Now it's possible to make all of your favorite dishes using silky sweet Italian meringue without even cracking an egg! This recipe is vegan-friendly, egg-free, dairy-free, soy-free, and gluten-free! This meringue is made from a clever ingredient - aquafaba.
What is Italian meringue?
Italian meringue involves whisking your protein, aquafaba, to stiff peaks. Then hot sugar syrup is added to the mixture, which is the main difference between Italian and French meringue, which is made by whisking in regular sugar granules. The sugar syrup is heated to 240°F and then added to the whipped aquafaba to create a stable and viscous meringue that holds its shape and is perfect as a topping for many desserts.
What is aquafaba?
Aquafaba is the viscous liquid leftover from cooking chickpeas or other white legumes. Sounds yucky? I thought so too, but honestly, you won't be able to taste it at all! The flavor is completely neutral once whipped up and the substance will take on the flavor and sweetness of the sugar you're using.
Aquafaba is an innovative alternative to using egg whites which are traditionally used for meringue recipes. It can be used to make cakes and brownies, marshmallows, meringues, and many other vegan-friendly versions of classic desserts and treats!
- Aquafaba: This is the egg white replacer and the main ingredient for the vegan Italian meringue. It becomes light and foamy when air is incorporated, just like egg whites.
- Caster sugar: The white sugar creates a beautiful light fluffy meringue. If you’re based in the US, it’s important to note that not all white sugar is vegan-friendly due to how it is processed. It is sometimes filtered using animal bone char. Look for vegan-friendly brands or organic sugar which doesn’t use this method of processing.
- Cream of tartar: This is a form of tartaric acid, otherwise known as potassium bitartrate. It’s actually a by-product of winemaking and is used widely in baking. This acid works as a stabilizer for the whipped aquafaba – giving a more stable and stiff end result.
- You'll also need some water (which I don't usually list as an ingredient but it's an integral part of the recipe!)
How to make vegan Italian meringue (with step-by-step images)
(Full ingredient quantities and instructions can be found in the recipe card at the end of this post)
Prepare the aquafaba
First, you'll want to reduce the aquafaba to increase its potency. This step is not always necessary, although I do recommend it as reducing the aquafaba increases its potency and makes the consistency a closer match to egg whites. If your aquafaba is already thick, you can skip the following step and use half the amount of aquafaba (chickpea brine) listed in the recipe.
Take a large clean bowl, making sure it's completely dry and free of grease. Add the aquafaba and cream of tartar to a large bowl and whisk on high speed for 10 minutes until soft peaks form.
Make the sugar syrup
Add the caster sugar and water to a saucepan and gently stir. Allow the mixture to sit for a minute until the sugar dissolves into a paste. If you aren't using a candy thermometer, take a glass and fill it halfway with water, set it aside for testing the sugar syrup later.
Place the saucepan on medium-high heat and allow the mixture to come to a simmer and bubble. DO NOT STIR the mixture throughout the entire process, just don't be tempted - it will ruin the mix! You can use a wet pastry brush to brush down the edges of the sugar sticking to the side of the pan - personally, I haven't found this necessary, as long as you have combined the sugar and water well before heating you should be good.
Place your candy thermometer into the syrup and continue to simmer until the mixture reaches 116°C (240°F) - about 10-12 minutes.
Combine the sugar syrup and aquafaba
Once the sugar syrup has reached the correct temperature begin to add it to the whipped aquafaba and continue to whisk until the mixture is incorporated. Whisk the aquafaba mixture for another 5 minutes before transferring it to a piping bag fitted with a nozzle of choice.
Use a candy thermometer
Using a candy thermometer will ensure that you get the exact temperature required to make the perfect meringue. Although it's possible to make Italian meringue without a thermometer, it's much easier to do it with one! You can pick up a candy thermometer for relatively cheap online.
If you don't have a candy thermometer and are happy to dive in and get to making your meringue (whilst keeping a watchful eye on it), you can use something called the softball method. It involves testing a small amount of the sugar syrup by adding it to cold water.
