You open up a can of beans and you’re greeted with some odd-looking foam. What gives?

Though you’re probably a little startled by the foam in your can of beans, you’ll likely just wash it off and put those beans to good use. But, what’s that stuff, anyway? And is it actually safe to eat? We chatted with a dietitian to get some answers.

It’s Called Aquafaba

Sounds strange, but it’s actually pretty simple. “The water that you soak canned or dry beans and other pulses in is called aquafaba. While soaking pulses like peas, chickpeas, and white beans, some of their starches, protein, B-vitamins, zinc, and iron leach into the water creating aquafaba,” explains Toby Amidor, MS, RD, food safety expert and Wall Street Journal best-selling cookbook author. And there are a few different properties that go into it, such as gelatizer, emulsifier, and a thickener, she says, all of which are harmless.

You’ll often find it in dry and canned pulses. “Chickpeas (or garbanzo beans) provide the aquafaba of choice, followed by white beans, red beans, and pinto beans. Black beans yield less liquid per can, however,” says Amidor. You can also find aquafaba in packaged tofu and pea water, she adds.

What Does Aquafaba Taste Like?

Well, if you choose to not rinse and eat it, here’s what to expect: Basically, it’s neutral in taste on its own. “Aquafaba tends to have a reminiscent flavor of the food that soaks in it, [where it] tastes like whatever you mix it with,” she says.

“For example, combine almond milk with aquafaba and whip it into a mousse-like consistency, then add unsweetened cocoa powder and a touch of dark chocolate and you have a dark chocolate mousse—that tastes exactly like dark chocolate mousse,” she says. That’s pretty cool, right?

Is It Good for You?

Good news: Aquafaba is actually pretty healthy. “It can add nutrition and it can help reduce food waste when you use it,” says Amidor. This will bulk up the nutritional contents that may have been left out of the beans and legumes you’re using.

Plus, it’s super easy to use in cooking. “You can use the liquid when you cook soups, grains, sauces, and even add it to chili or stews,” she says. It can also be a great vegan egg replacer and can help make the perfect eggless meringues, she says. “If you whisk the water from the soaked or canned pulses it will turn white and foamy, then you can use a spoon to carefully fold the foam into whatever you're making,” she explains.