Just when we thought we’d seen it all when it comes to chickpeas, they got us again—this time, as “butter.”
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.
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).
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Here’s how it stacks up:
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.
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).
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).
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).
(Note: Prices here are intended to serve as a rough guide, and will vary based on grocery store.)
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.
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).
Ella Quittner is a a writer at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches. You can follow her on Instagram @equittner, or Twitter at @ellaquittner.