Basics: Want Cocktail Foam Without Using Eggs? Try Aquafaba
Leftover chickpea water may be the last thing you’ve considered adding to your cocktail, but increasingly, bartenders are swearing by it. Known as aquafaba, this substance—once discarded without a second thought—is now used to make vegan-approved cocktails around the globe. Here’s the down low on this underrated ingredient.
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So, What Is Aquafaba?
“Aquafaba is basically starchy bean water,” reveals Belle Stein, bar manager of Mint Mark in Madison, Wisconsin. Essentially the water in which those beans have been cooked, “it can be [from] any legume, but specifically, chickpea water is the best” for use in cocktails. The term comes from the Latin words for water (aqua) and bean (faba).
Aquafaba is rich in substances that are also found in eggs, including the proteins albumin and globulin. It also contains saponin, a plant-derived chemical that can help form stable foams. Altogether, these substances make aquafaba behave strikingly like an egg white, a key ingredient in the whiskey sour, Ramos gin fizz and other beloved cocktails. In recent years, aquafaba has emerged as an essential cocktail ingredient for vegans and those who eschew raw eggs, delivering frothy foam and a rich mouthfeel.
Stein wasn’t the first to discover aquafaba’s magic—that claim to fame goes to vegan chef and tenor singer Joël Roessel. In late 2014, while experimenting with egg substitutes he found that water sourced from legumes produced a suitable foam. A few months later, Goose Wohlt, an Indiana software engineer who’d recently gone vegan, was recipe testing eggless meringues and found chickpea liquid a satisfactory replacement for egg whites. He named the substance “aquafaba.” By 2017, it was popular enough to warrant an entry in the Oxford English Dictionary.
A website dedicated to aquafaba—Aquafaba.com, of course—stresses that the ingredient’s accessibility is key to its success. “It meant that anyone in the world could use the ubiquitous liquid from legumes as a general egg replacer through technique alone, not additional ingredients,” the site notes. The revelation “opened up a whole new, exciting world of eggless recipes,” which eventually spilled over into the world of cocktails.
“We can be more inclusive of our guests and offer something vegan they can enjoy,” adds Stein.
Eleazar Barbosa, the mixologist at Casa de Sierra Nevada in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, agrees. “Water from chickpeas and other legumes has a texture similar to egg whites,” he says, adding that it gives body to otherwise non-viscous cocktails.
Canned or Homemade?
Those making vegan versions of cocktails that traditionally call for egg whites have a few options when it comes to sourcing aquafaba. You can, of course, go the dried chickpea route: Prepare them like normal and reserve the cooking liquid. Viola! You have aquafaba. (Check out the recipe below for more detailed instructions.)
Or, you can just march straight to the canned food aisle. “An easy cheat if you’re making cocktails at home is to just buy canned chickpeas and strain the water out,” Stein offers. At her bar, Stein prefers to use canned aquafaba because it’s “foolproof” and helps “make sure your aquafaba is consistent”—an important consideration given that customers expect a drink to taste the same each time.
Not sure what to do with the leftover chickpeas? Make hummus or another dish. If you intend to use aquafaba sparingly, Stein also notes that you can seal it in the freezer, which will last months until you defrost it.
If either of those processes sound too complicated, powdered aquafaba is suitable for cooking and use in cocktails, although it’s pricey—products can run $40 for just 7 ounces.
What Does Aquafaba Taste Like?
Often, when swapping aquafaba for egg whites, the substitution is indetectable in the final product. That said, the ingredient itself can taste a bit like beans. If that’s a concern, consider synthetic aquafaba products like Fee Foam.
“Fee Foam is a more convenient solution to create a nice foam on the cocktails without any odor or taste, helping the cocktail’s flavors to express naturally,” says Daniel Urrea, the beverage director for Boston’s LoLa Hospitality.
How to Use Aquafaba
Anywhere one might use egg whites, aquafaba is a suitable replacement. In cocktails, egg whites lend a creamy texture and a thick layer of foam that sits atop the drink. Aquafaba can do much the same.
Stein uses aquafaba in her signature East Side Sour, which features violet-hued blend of apple brandy, toasted chickpea orgeat, fermented plum juice and red wine. She came up with the idea after eating regional meals that leaned heavily on chickpeas and hummus on a trip to Israel. “I wanted to use the chickpeas and the leftover water to create a no-waste cocktail,” she says.
One can also find it in the Sir Paul’s, a vegan spin on the Pisco sour at Verōnika, the bar at photography museum Fotografiska in New York City. Pisco, a high-proof brandy common to Peru and Chile, delivers fruity, spicy and floral notes that play well with the aquafaba.
Looking for other aquafaba-based cocktails? Simply swap it in for egg whites in the recipes for the whiskey sour, Ramos gin fizz, Pink Lady, Millionaire cocktail, Pisco sour, Lavender Haze, Opera Glasses and other drinks.
How to Make Aquafaba
Recipe courtesy of Eleazar Barbosa
- 1000 grams dried chickpeas
- 2 x 500 g of water
Soak the chickpeas in 500 grams of water overnight in the refrigerator. Discard the water, add 500 grams of fresh water and boil. Strain and save the leftover chickpea water in a bottle labeled with the date and time.
How Long Is Aquafaba Good For?
Unopened, the canned stuff will stay fresh for as long as indicated by the date stamped on the label. Once opened, aquafaba will last up to five days in the fridge. Under refrigeration, homemade versions will stay fresh for up to 12 hours. Both canned and homemade aquafaba can last for months in the freezer.
How Much Aquafaba Equals One Egg?
According to Bob’s Red Mill, two tablespoons of aquafaba is equivalent to one egg white. If seeking a substitute for a whole egg, use three tablespoons.
Can You Freeze Aquafaba?
Yes! As mentioned earlier, aquafaba can last for months in the freezer. Once defrosted, it behaves just like fresh aquafaba.
Where Can I Buy Aquafaba?
Anywhere canned beans and dried beans are sold. Headline online to find products like aquafaba powder and synthetic aquafaba items like Fee Foam.
Last Updated: October 24, 2023