If, for one reason or another, you’re trying to eat less eggs or planning to totally remove it from your diet, here’s something you can try out

By Catherine Orda | Photo by Toa Heftiba/Unsplash

Whatever you think of vegans, it’s hard to question their ingenuity. They’ve devised novel ways to create imitations of and substitutions to animal products. Rice paper bacon and nut-based cheese; bean burger patties and tofu turkey ham. It all sounds rather tedious, but there is always something to admire in well-intentioned rigor—in efforts to make food a little bit healthier, a little less cruel. For a while, though, this inventiveness was often harshly tempered by recipes that required the use of eggs. It seemed that no plant-based food could come close to the sticky consistency and almost neutral taste of the ubiquitous egg.

An Unlikely Solution

In March 2015, a software engineer named Goose Wohlt found the unlikely solution. He and his wife discovered French cook Joel Roessel’s vegan meringue recipe, which used, in place of egg whites, the liquid in which chickpeas are soaked. As the couple followed the recipe, they found that whipping the liquid instantly formed beautiful white stiff peaks—just like what happens when using egg whites. It turns out that the thick, starchy liquid we’ve been dumping down the drain can make batches of vegan chocolate mousse, eggless whisky sours, and fluffy vegan pancakes.

 

Dubbed aquafaba (after the Latin words for water and bean), the now sought-after ingredient has since been the center of a quiet culinary phenomenon. Sir Kensington’s, a condiment company, bought 20,000 gallons in 2016 to make Fabanaise—aquafaba-based mayonnaise. The New York Times, Serious Eats, and Bon Appetit, among others, have written about the ingredient. It even has its own website.

But What Exactly Is Aquafaba?

Does it taste any good? Does it have any health benefits? Should you even bother trying it out if you’re not vegan? Having a very similar composition to chickpeas, aquafaba is made up of starches, protein, and vegetable gum. When used in baking or cooking, it’s hard to tell how it’s different from egg whites taste-wise. It’s really nothing special. Except that it has a vastly lower calorie content than egg whites.

 

Italian meringue #vegan macarons filled with chocolate ganache

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The whites of one egg have about 17 calories while two tablespoons of aquafaba (that’s the equivalent amount of whites in one egg) have about six calories. That may not be enough reason for some people but considering the already good caloric reputation of egg whites, this is saying a lot. The ingredient—which is also naturally gluten-free–remains to be a great egg substitute for those who can’t (or won’t) eat eggs. It also helps that it’s free of the things that make using eggs in drinks a hassle, like the sometimes foul smell or the risk of catching salmonella.

Whether you’re convinced to try it out or not, here are some aquafaba recipes you can try out: butter, pizza crust, chocolate cake, mozzarella cheese, and lemon meringue pie.