Have you ever been so excited about something, you momentarily lose your words? This may sound silly, but that’s what happened to me with this pavlova. Three and a half years ago when we first started Pickles & Honey, I discovered a veg-friendly diner in town that made a killer vegan lemon meringue pie. As much as I gush over chocolate, lemon and meringue rank right up there for me too. I have memories of enjoying lemon meringue pie with my grandmother years ago, sitting at her big dining room table with the cream-colored lace tablecloth, and savoring bites of that fluffy, airy topping while she would tell me in detail how to make the various components from scratch, all the while warning me about eating too much sugar.
When I decided to stop consuming animal products, I had given up on making meringue. That vegan lemon meringue pie at the diner made me realize, however, that maybe it was possible to recreate it at home. After a lot of trial and error, I finally figured out how to make mint chocolate chip meringue cookies using the boxed egg replacer. They were very similar to the tubs of meringue cookies I used to buy every week at Trader Joe’s back in college, but I still felt like I could do better. The other week I started hearing about people using aquafaba (aka chickpea brine) to make meringue. It sounded really strange and even a little unappetizing, so I dismissed it the first time. But then more and more people kept raving about chickpea brine and I figured I’d give it a try too. So I poured the liquid from a can of chickpeas into my stand mixer, set it to high, and anxiously watched to see what would happen.
The result was amazing! That word gets way overused in blogging, where every recipe is “the best ever!“, but this time I promise you it’s true. The brine, which is maybe half a cup to start, gets so fluffy it nearly fills the entire mixing bowl. And that’s when I knew I had to make the dessert I’ve been dreaming about for years: pavlova.
With its light and crunchy meringue, rich, fluffy whipped cream, and layers of bright, juicy fruit to round out the sweetness…this dessert makes me swoon big time. Aquafaba changes everything.
This vegan pavlova is indiscernible from the original egg-white version, with its perfectly hollow, crispy, and ever-so-slightly chewy bites. The chickpea brine functions exactly like egg whites, so much so that I was able to translate the other ingredients for classic, non-vegan pavlova almost verbatim. Where there are nuances is in the temperature of the brine and the bake time, and I’ve detailed all of this in the recipe notes so there should be no guesswork on your end. It took me five tries to get the pavlova just right, and then I dropped it (!!!) as I was telling Aaron how we needed to “be careful moving it around for photos.” All was not lost though, because we’re happily eating my mistakes with dollops of leftover coconut whipped cream and lots of berries and figs. It’s been a very excellent week on the dessert front.
I have a little insider secret for you too. There’s this period at the end of the mixing process when your meringue will take on beautiful, glossy peaks. This will not only make you inexplicably happy, but those peaks also taste exactly like marshmallow fluff! I’ll leave it up to you what you do with that information. My vote, though, is to make yourself an old-school pb & fluff sandwich while you wait for the pavlova to bake. Or maybe some crazy good dark chocolate s’mores. It’d be hard to go wrong whatever you choose.
- brine from one 15-ounce can of unsalted or low sodium chickpeas (I used Trader Joe's organic), chilled
- 1 cup vegan fine white sugar
- 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
- pinch fine grain sea salt
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- coconut whipped cream
- 2½ cups sliced berries/fresh fruit
- Preheat the oven to 275°F. Trace an 8" circle on a piece of parchment paper (I used a cake pan as a guide). Flip the parchment paper over and line a baking sheet with it. In a small bowl, mix together the sugar, arrowroot powder and salt. Set aside.
- Pour the chickpea brine into a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat at low speed, then slowly increase the speed to high. Beat for 5 minutes, until soft peaks have formed and the mixture has become very light and fluffy (it should expand to more than quadruple in size). Turn the speed down to medium-high and start adding the sugar one heaping tablespoon at a time. Once all of the sugar has been added, increase the speed back to the highest setting. Continue to whip until stiff, glossy peaks form and hold their shape (about 3 minutes). You should be able to hold the mixing bowl upside down and have the meringue stay in place. Stop the mixer and pour in the vanilla and vinegar. Beat for another 10-15 seconds until incorporated.
- Use a spatula or fill a piping bag (fitted with a large star attachment to create lines) and place the meringue onto the prepared baking sheet in the center of the circle working outward. You'll want to do this immediately after whipping the meringue so it doesn't deflate. If using a spatula, spread the meringue to fill the circle. The edges should be higher than the center to make a nest for the filling. To do this, simply pipe an extra round or two around the edges, or if using a spatula, take a spoon and gently create a well in the center. You can smooth out the sides or leave them as-is for a more rustic pavlova.
- Put the meringue in the oven to bake and immediately turn down the heat to 250°F. Bake for 2-2.5 hours, or until the outside is dry to the touch and ever so slightly browned. The pavlova should sound hollow when very lightly tapped. Turn off the oven, leaving the pavlova inside to cool completely.
- Just prior to serving, spread the coconut whipped cream over the pavlova and top with your favorite fruit. Serve immediately.
The ONLY thing you might try differently is what reader Felicity said in her comment: "I tried your recipe twice. The first time I followed it to the letter. The second time I added the vinegar at the start when I was slowly increasing the speed of the stand mixer to get it too soft peaks. It volumised so much more and much faster too. I looked up why and the acid in the vinegar relaxes the protein strands in the chickpea brine and allows them to trap more air. Thus more volume. I am feeding it to non vegans today. They won’t even be able to tell the difference."
A few more key notes: when you whip the chickpea brine for the first time, it should resemble shaving cream in texture, and when you whip in the sugar, the "stiff, glossy peaks" should be very thick and similar to fluffernutter with a definite sheen. If you're not seeing this, keep whipping! Finally, people seem to have an easier time making smaller pavlovas (6+ instead of 1). The smaller the meringues, the less bake time you'll need. I suggest 1.5 - 2 hours if you divide the mixture to make 6-8 meringues.*
I tried making this with room temperature chickpea brine and chickpea brine that I chilled in the fridge. The chilled brine is 100% the way to go. It produces a significantly more fluffy meringue that holds its shape much better.
You can make individual meringues or pavlovas. Simply pipe the meringue into smaller circles and reduce the baking time accordingly. I found 1 hour 30 minutes to work well for 6 smaller pavlovas. Just make sure that when you check on them, you use the oven light rather than opening the door. This will keep the temperature from dropping.
This recipe also makes a killer vegan fluff! Skip the baking and enjoy it right away on a peanut butter sandwich, or bake half into pavlova and save the other half to use as fluff. It makes a ton.
Feel free to replace part or all of the vanilla extract for other flavored extracts. I made some with half vanilla and half almond extract and they were insanely good.
I recommend serving your pavlovas with unsweetened or very lightly sweetened coconut whipped cream and some tart or bitter fruit to balance the sweetness of the meringue. I used berries and figs for mine, but I have a feeling kumquats would be amazing.
Thank you for the compliments on our mini redesign! We’re really happy you like the cleaner layout (we’re digging it too!). xo Amanda