A Beginner’s Guide To Aquafaba

A Beginner’s Guide To Aquafaba

You know when you cook chickpeas (or other beans and pulses) from scratch? You boil them on the stove top for an hour or two, and then you drain off the cooking liquid? You gotta stop throwing that golden cooking liquid down the drain! I’m serious. Yes, I’m talking about that stinky, kinda slimy, smells-a-bit-like-old-trainers liquid that disappears down the plughole when you strain your freshly cooked chickpeas. Because it is a magical ingredient. I kid you not.

It turns out that chickpea water (chickpea brine), which alternatively and rather more glamorously is also referred to as aquafaba, is a miracle ingredient… something that isn’t waste at all, but is actually very useful! You can whisk it up like egg whites and use it in baking to make cakes, icing, macaroons and meringues. It’s taking the vegan world by storm because it’s making the impossible possible, but even if you’re not vegan and you eat eggs, the chance to use a waste product to make something edible and delicious can’t be scoffed at!

This yellow liquid is what you get when you cook chickpeas and strain (and keep) the water

I first heard about aquafaba when I posted a picture on Instagram of a big batch of chickpeas I’d cooked, and somebody asked if I was saving the liquid to make meringues. It sounded crazy (and unfortunately I’d just tipped 2 litres of it down the drain) but after seeing some pictures suggesting it could actually be done, and in spectacular style, I was sold.

There might be a lot of beautiful images out there showcasing the miraculous things that can be done with aquafaba, but as a beginner, I had absolutely no idea where to start. Lots of the recipes refer to using the aquafaba from tinned chickpeas, but I cook my own chickpeas, so I wanted to know how to use this kind of aquafaba. Not being able to find this information on the internet, I spent an entire weekend whisking and testing this chickpea water (and eating far more meringues than I care to remember) and as a result, I think I’ve mastered the basics.

First Up – Cooking Your Chickpeas

If you’re still buying chickpeas (or other pulses) in tins, you are seriously missing a trick. Pulses are super cheap to buy, you can find them in bulk (so packaging free), they take up hardly any space in the pantry and they last forever. You can cook them up in bulk and they freeze really well. Cans are bulky, BPA-lined (meaning chemicals leaching from the plastic into your food), the brine often contain added salt and sugar, plus they are pretty resource-heavy being made from metal, and use a lot more fuel to transport than their dried counterparts. Make your own – it’s easy!

Ingredients: dry chickpeas, water

Soak your chickpeas in water, ensuring they are in a big bowl with enough water covering them as they will expand (depending on the variety, up to three times the original size). Soak for a minimum of 8 hours (overnight). I tend to soak mine for 24 hours or more (changing the water every 8 hours or so) until white bubbles appear in the water. Be sure to throw this water away – it is not the aquafaba!

To cook, place in a large pan and cover with fresh water. Bring to the boil and cook for 1.5 hours. You want to ensure the chickpeas remain covered (you can top up with a little extra water, and keeping a lid on the pan will stop as much evaporation) but try to ensure there isn’t too much extra water. As you cook, white scum will come to the surface. Scoop this off and discard.

After 1.5 hours, drain the chickpeas ensuring you keep the cooking liquid – this is the aquafaba!

I usually cook dry chickpeas 1.5 kg at a time, meaning I end up with about 4 kg cooked chickpeas, and this makes around 2 litres of aquafaba. Chickpeas freeze really well. Decant into glass jars and once completely cool pop into the freezer. Wait until completely frozen until sealing with lids. I use regular glass jars and I have never had one crack.

Aquafaba will keep in the fridge for up to a week so don’t feel like you have to use it straightaway. If you don’t want to use all the aquafaba at once, this freezes really well too. Pour into an ice cube tray and once completely frozen decant into a glass storage container and keep in the freezer.

Aquafaba: How to Turn the Yellow Liquid into White Fluffy Stuff

What you’ll need: a good whisk, and a big bowl…plus a little patience ; )

Pour the yellow chickpea liquid into a big bowl, and start whisking. The bowl needs to be big because as it fluffs up, it will expand to more than 5 times its original volume – so be prepared! You will also need a good whisk. A hand whisk isn’t going to cut it. Neither is a food processor or blender, even a high powered one (I tried). I have a stick blender with a 700W motor, 5 speeds and an additional turbo button, and this just about managed, although the motor did get uncomfortably hot. I would recommend a hand held whisk with two beaters, or a mixmaster or something with a little more power.

Whisking Aquafaba Some More
This is my aquafaba before adding cream of tartar. Because I don’t have a super powerful whisk, I found cream of tartar helped form the stiff peaks you need for meringues.

