I first came across vegan macarons on Pinterest (where else?) and I was instantly intrigued. I mean egg whites and meringue are a pretty fundamental ingredient in macarons, so how on earth could they be vegan? Enter aquafaba! If you have never heard of it – I sure as hell had not – aquafaba is the cooking liquid of beans and other legumes like chickpeas. That’s right, these macarons contain chickpea water… but don’t let that put you off. After I read a little more about aquafaba, I discovered it had entire websites, Facebook groups and forums devoted to it. I simply HAD to try it, not least because I was so curious as to whether it would work. After all, macarons can be fiddly little beasts without the added dimension of using an unknown ingredient.
My neighbour’s son (the eternally adorable Aiden) is allergic to eggs so she had already tried to bake with aquafaba – with less than successful results. But that just made me more determined to try making these macarons. A recipe and science experiment all in one – who could resist the challenge? I did my research and the suggestion was that you could either use the liquid drained from cans of chickpeas or make it yourself as Lazy Cat Kitchen does in a very informative blogpost that’s well worth reading (not to mention the entire blog is simply gorgeous). I decided to take the lazy route – after all I wasn’t convinced this would work. So I drained the liquid from two cans of chickpeas and then reduced it on the stove to just less than half its original volume. You need 150ml (5fl oz) of aquafaba (or egg whites) in my recipe and two 400g (14oz) cans will provide you with just the right amount after the reduction. I won’t lie to you – aquafaba doesn’t look, or smell particularly pleasant. My doubts started to take root – I was more than a little worried about wasting expensive ingredients.
Aquafaba is best chilled overnight in the fridge where it takes a similar viscosity to that of egg whites. And it works in exactly the same way as they do – this is actually pretty much the same method as making traditional macarons. The only difference is now I finally have a new ally in the kitchen – my new Thermapen! I used to use a traditional jam thermometer for macarons but, apart from some vintage charm, it really wasn’t very helpful. For one thing it tends to only work with huge jam pots, so less than great with small amounts. For another they can – and do – sometimes break and ruin all your hard work. Not so with the Thermapen. It is so easy to use I wish every single gadget was that straightforward – simply open it and you are ready to go! It also has much greater use seeing as you can use it to test the temperature of meat when cooking – a much better indication for doneness than recommended cooking times which often result in overcooked, dry, roasts. But don’t take my word for it – enter the giveaway at the end of the post for the chance to win one!
I guess that by sharing all these photos I have probably taken all the suspense out of ‘did it work?’… but I was still amazed and incredibly impressed by just how well it worked. Not only were the macarons picture-perfect, they tasted exactly the same as regular macarons. The shells were a touch drier, perhaps, than normal macarons, but once they were filled the shells soften and you get the same taste and mouthfeel. But there are some differences to the method – mostly involving cooking time and oven temperature. The oven temperature has to be lower than traditional macarons – about 120C (250F) as opposed to 150C (300F). Too hot and the macarons will easily burn, too low and they will be cooked on the outside but completely uncooked in the middle. The macaron shells have to be left to dry out for at least an hour or longer and they have to cook for longer, between 20-30 minutes. Do not bake more than one tray at a time – you will end up with unevenly baked macarons if you do – as I learned the hard way.
I filled mine with avocado chocolate mousse (or ‘ganache’ in this case I guess) and they tasted amazing. But you could use any fillings you like – and flavour the macarons any way you like. I can’t wait to try using aquafaba in other recipes as well and I would love to hear from any of you that have tried it before. A note on the avocado ganache – do not add too much coconut oil or the filling will weep into the macarons shells.
- 200g / 7oz icing (powdered) sugar
- 200g / 7oz ground almonds
- 150g / 5 oz aquafaba (see method) divided into 2 x 75 g / 2½ oz quantities
- 200g / 7oz caster sugar
- 50 ml / ⅕ cup water
- blue colouring paste (or colouring of your choice)
Avocado chocolate 'ganache'
- Flesh of two medium ripe avocados
- 4-5 tbsp agave nectar, more if needed
- 3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tbsp coconut oil, melted
- ½ tbsp vanilla extract or paste
- Drain the liquid from two 400g (14oz) cans of chickpeas into a saucepan. Weigh the pot and make a note of the weight. Simmer over medium-low heat until the liquid is reduced by about half – since you need 150ml (5fl oz) for the recipe it is best to reduce the liquid to just over that. It took about 10-15 minutes for the liquid to reduce, but best check it on a scale periodically as you don't want to end up with too little! Cool completely, transfer to a jar and chill in the fridge overnight.
- Sift the ground almonds and icing sugar into a large bowl. Pour half the aquafaba into the bowl and mix together vigorously until the mixture forms a paste.
- Put the caster sugar and water in a saucepan. Put the rest of the aquafaba in the bowl of your stand mixer.
- Bring the sugar to the boil and have your Thermapen handy. When the sugar temperature reaches 110C / 230F start whisking the aquafaba on high speed. Keep checking the sugar with the Thermapen – once it reaches 117 C /242F pour it carefully down the side of your mixing bowl while still whisking on medium speed.
- Increase the speed to highest setting and continue whisking for 8-10 minutes till the mixing bowl is cool. You will have a very glossy 'meringue' (unlike egg whites my aquafaba meringue never formed firm peaks both times I made this recipe – this didn't seem to have any adverse effects on the macarons however). Add the colouring paste and mix it in until you have the right colour – best start with a tiny amount and increase if needed.
- Add the almond paste to the meringue bowl and mix it together until it's well combined. Don't be afraid to be quite forceful when mixing it and make sure you scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl. The consistency of the batter is very important - it needs to flow smoothly and when dropped back into the bowl it should spread slowly.
- Line 4 heavy trays with baking parchment - secure the paper by dotting a bit of macaron batter on each of the tray corners.
- Put the batter into a piping bag with a 1 cm / ½-inch plain round nozzle. Pipe small rounds of batter onto the baking parchment, spaced slightly apart as the macarons will spread when cooking. Use a template if you want absolute uniformity or draw circles using a cookie cutter.
- Carefully but forcefully knock the trays against your worktop to release any air bubbles. I found the vegan macarons actually were more uniform and had fewer imperfections than the regular kind.
- Leave them to dry out for an hour or longer until the tops are touch dry.
- Preheat the oven to 120C / 250F. Once the shells are touch dry, bake the trays one at a time for 25-30 minutes, checking them after 20. If your oven tends to have hot spots, rotate the tray halfway through the baking time. The macarons are ready when they have a smooth, dry top and are firm to the touch. Leave them to cool down completely before carefully lifting off the baking paper. At this point you can transfer them to a cooling rack and leave them overnight, covered with a clean tea towel. Or store them in the fridge.
- Place all the ingredients for the filling in a blender or food processor and blitz until completely smooth. Test for sweetness, transfer to a pipping bag filled with a small round tip and chill until needed.
- Pair the macaron shells by size. Carefully pipe the filling around the edge of the shells and then fill the inside. Sandwich together and either serve immediately, or chill in the fridge overnight. This will make the shells softer and give the macarons the right mouthfeel.