Trust us. You can use the liquid from a can of beans to make dessert.

Imagine being a vegan in France and craving île flottante, or floating island, a dessert of fluffy puffs of meringue nestled in a sea of crème anglaise. Joël Roessel, a 34-year-old opera tenor, was riding on a bus near Paris and wondering how he could replace the main ingredient, so he asked himself, “What would disgust me as much as a raw egg white?”

His answer: bean liquid. When he got home, Roessel found a can of red beans in the cupboard, drained out the liquid and whipped it. The result was nothing short of astonishing: a mound of fluffy, pure white — but completely eggless — meringue.

This minor French revolution hit the world when Roessel published it on his blog, Révolution Végétale, in December 2014, and the concept quickly began to catch on with others, including Goose Wohlt. The American software engineer is credited with coining the word “aquafaba” — “aqua” for water and “faba” for beans — to describe the ingredient that most people simply pour down the sink. Wohlt posted his vegan baked meringue recipe — made from the liquid from a can of chickpeas, plus sugar — to a popular Facebook group called “What Fat Vegans Eat” in March. The post received nearly 500 comments in a matter of hours, quickly spawning a whole new Facebook group: “Vegan Meringue — Hits and Misses!”

Rebecca August, an animal-care provider in Michigan, is the original force behind the new group, serving as its head administrator since creating it just over six months ago, after she saw Wohlt’s original recipe. “I ran to my kitchen to whip up a batch of cannellini bean fluff, the closest thing to chickpeas I had on hand,” she recalls. “When I saw the amazing response to this discovery, I messaged Goose and told him that Vegan Meringue deserved its own Facebook page, and the phenomenon began.”

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