Chickpea water needs to be whisked for a long time. (Long being relative of course, but in the age of electric gadgets we expect instant results, so be warned!) You will need 10 – 15 minutes of constant whisking to get the aquafaba to full fluffiness and stiff peaks. On the plus side, you don’t seem to be able to overwhisk aquafaba like you can egg whites, and if you need a break from holding the hand whisk (or like me, are worried about burning out a stick blender), it seems fairly forgiving to stop-starting.

Lastly, don’t be too worried about how concentrated your chickpea water is. Remember, egg whites are fairly runny before you whisk them, and aquafaba is the same. If you think your liquid is really watery you can reduce it a little in a pan, but don’t be too worried about this. I reduced 2 cups of aquafaba to 1 cup in a saucepan by simmering, and then whisked, and actually found it fluffed ever so slightly less than the original non-reduced aquafaba. The main thing will be a good whisk, and enough time.

How to Make Aquafaba Meringues

I based my experiments on this basic aqaufaba meringue recipe. Far more meringues than I actually wanted to eat later, I think I’ve mastered the basics. My next challenge is to improve the shape – something I think I will achieve with a slightly better whisk, and probably a little more patience!

Ingredients: 1 cup aquafaba; 1.5 cups granulated sugar, ground into powdered sugar; 1 tsp vanilla essence and 1/2 tsp cream of tartar.

Whisk the aquafaba into stiff peaks. Ideally you want a mixture so stiff that if you turn the bowl upside down, the aquafaba won’t fall out, but my hand whisk isn’t up to beating quite that well. (If yours is, you may not need to cream of tartar.)

Once the peaks are as stiff as you can get them, add the cream of tartar, still whisking. This will help firm up the peaks. Next, add the sugar slowly. This is important… you don’t want to deflate the bubbles you’ve created. Add 1 tbsp powdered sugar at a time, whisking continuously to incorporate. Yes, it takes ages, but rush and you’ll flatten your meringues.

Whisking Aquafaba Before and After Adding Cream of Tartar and Sugar
The bowl on the right is the aquafaba once the cream of tartar and sugar have been added. The sugar gives a shiny gloss to the aquafaba.

When all the sugar is incorporated, add the vanilla essence.

Turn your oven on to the lowest temp. Recipes state the temperature needs to be between 80 – 110°C. My gas oven actually doesn’t go below 120°C but as it never seems to get to temperature anyway, it didn’t matter. Line baking trays with baking paper, and blob the meringue mix onto the paper (I used a soup spoon, and the blobs were about 4cm diameter).

Aquafaba meringues
Aquafaba meringues about to go in the oven. I still haven’t mastered how to keep the shape once they go in the oven…that’s the next challenge!

Pop the meringues into the oven, and leave for 1.5 hours minimum. You aren’t actually trying to cook the meringues but dry them out. If they go brown, your oven is probably on too high.

To test if they are ready, see if you can remove one from the baking paper (ideally without taking the tray out of the oven). If it still sticks, leave in the oven. Keep testing until the meringues can be removed cleanly from the paper. When they are ready, turn the oven off, open the door slightly and leave to cool completely before removing. You’re better off leaving to cool in the oven overnight rather than putting them in a container whilst still slightly warm.

Store in an airtight container if not eating immediately.

Aquafaba Meringues on a Cooling Rack via Instragram

What’s Next – Aquafaba in Baking

If you’re interested in seeing more amazing creations with aquafaba, there is a great Facebook group called Vegan Meringue – Hits and Misses with lots of recipes to try when you’ve mastered the basics. It’s also a great community and a brilliant source of inspiration!

I’m hoping to spend plenty more time in the kitchen experimenting with this stuff! I’ve already attempted making chocolate brownies using aquafaba and was really pleased with the result (especially as it was a first attempt), and with a few more tweaks I’m hoping to perfect this (and share the recipe with you of course). I’m also keen to try macaroons. Playing with aquafaba is so much fun!

Aquafaba chocolate vegan brownie aerial view Aquafaba chocolate brownie slice Chocolate Vegan Brownie

Now it’s your turn to join in! Tell me, have you heard of aquafaba before? Are you tempted to give it a go, or is something holding you back? Have you already experimented with it? Have you created aquafaba masterpieces or struggled with a sticky mess? If you’re a pro, do you have any advice or tips?  Do you have any questions or need any beginners tips…especially in what NOT to do? (I’m no expert, but I’ve had my fair amount of failures in the last couple of weeks!) Or are you totally grossed out by the whole thing?! I’d love to hear your thoughts so please leave a comment below!

