by Luke Hertzler

I’ve made a lot of plant-based creations I’m excited about, but my aquafaba ice cream adventures are what I most want to share with you. Aquafaba (which translates, bean water) is the liquid that you pour out when you’re draining a can of chickpeas, but it can be from any other beans as well. 

I came across a cookie recipe this summer that had aquafaba in it. When I looked up this new ingredient, I became frustrated that I had been pouring this precious liquid down the drain each time I had canned chickpeas. As I researched, I read that aquafaba was a good substitute for egg whites in meringues, mousses, and even mayonnaise or could be used as a whipped cream of sorts. I can now attest to the mousse and mayo claim, but at the time, I looked at the chickpea liquid and thought,  “How can this be?” As I read further, I realized that it needed to be mixed intensely to create the foamy white fluff. 

Here is the history behind the origin of aquafaba: While actively looking for egg substitutes, Joël Roessel, a singer from France, discovered through a systematic investigation into vegetable foams, that liquid from red kidney beans and hearts of palm can be coerced into a foam. He posted his results on his blog. This provided a key contribution to unlocking the secret of aquafaba. A few months later, two French foodies tried chickpeas with great success. Then Goose Wohlt discovered that one could truly make a meringue with the chickpea mixture, and following that success, a Facebook group made this hidden secret available to the public.

Ice cream recipes kept popping up that required aquafaba, and this intrigued me. I had a bit of success in my mom’s kitchen, hand mixing the aquafaba, but when I tried it this past month with a KitchenAid mixer, my attempt this summer looked feeble. I bought a can of chickpeas at the local Bent and Dent store here in Iowa, used the chickpea and drained the remaining ¾ cup of liquid into my bowl. 

The aquafaba and a little cream of tartar grew in size and overtook my mixing bowl as I let the mixer go for about six minutes. Then I added the sugar and vanilla while continuing to beat for another three minutes. (Some recipes call for oil as well if you want it creamier.) You can blend up add-ins with plant-based milk and fold them in, so I tried berry chocolate chip and chocolate peanut butter banana flavors. Freeze it overnight, and you have an airy substitute for ice cream that maintains a similar texture and consistency. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.