible.

What's more, most recipes with aquafaba use a number of strongly flavored ingredients like sugar, extracts, and chocolate. They easily mask any hint of garbanzo.

canned garbanzo beans
Credit: Juanmonino/Getty Images

How Much Aquafaba Per Egg?

In 2015, Goose Wohlt, a software engineer from Indiana, made the discovery that this magical water can replace eggs. His rule of thumb for egg substitutions is:

  • 1 tablespoon aquafaba = 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons aquafaba = 1 egg white
  • 3 tablespoons aquafaba = 1 whole egg

Aquafaba Recipes

When most people talk about aquafaba, they're envisioning the whipped aquafaba that very closely resembles meringue in look, taste, and texture. In fact, the word aquafaba is synonymous with the whipped version for most people. And though it may be the most iconic way to use the chickpea water, it's not the only way.

Once you have used aquafaba in a few recipes, you'll quickly get an understanding of its many capabilities. But if you're new to the starchy liquid, these recipes will give you an idea of what to do with aquafaba.

1. Aquafaba Meringue

several Vegan Rose Meringues
Credit: Buckwheat Queen

Rose water and aquafaba come together in this recipe to create a delightful cookie for tea time. Like classic meringue cookies, these vegan ones will be whipped until peaks form. Then they're piped onto a baking tray and baked until they're pillowy and soft with a crisp crust. Keep them stored in an airtight container, and these vegan cookies will last several weeks (if they're not snatched up by the hungry crowd in your house).

Get the Recipe: Vegan Rose Meringues

VIDEO: How to Make Vegan Meringues

2. Aquafaba Mayonnaise

282582 aquafaba mayonnaise
Credit: Yoly

Vegan mayonnaises often rely on a combination of oils and non-dairy milks, but this one turns to aquafaba to achieve a thicker, creamy texture. It might not be as thick as Miracle Whip, but it's every bit as creamy and rich as you'd want.

Get the Recipe: Aquafaba Mayonnaise

3. Aquafaba Mousse

Vegan Chocolate Mousse with Aquafaba
Credit: AllrecipesPhoto

You'd never guess this vegan dessert is made with only three ingredients. The aquafaba whips up to form a rich, decadent mousse that boasts a delicately sweet and deep dark chocolate flavor. It's one treat that tastes and looks far more complicated than it really is.

4. Aquafaba Whipped Cream

Once you have some experience whipping aquafaba into a foam, you can easily make your own vegan whipped cream.

Here's how: Add 3/4 cup aquafaba (or the liquid from a can) to a large mixing bowl. Beat with a mixer until the liquid becomes foamy. Add 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar, and beat until the mixture forms stiff peaks. Add 1 tablespoon vanilla extract; beat for another minute. If you want to sweeten the whipped cream, sprinkle in 2/3 cup powdered sugar, and finish by beating until the foam is very fluffy and stiff.

Don't skip the cream of tartar when making your aquafaba whipped cream. This ingredient helps to create a structure in the whipped topping that is far more stable than whipped aquafaba without it, which means the liquid will whip faster, and it will remain whipped longer and is less likely to deflate than the whipped versions made without it.

5. Aquafaba Ice Cream

Lina and Jens' Delicious Vegan Chocolate Ice Cream
Credit: Buckwheat Queen

Who says ice cream needs dairy? Lina and Jens bring us a creamy chocolate dessert with no dairy and no eggs. "I am never going to waste a drop of chickpea water again," they wrote.

6. Vegan Apple Pie

Vegan Apple Pie with Foam on a blue plate
Credit: AllrecipesPhoto

Apple pie is topped with a meringue-like foam that uses aquafaba as the base. Serve after your favorite plant-based meal.

7. Better Hummus

EZ Restaurant-Style Hummus
Credit: Buckwheat Queen

Save the water from your canned beans next time you make hummus, and use this super easy recipe. Most hummus recipes call for adding water to help thin the chickpea-based dip into a creamy consistency. But using the aquafaba will prevent flavor loss and keep the hummus extra thick.

Get the Recipe: Restaurant-Style Hummus

Aquafaba Nutrition

Nutritionally, one tablespoon of aquafaba has less than five calories, another reason it's a great substitute for eggs. Although it has less protein than egg whites, the combination of the starch and a small amount of protein in the water allows it to react similarly to whisks and beaters, producing a foamy and eventually creamy look and texture.

Can You Freeze Aquafaba?

You may be needing that can of chickpeas but not the liquid gold aquafaba just yet, so can you freeze the aquafaba for later? Yes, you can. You can also store the liquid in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week.

Freeze any leftover or unused aquafaba in one-tablespoon portions in ice cube trays. Once the bean-liquid cubes are frozen entirely, you can empty them into a zip-top freezer bag or other freezer storage container.

To use the frozen aquafaba, let it thaw in the fridge, or defrost in the microwave for several minutes. Once-frozen aquafaba works just as well as fresh and will whip beautifully. (Don't forget the cream of tartar.)