Essential Ingredient: Aquafaba is a Smart Substitution for Egg Whites
Vegan egg alternatives were costly, until the solution came from a can. Aquafaba, or that cloudy liquid you find in a can of chickpeas and normally strain and toss, has taken the vegan world by storm, as a waste-less—and virtually free—substitute for egg whites.
For years, Kate Jacoby—who owns and runs Philadelphia’s Vedge and V Street with Rich Landau—had little luck creating a vegan version of the lemon meringue pie from her childhood. But after scanning the popular Facebook group Vegan Meringue—Hits & Misses!, she succeeded. “For me, if we’re taking out three eggs, what does that mean proportionally?” she asked. The answer: a quarter cup of garbanzo water, cold, whisked for five to six minutes. “You can get texture there,” she adds, “making it real light and fluffy.” Add some sugar and vanilla extract, and she has the meringue of her past, from a surprise ingredient. “I’ve been throwing this away,” she laments.
Jay Astafa, the executive chef of Long Island’s 3 Brothers Vegan Cafe, praises aquafaba “as a great way to veganize recipes” previously considered to be inedible. His latest success: macarons. “I drain the chickpea water and chill it for hours,” he says, noting that doing so makes the aquafaba firmer and easier to mix with sugar and almonds. The best part, he adds, is aquafaba’s neutrality. “You can’t even taste the chickpeas,” he says.
But aquafaba isn’t just for sweets. Alexandra Zohn adapted Hunter Noffsinger’s recipe to create aquafaba mayonnaise for New York’s Three Tablespoons baking company. She mixes the liquid in a blender with mustard, salt, vinegar and olive oil. To add more flavor, “I usually add maple syrup, sriracha—or minced garlic, to turn it into aïoli.”
“Vegan alternatives can be dry,” Robin Asbell says, “and not hold a good texture.” But aquafaba is just as eggy as the real thing. That is why the Minnesota chef has begun to use it in place of beaten eggs to coat her tofu before breading and cooking. She whisks aquafaba with arrowroot, and then adds panko breadcrumbs, before baking. “When it comes out, it has a crispy crust,” she says. “I see no reason why this can’t go mainstream.”