Butter

Butter That's Vegan and Made from Chickpeas? We Tried It.

August 10, 2018

Just when we thought we’d seen it all when it comes to chickpeas, they got us again—this time, as “butter.”

Like this, only plant-based and vegan. Photo by James Ransom

Butter made from aquafaba, to be precise. As a refresher, aquafaba is that cloudy liquid you likely pour off when you crack open a can of chickpeas. You may remember it as the magical ingredient we’ve used to emulsify and bind vegan versions of everything from cheese to meringues to mayonnaise.

The name “aquafaba,” coined in 2015 by an early tinkerer, came from the Latin words for bean and water—and while chickpeas are a very common source, the term technically encompasses cooking water or canning liquid from a whole host of legumes. The specifics behind how aquafaba works are still murky, but it’s thought that the combination of starches and proteins enable the fluid to behave as a stabilizer, emulsifier, binder, and leavener.

Enter the latest in chickpea-based miracle, well, whips: FabaButter—or as we’ve been calling it, “I Can Believe It’s Not Butter, But It’s Still Pretty Good.” FabaButter is produced by Fora Foods, and like most trends, it hails from Brooklyn. In addition to aquafaba—sourced from hummus manufacturers’ leftovers—the spread is made from coconut oil, coconut cream, sunflower oil, and some (non-GMO, vegan) seasonings. According to the folks at Fora Foods, aquafaba plays double duty in their butter: It acts as an emulsifier to bind together the various oils and fats, and it provides a mouthfeel that mimics that of the dairy stuff.

Hi. This is FabaButter👩🏽‍🍳

A post shared by Fora (@forafoods) on

In all fairness, the concept behind butter made with aquafaba is nothing new—it’s existed in vegan circles since at least 2015—but FabaButter is the first commercially available version. Currently, you can buy it at any Eataly location in the U.S. ($7.98 for a 15-ounce tub).

Shop the Story

Here’s how it stacks up:


TASTE

Unsurprisingly, FabaButter tastes better warm, as in pooled into melty pockets across the craterous surface of toasted sourdough, or drizzled over popcorn. Eaten cold, the spread has a distinct aftertaste that’s not totally unpleasant, but reads as earthy.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“Like aquafaba is genius as a name.)”
— cranberry
Comment

When used as a cooking fat (scrambled eggs, sautéed onions), FabaButter’s earthiness completely dissipates—but so do most of its buttery flavor notes, unless you use an impractical quantity (like, three times the amount of dairy butter you’d use for the same task).


USEFULNESS AS A BUTTER SUBSTITUTE

As promised by The New York Times’ Florence Fabricant, FabaButter does, in fact, brown when heated. However, said browning doesn’t have a material flavor effect (unlike with dairy butter, which, at the point of browning, reminds you with great urgency that it’s the only thing you’ll ever want to eat or smell for the rest of your life).

FabaButter foams and browns, much like its dairy counterpart. Photo by Ella Quittner

When we used FabaButter to fry an egg, it got most of the job done in that it prevented the egg from sticking to the skillet as it cooked, but curiously, it didn’t impart any crispiness. We re-ran this test a few times and were able to achieve a little bit of crisp around the egg's edges at a very high temperature (i.e., spitting-pan-hot).

Our fried egg experiment yielded curiously un-crispy results. Photo by Ella Quittner

Given the earthy flavor of cold FabaButter, we were apprehensive about how it would hold up as a chilled butter substitute. It far exceeded expectations in a batch of salted chocolate “buttercream” frosting (which we made by creaming 1 cup of FabaButter, 2 cups of confectioners’ sugar, 1/3 cup of Dutch-processed cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract)—all traces of “bean-iness” were completely masked.


TEXTURE & MOUTHFEEL

When cold or at room temperature, FabaButter is similar in texture and mouthfeel to whipped dairy butter, though it seems to liquify more consistently and slightly more quickly when heated.

A series of toast- and radish-oriented trials revealed that FabaButter achieves ideal spreadability after being left out on the counter for about 20 minutes (full disclosure: These trials were conducted at peak New York City-summer-temperatures).


AFFORDABILITY

On a per-ounce basis, FabaButter ($7.98 for 15 ounces) is more affordable than select specialty vegan butter products and ghee, on par with coconut oil products, and pricier than most margarines, plain old whipped and unwhipped butters, and other non-coconut, plant-based spreads.

(Note: Prices here are intended to serve as a rough guide, and will vary based on grocery store.)


THE VERDICT

Is FabaButter the gold-standard of aquafaba-based spreads, as its all-natural tinting would suggest? It’s early to say—it’s the first of its kind—but we were pleasantly surprised by its spreadability, versatility, and overall flavor.


WHAT TO DO WITH ALL THOSE LEFTOVER CHICKPEAS

Have you cooked with aquafaba butter? Would you buy it? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

Order now

The Food52 Vegan Cookbook is here! With this book from Gena Hamshaw, anyone can learn how to eat more plants (and along the way, how to cook with and love cashew cheese, tofu, and nutritional yeast).