The syrup should roll into a malleable ball between your fingers but you should still be able to squeeze it out of shape. The amount of time the sugar syrup takes to reach this point varies, but I would generally start testing periodically after 7 minutes, although it could take 10-15 minutes to reach this stage so you'll need to be careful.
Frequently asked questions
This is a common concern, as many of us have learned how to make and create using eggs as the protein source, it's natural to be apprehensive about new alternatives. In short, the answer is no! It just takes a little bit of practice to become familiar with aquafaba and how it performs - and even better there are hundreds, even thousands of recipes on the internet now that have already done all of the hard work of figuring it out for you. In fact, I recently visited my old college where I had studied culinary arts, and my past lecturer from there was excited to tell me that she now uses aquafaba in place of egg whites when teaching students how to make meringue.
Why use aquafaba and not egg whites?
It's safer to eat than eggs!
Some meringues aren't fully cooked and therefore any pathogens that are naturally present in eggs aren't killed off during the cooking process. Aquafaba is safe to eat without cooking it first!
It's easier to work with!
Aquafaba is much more forgiving to work with than egg whites, in that it's almost impossible to over whisk it - unlike eggs which will separate and curdle if you overdo it.
But I usually use eggs to make meringue, so why should I use aquafaba instead?
Above all else, here is the main reason why I don't use eggs.
"Domesticated hens have been selectively bred to lay between 260 to 300 eggs a year. As a result of being genetically manipulated to produce an unnaturally large number of unnaturally large eggs, laying hens suffer from a host of crippling disorders of the reproductive tract, many of which can be fatal." - Exert taken from peacefulprairie.org's article "What's Wrong with Backyard Eggs?" which I would highly recommend reading if you'd like to learn more about the global egg industry, including backyard hens.
Ways to use eggless Italian meringue
Honestly, the ways in which to use this vegan Italian meringue recipe are endless. But here are some of my favorite uses for it. a topping for brownies, baked Alaska, and other desserts.
- As a topping for vegan meringue pie such as lemon meringue pie.
- As a topping for smores brownies like these caramel marshmallow brownies.
- For vegan baked Alaska.
- As the base for Vegan Italian meringue buttercream.
- To make homemade vegan marshmallows.
More meringue-based desserts
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- 234 g (1 cup) aquafaba, *see notes
- 200 g (1 cups) caster sugar
- 60 ml (0.25 cups) water
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
- Start by reducing the aquafaba, add it to a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat and allow it to simmer until it has reduced to half a cup in volume. After 5 minutes of simmering, check the volume by pouring the liquid into a measuring cup. If there's more than half a cup of liquid continue to simmer until it reduces to the required half cup. Pour the reduced aquafaba into a jar and refrigerate. This can be done the night before or at least one hour in advance of making the recipe.
- Take a large clean bowl, making sure it's completely dry and free of grease. Add the aquafaba and cream of tartar to a large bowl and whisk on high speed for 10 minutes until soft peaks form.
- Add the caster sugar and water to a saucepan, gently stir and allow the mixture to sit for a minute until the sugar dissolves into a paste.
- Place the saucepan on medium-high heat and allow the mixture to come to a simmer and bubble. DO NOT STIR throughout the entire process. Place your candy thermometer into the syrup and continue to simmer until the mixture reaches 116°C (240°F) - about 10-12 minutes.
- Once the sugar syrup has reached the correct temperature begin to add it to the whipped aquafaba. Slowly drizzle in a little at a time and continue to whisk until the mixture is incorporated.
- Whisk the aquafaba mixture for another 5 minutes before transferring it to a piping bag fitted with a nozzle of choice.
- Use the Italian meringue as a topping for brownies, baked Alaska, and other desserts.
- You can store this meringue in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 24 hours before use.
- Aquafaba: Drain a can of unsalted chickpeas, use only the liquid part.
- I highly recommend reducing the aquafaba to thicken it as you want it to have a similar viscosity to egg whites, refer to step 1 of the recipe. If your aquafaba is already thick, you can skip this step and use half the amount (118g).
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