39 Responses to A Beginner’s Guide To Aquafaba

  1. Thanks for the idea. I’ve never used it in cooking before and will give it a try next time I cook some chickpeas. I cook mine in a Thermal Cooker- much like a big thermos for my pot- and like how little energy I use in the process.

    • It’s definitely worth giving a go Alison! It’s like a fun science experiment! I’ve been wondering about using a thermal cooker – I read some reviews and I think it would be really useful in Perth because boiling on the stove creates so much extra heat, and with 40 degree summers extra heat isn’t helpful! What sort of thermal cooker do you have?

  2. Great post! I’ve always wanted to try, but I don’t usually eat chickpeas, so I tried with kidney bean water. It works in terms of whisking (turns into pink peaks), but the taste was horrible (even with sugar) and the meringue turned soggy after just a few hours. Failed experiment, but now at least I can warn others and move on to the ‘real’ chickpea stuff ;)

    • Hi Annika! I tried a month or so before this with the water from adzuki beans, but I couldn’t get it to froth very much at all. That said, I didn’t know then that you need to allow 10 mins or so. Interesting how all the beans are slightly different! White beans are meant to be the most flavourless, but I found I couldn’t notice the taste of chickpeas once I’d added sugar – although I added vanilla extract as well just to be safe.

      Good luck with the experiments!

  3. Very creative solution for the chickpea water! I am impressed by your dedication and patience. I would fear that my (very powerful) whisk would get overheated. I actually read about using aquafaba to make meringues on a vegan website. I am not too eager to try this recipe myself because I have never really liked meringues. Am looking forward to other aquafaba applications though. By the way, I recently learned about a way to save energy while cooking beans: cook the beans 5-15 minutes on the stove and then wrap the pot in a big warm blanket. After 12 hours or so they are finished. Never tried this myself, but maybe you can give it a shot and let us know what you think of it.

    • Hats off to the person who invented this, for sure! Ah, it was all good fun. I actually agree with you about meringues – I had to go and buy refined sugar for the first time in years to try this out…and I don’t really like eating them! Especially as we had nothing to go with them. My husband ate most of them and we both took some to our workplaces to share around.

      I’m interested in trying this – or using some other thermal cooker – although I wonder whether there are less digestible cooked this way? I won’t be trying for a while as I have several tons of chickpeas to eat first – plus we will be moving shortly!

  4. I read about aquafaba a while ago in one of your facebook posts and researched it. I felt prepared to try it. Cooked chickpeas for a whole long time and after the cooking water cooled down, I used one of those handheld automatic whisks to get it fluffy. The thing did actually heat up a lot and even started stinking. The chickpea water never wanted to change consistency, my hands were burning though.
    Will try again but I’ve got to find some fun things to do with chickpeas before.
    Thanks much for the detailed description! Very helpful.

    • Oh, I’m sorry to hear it didn’t work for you Inge : ( At least if you fail, you haven’t lost anything except your time! It’s not like when you make a cake with lots of expensive ingredients and then it burns / sinks / otherwise fails. My hand whisk is 700W and has 5 speed settings and a turbo button, and I used it on 5 with the turbo. It did get almost too hot to touch after 10 minutes. Do you know what power yours has?

      I might see if someone I know has a really good beater I can borrow to play with for a while : )

    • Hey Inge, I tried them today and found the aquafaba was not whisking or fluffing well, so I put it on the stovetop for a bit and that seemed to do the trick. I’m not sure if it was because of the temperature change or what, but as it started fluffing immediately once I had simmered it.

      • Yes, I tried but I think I didn’t do it right. Have to try it again. I’m intrigued by the idea of having a vegan butter alternative, but this one doesn’t seem to be very easy to make. I don’t think I got the aquafaba right in the first place though :-)

  5. So I made some! It took about half a day at least… and a lot of trial and error. I found the aquafab was not fluffing straight some the fridge, so I put in on the stovetop for ten minutes and then it whisked and fluffed really easy. It didn’t get desirable stiff peaks or as glossy as yours either. Tastes good though, not sure if I could be patient enough to try again. I had the day off sick today so was in no rush. Thanks for sharing :)

    • Hi Amanda, thanks so much for sharing your experiences! I left mine on the side so that may have helped, plus Australia is pretty warm this time of year ; ) Mine only got the stiff peaks after a lot of whisking, and they weren’t as stiff as some I’ve seen. I think you need a badass whisk for best results. As for going glossy, that’s only once you add the sugar.

      You’re right, it does take some patience! I’m keen to try macaroons, but they are next-level patience I believe, so we’ll see how that goes!

