For Valentine’s Day this year I made meringue cookies. Although I’ve made meringue for pies many times, I had never made the cute little crispy cookies. They were a total success and my son said they were one of the best desserts I’ve ever made. Egg whites and sugar, what’s not to love?
About a week later I decided to explore vegan meringues. I was aware of this as a theoretical possibility, but thought it was probably harder than it appeared. Vegan meringue is made from aquafaba. Aquafaba refers to the liquid from cooking any dried bean or legume. Beans leach proteins and carbohydrates into the water they’re cooked in, which transforms that water into a substance rich in those nutrients and ripe for whipping. While aquafaba can come from canned or stovetop cooked beans, most aquafaba-based recipes call for the liquid from canned chickpeas. This is because chickpeas are supposed to have a neutral flavor and reliably consistent starch content. Okay, let’s see if the dessert made from chickpea water really tastes the same as delicious, marshmallowy meringue from egg whites.
For this recipe all you need is one can of chickpeas, cream of tartar, sugar and vanilla. Sounds easy enough, and this will be another opportunity to practice my piping skills.
Liquid from one can of chickpeas – about 3/4 cup
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 225 degrees and line 2 baking pans with parchment.
Using a stand mixer, beat the aquafaba and cream of tartar until it forms soft peaks (see photo below). Add the vanilla. Slowly add the sugar with the mixer running. Mix until stiff peaks are formed.
Use a piping bag to create little swirls and shapes for the cookies. If you don’t have a piping set, just scoop by teaspoons onto the baking sheet. If you’re new to piping, set the bag in a tall container and fold it down so that you have both hands free to fill it. As you can see, my piping skills need more practice. Bake the cookies for 2 hours, then turn off the oven and leave them for another hour until totally hard and cool.
So, it looks like meringue, right? Yes, the chickpea water whipped up beautifully and this recipe was easy. However, it had a funky smell and it was just…. weird. When I tasted the meringue before baking it had a salty, acidic, beanish flavor that I didn’t love. I thought maybe it would go away during baking. I didn’t tell my husband or son what these were made of and just let them taste the results.
They both noticed that something was different. They couldn’t say what was different and still liked them, but frankly they just are not as good. The texture of the finished product is a little different from egg white meringues. These are more starchy? I don’t know. Vegan meringues are a cool thing to make and very easy, but why? They make a great substitute and you probably wouldn’t notice the difference in certain applications where there’s a sauce or some other toppings. But you know, a substitute just isn’t the same.