Our resident Mad Genius is back, and he wants you to put beans in your dessert.  

Mad Genius Tips Vegan Meringue
Credit: Food & Wine

Fun fact: You know that slimy liquid that’s leftover after you’ve strained a can of chickpeas? It has a name. And you shouldn’t pour it down the drain.

You may have heard about aquafaba (which, if my high school Latin serves me, translates to “bean water”) on the internet. There is a small group of devotees who are currently exploring its applications in the home kitchen—according to the Official Aquafaba Website, this oft-neglected ingredient has “a wide spectrum of emulsifying, foaming, binding, gelatinizing and thickening properties.”

Our Mad Genius’ favorite use for it? Appeasing his vegan friends. “How do you know someone’s a vegan?” he asks. “Because they won’t eat your meringues!” Luckily, he’s here to show us that aquafaba is an excellent substitute for egg whites. These chickpea-water desserts are perfect for those who are vegan, egg-free, or just want to try something new. “It’s crazy. It’s bizarre. But it totally works, and it’s totally genius.”

Add the aquafaba to the bowl of a stand mixer and add a ½ teaspoon of cream of tartar, a stabilizer that is often used to firm up whipped cream or egg whites. Beat the mixture until it starts to foam, at which point you can gradually begin to add sugar (one tablespoon at a time).

The mixture is ready when it turns white and begins to form stiff peaks—exactly like the whipped egg whites used for a traditional meringue. And you can treat it much the same; spoon or pipe onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, adding swirls or other ornamentation if you’d like. “Bake” them in the typical meringue method, drying them out at a very low temperature—Justin suggests 200°F—for around 2 hours. Once cooled, they should have the texture and snap you’d expect in any non-vegan version.

For more kitchen hacks, check out the rest of Food & Wine’s Mad Genius Tips.