  6. Lindsey, your writings are fantastic. This aquafaba is something totally new to me. One thing caught my eye and that was baking paper. How do you dispose of that? Thanks

    • Hi timikonya, thank you! Isn’t aquafaba a revelation?! I do use baking paper in cooking – I wrote about my reasons here http://treadingmyownpath.com/2015/07/23/avoiding-a-visit-from-the-plastic-free-police/ if you’re interested : )

      I buy a green eco friendly product from a company called If You Care. I always use both sides of the sheet and find that if I give it a quick wipe and dry (I hang it up with a peg!) then I can get multiple uses from the same piece. Once I’ve used several times, I tear and put in the worm farm. Worms like having some kind of bedding – coconut coir or shredded paper is perfect – so I use here. Eventually they eat it and make it into worm castings I can use in my garden.

      I hope that helps!

  7. I have managed to cook and get the aquafaba today. I wanted to check the storage rules and bumped on to this site. Seemed pretty impressive. So you say 1 week in the fridge which is my trials time. So I want to bake a choc cake or a brownie and frost it with this. Let me try

  8. So excited to hear about aquafaba meringues. Used my magimix, added the sugar after it turned white with a little vanilla essence. Gt to lovely white fluffy peaks, scooped it onto a baking tray. Put the oven at 100 degrees and it all turned back to liquid within minutes. Where did I go wrong??

    • Hi Sharon, sorry to hear about the mis-hap. I’m no expert, but a couple of things might help – firstly, cream of tartar will help hold the structure better. Secondly, it’s possible your oven was too hot. You want to get it as cold as you can really whilst still being on! If you have a fan oven, turning the fan bit off might help too. Don’t be disheartened!

      PS All the experts hang out here so you will find lots of tips here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/VeganMeringue/

  9. Hi,
    Since chick peas are not common in my country, i’ve been making it with various beans. Tofu water (fresh tofu) too light, and green bean won’t stiff. But I made a good stiff one with black beans & red beans even from hot aquafaba in less than 10 minutes. When I turn the bowl up side down it just stay there.so good. But there is a problem (i saw u talk about it too)
    It get soften. i move it into plastic bag. But the pan is not enough. I take another pan, prepare the paper. Some of stif peak became water again… After the baking too. i leave it on table, my meringue become soft. I only ate or 5 good merigue… Crack to the bottom. Do you know how to keep it stif and hard? i want to sell it but I can’t if the soften problem hasn’t solve. Can u help?
    Does the chick peas aquafaba sticky? My red beans and black beans not sticky though. I’m still wondering about the needed thickness.
    i try to give cocoa powder to stiff peak, it become water.Not soft peak like with sugar. it’s water and I wont even become harder again. any suggestion about this? Thank you

  10. I made a lemon meringue pie today using aqua faba for the meringue. Even with vanilla extract I could still taste the chick peas. Is this usual. Apart from that it was great.

    • Hi Angela, glad to hear it worked for you – despite the taste! I’ve never noticed that problem myself. I have a couple of suggestions – using more vanilla essence (!) or trying white beans instead. They are meant to have less flavour than the chickpeas. Let me know if you give it another go! :)

  11. I enjoyed reading the info here. I recently heard about aquafaba. I’m always experimenting, so I was very willing to try this. I’m not much into meringue, but I like the idea of using it in baking. I’ve made a vegan cornbread using aquafaba in place of an egg. My kids never knew the difference. I also used it in my favorite vegan pancake recipe to make waffles. It also turned out amazing. Yesterday I cooked chickpeas in my crockpot, which gave me lots of aquafaba and chickpeas to freeze for use in the future. I’m very excited about the baking possibilities. I’m still experimenting. Thanks for your insights.

    • Thanks Sheryl :) I’m with you, I love to experiment, but I’m not actually a huge fan of meringue. But I didn’t think about that until I’d made heaps of them, and then I made my husband take them to work to use them up! I’ve used aquafaba a bit in cakes and things, and find it works well generally, but if the recipe is gluten-free it can be trickier. Still, it’s a cheap ingredient to play around with!

  12. I’ve found I like to add salt to the soaking water for chickpeas so that the savoriness soaks inside the chickpeas and adds flavor. Yesterday I tried and failed at making a mayonnaise from the resulting Aquafaba, which I also made quite thick (was jelly-like). I was using a food processor which a few people are showing success with on YouTube. Do you have any suggestion on what the most likely culprit is for the emulsion not taking hold? It basically turned into a thick white-ish soup but wouldn’t ever stiffen. Other ingredients were apple cider vinegar, mustard, and some black salt.

Share your thoughts!