Order now

20 Comments

cranberry October 8, 2018
I'd like to know why they insist on calling it butter. Butter has dairy. <br />Margarine is plant-based. Seems like they should be calling it Fabmarg or something. These plant-based products need to come up with new language that doesn't imply dairy. (Like aquafaba is genius as a name.)
 
Veronica August 16, 2018
What is the packaging? Struggling to decrease my plastic consumption along with adopting more vegan options.
 
Author Comment
Ella Q. August 16, 2018
Hi Veronica,<br /><br />The container is made of plastic, unfortunately, but I've found it to be reusable as Tupperware.<br /><br />Ella
 
Rosalind P. August 16, 2018
AF is amazing, straight, as is, as a substitute for egg white. I have made gorgeous meringue with it and have used it to substitute for eggs in man baking recipes. It was fun, almost like a magic trick, but I stopped because no way on earth could I use all of those chickpeas. HOWEVER, I have heard rumors that some company is planning to package it in bulk for consumers. There is so much commercial hummus now that much of that liquid is being wasted. I will be first in line to buy it.!!
 
Author Comment
Ella Q. August 16, 2018
Hi Rosalind,<br /><br />That's fascinating! We'll have to keep an eye out.<br /><br />Ella
 
witloof September 1, 2018
I've been in the grocery store when I hear people come in asking for chickpea brine. The staff are always stumped and I usually jump in and say that you have to buy a can of chickpeas and drain off the bean liquid. I have seen such consternation and disappointment, I bet canned aquafaba would be a hit.
 
Author Comment
Ella Q. September 3, 2018
Agreed!
 
Karen August 16, 2018
Any thoughts on how FabaButter compares to Miyokos Cultured Vegan Butter (sold at Trader Joe's)?
 
Author Comment
Ella Q. August 16, 2018
Hi Karen,<br /><br />I haven't tried the Miyokos Cultured Vegan Butter, but I'm definitely curious (I love their vegan cheese). I'll let you know if I try it!<br /><br />Ella
 
MikeCC August 13, 2018
As someone who's never tried a "fake" butter, I'm wondering if they're usable in baking breads and cakes. What about sauces? Thanx
 
Author Comment
Ella Q. August 13, 2018
Hi Mike,<br /><br />You could definitely use FabaButter in most sauces--it acts much like butter when heated on the stovetop. I haven't tested all of the permutations, but according to Fora Foods, it can be used in many baking cases, including trickier things like croissants, puff pastry, and Kouign-amann--I'd be curious to hear how it goes, if you try it out!<br /><br />Ella
 
Rosalind P. September 3, 2018
whether or not any butter substitute can be used in baking depens primarily on its fat/water proportions. American butter is 80–82 percent milk fat, 16–17 percent water, and 1–2 percent milk solids other than fat (sometimes referred to as curd). It may contain salt , added directly to the butter in concentrations of 1 to 2 percent. Unsalted butter is often referred to as “sweet” butter. European butter is higher in fat. For most baking, butter substitute would have to be at least the same as the American butter -- unless you are a food scientist and can adjust the recipe to reflect the liquid/fat ingredients. For other uses, the liquid/fat ration isn't as critical. <br />
 
Rosalind P. September 3, 2018
meant to add that beyond the issue of fat/liquid there is also the matter of how it tastes and how the other ingredients might "mask" flavors of the subsitutes
 
suzybel63 August 12, 2018
I’d like to try this if it ever comes to Canada. We are woefully behind in Vegan supplies.
 
Ttrockwood August 11, 2018
This is exciting! I love seeing new plant based options-although hopefully they can lower the retail and expand the number of stores to make this more accessible
 
Author Comment
Ella Q. August 11, 2018
Hi Ttrockwood,<br /><br />Thanks for your comment! According to the producers, they plan to update their website with news as they expand the number of stores from which FabaButter is available: https://forafoods.com<br /><br />Ella
 
Eric K. August 10, 2018
I had some on my toast earlier this week and, frankly, could NOT tell it wasn't butter! The earthiness doesn't faze me.
 
Author Comment
Ella Q. August 11, 2018
Hi Eric,<br /><br />Thanks for your comment, and for your taste-testing! <br /><br />Ella
 
Diane K. August 10, 2018
I'd love to see the nutritional info so I can calculate WW point value.
 
Author Comment
Ella Q. August 11, 2018
Hi Diane,<br /><br />I have a note into the producers to ask if they have the full nutritional information available in an electronic format--I'll keep you posted! In the meantime, here's a snapshot:<br /><br />Serving size: 1 tbsp (14 g)<br />Per serving:<br />Calories: 90<br />Total fat: 9 g (Saturated fat: 7 g)<br />Total carbohydrates: 0 g<br />Protein: 0 g<br />Sodium: 50 mg<br /><br />Ella