Simple, speedy and fuss-free – keep this Vegan Royal Icing recipe handy for all your cookie decorating needs! Unlike regular royal icing this recipe is made with whipped up aquafaba (bean water) instead of egg whites which makes this icing the perfect go-to for vegan diets and those with egg allergies.
It’s been a minute, but I am once again totally and completely in awe of the magic that is aquafaba. This vegan royal icing is another aquafaba recipe to add to the ever-growing list here on A Saucy Kitchen.
What is aquafaba?
Aquafaba, which literally just means bean water, is exactly that – chickpea water! It’s the somewhat goopy water/liquid found in cans of chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans) and white beans.
Don’t hate me if you hate the name – I didn’t come up with it.
As it turns out, this weird bean-water makes for pretty egg-celent egg replacer for vegan bakes and allergy friendly bakes. (Apologies for the terrible pun – it felt necessary!).
How does it work?
At the time of writing this, the science isn’t 100% certain on how/why aquafaba works so well as an egg white substitute. That being said, there are a few good guesses:
- Aquafaba leeches some of the protein and starch found in chickpeas/white beans. Starch is typically useful for binding in baked goods and proteins helps to stabilise ingredients.
- Aquafaba can easily be whipped up almost identical to how raw egg whites whip up. When whipped up (like in this eggless royal icing recipe), the aquafaba traps gas or air bubbles which helps to lighten up/leaven baked goods.
Vegan Royal Icing Ingredients
- Aquafaba – More traditional royal icing recipes will use egg whites or meringue powder (dried egg whites) to whip up. This recipe relies on aquafaba to do the job that eggs normally would. It won’t look like much at first, but when whipped heavily on high in a stand mixer or with an electric whisk the aquafaba will increase quite a lot volume.
- Tip: Make sure to use an unsalted can of chickpeas or white beans.
- Cream of Tartar – Cream of tartar is important for stabilising the aquafaba as it whips up just as it would if you were using actual egg whites. It keeps your fluff from collapsing too quickly and it also helps keep your meringue shiny and bright
- Powdered Sugar (aka Icing Sugar) – You’ll need about 2-3 cups of icing sugar altogether to get to the right consistency. I recommend about 2 cups (250 grams) but you may want more or less depending on your desired consistency. Use more sugar for a thicker icing and add 1-2 tablespoons of water for a thinner icing.
- Vegetable Based Glycerine or Glucose Syrup (optional) – Glycerine and/or glucose are not typically interchangeable, but in this recipe they can be. When it comes to royal icing, both glycerine and glucose help keep the frosting from getting too hard which will extend the shelf life of whatever it is that you’re decorating with.
- Extract Flavourings (optional) – Add 1/2-1 teaspoon of almond extract, peppermint extractor vanilla extract to add a bit more flavour to your icing.
royal icing for sugar cookies without meringue powder
Altogether this icing is quite easy to make and made with fairly simple ingredients.
- Strain out the aquafaba from the beans.
- Combine the aquafaba and cream of tartar together in a large bowl or stand mixer.
- Beat on high for 3-5 minutes until the aquafaba transforms into a voluminous, soft white-whipped mixture. It should look like whipped up egg whites.
- Add the powdered sugar to the bowl and continue beating on high another 3-5 minutes until you have a thick, glossy icing.
The ideal icing consistency for piping?
When you lift up the hand beaters or whisk attachment on the mixer, the icing should drizzle down and smooth out within about 5-10 seconds. Too fast and the icing needs to thicken up more sugar. Too slow and the icing needs to be thinned out with additional water.
Does this icing harden?
- Yes! After an hour or two the icing will set enough that you can stack the cookies up against each other without smudging. Keep in mind that more icing you use the longer it will take to set.
Can I use this vegan icing for flooding?
- Yes! Flooding is technique used in cookie decorating when you pipe a thin outline around the perimeter around a cookie and then carefully fill in the empty space with icing. This icing makes for a great flood consistency because it’s thick enough to outline and thin enough to fill in the center. With a good pastry bag and piping tip (in addition to a steady hand) you can use this icing to outline and flood your cookies.
- I recommend watching a tutorial on how to flood sugar cookies if you’re not familiar with the technique. At the very least, it’s quite satisfying to see a pro at work.
Can I use icing to make gingerbread houses? Will it hold?
- Yes! I made this recipe specifically because I wanted to make a gluten free + vegan gingerbread house – recipe coming soon! I’ve had a test house sitting in my kitchen for a week now and and it’s quite sturdy. I recommend that you increase the icing sugar by an addition 1/2 – 1 cup. This will help make for a thicker icing that will slide less as you assemble the house pieces.
Can I leave out this cream of tartar?
- Yes! You can substitute cream of tartar with 1 teaspoon lemon juice or white vinegar.
How long does aquafaba royal icing last?
- Prepared icing will keep in the fridge for about 4 weeks if stored in an airtight container. After a few days the icing might loosen up a bit, but you can whip it back up in to the right consistency if needed.
Food color can sometimes be made with animal based ingredients. Make sure to double check your food color if you need the colour to be vegan in addition to the royal icing.
And that’s it: the perfect icing for decorating Christmas cookies this holiday season! I’m already looking forward to make a batch of my Almond Flour Sugar Cookies to play around with this year. In case you’re interested I also have a Chocolate Almond Flour Sugar Cookie recipe as well!
Recipes that will make good use of this icing:
Popular Chickpea recipes to make with the leftover beans:
- Tomato Basil Coconut Chickpea Curry
- Curried Chickpea Salad
- Mediterranean Chickpea Stew
- Golden Cauliflower Quinoa Curry
- 1/4 cup | 60 ml aquafaba (from unsalted cans of chickpeas or white beans)
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 2 cups | 250 g sifted powdered sugar/ icing sugar
- 1 teaspoon vegetable based glycerin or liquid glucose (optional)
- Combine the 1/4 cup aquafaba and cream of tartar together in a large mixing bowl or stand mixer bowl. Use a handheld electric mixer or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat on high for about 5 minutes or until this aquafaba transformed into a white, voluminous, whipped up mixture. This should only take a few minutes, but it can sometimes take a bit longer depending on the quality of the aquafaba.
- Add the powdered sugar to the bowl and beat on high again, another 3-5 minutes until thick and glossy. The should look and feel a lot like school glue. When you lift the beaters/whisk attachment, the icing should fall back in to the bowl and smooth out within about 5-10 seconds.
- If the icing is too thick it will be difficult to pipe. Add 1-3 teaspoons of water and beat to combine. If it's too thin, beat a few more minutes. The icing should thicken up with more time. If that doesn't work, add more powdered sugar, 1 heaping spoonful at a time until you reach the right consistency.
- At this point you can pipe and decorate as needed. Once piped, the icing should set in about 2 hours if left out at room temperature. The more you pipe, the longer it will take to set.
- The glycerin/liquid glucose is optional. This addition will help keep the icing from getting too hard.
- You can double this recipe if needed. If you plan on decorating with multiple colours, I recommend that you do.
- You can substitute the cream of tartar with 1 teaspoon lemon juice or white vinegar if needed.
- If you want to decorate your cookies with multiple colours and layers I recommend that you work in stages. Let each layer of icing set a bit before adding more or else the colours and layers will bleed into each other.
- Feel free to add flavor extracts to the icing. Use 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and/or 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of other flavours (peppermint, almond, orange, etc).