A fruit pavlova and a spoon.

Image: A fruit pavlova made with aquafaba | Vegan Society

I, too, asked myself that question after having seen the name on an internet blog. It sounds like the name of a character from The Neverending Story, perhaps a quirky friend of Falcor. But “aquafaba” is actually a real thing—a real, nutritious thing that vegans and vegetarians are using as an alternative to dairy and eggs in just about anything, including mayo. Aquafaba is the name for that liquid your beans come in if you buy them canned. You’re probably used to pouring it down the drain, but maybe you should be pouring it down your gullet.

Aquafaba can come from all kinds of beans from black to garbanzo, and people seem to like it best when it’s been vigorously whipped. When it’s whipped, aquafaba looks a little like whipped egg whites or foam, and it can be baked or mixed into other things that would ordinarily need an organic binder like eggs. Supposedly, aquafaba was first used by French chef Joel Roessel, who liked to experiment with the liquid from canned products. He successfully made some tasty chocolate mousse using aquafaba in 2014. There are lots of video cooking tutorials to see now!

But because this product is a fairly new discovery, having been in use for cooking purposes only the last several years, there isn’t a lot of nutritional information available, though it’s fairly safe to assume it won’t do anything detrimental to your diet. A recent analysis discovered that aquafaba contains about three to five calories per tablespoon, but it’s not a very good source of other stuff like protein or carbohydrates.

There are lots of things you can make with aquafaba. Meringues are made simple, and ice cream will hold together the same as a traditional recipe. Do some research on sweet and savory recipes and you could have a new, healthy alternative to dairy that you probably already have in your pantry!