If you're new to plant-based eating, knowing which egg substitute to choose can be tricky; there are many egg alternatives, and which one you want depends on what exactly you're making. So here's a guide to how eggs function in baking and cooking, and how you can replace eggs in every recipe (including egg salad). This should also come in handy for those omnivores who are finding eggs scarce or extremely expensive these days.
People eschew eggs for any number of reasons, whether logical or not: health, safety (oof, all that possible E.coli!), animal welfare, that sort of squicky feeling you get when you really think about what an egg is.
But eggs are super useful in the kitchen, in addition to simply being downright tasty. (Full disclosure: I'm a vegan who misses eggs more than any other given-up food product. Oh, how I long for a runny poached treat some mornings… but I digress.) They are leavening agents, they bind substances in baking, they are protein-packed and they can make a salad into a meal in a jiffy. Cutting them out of your diet can be a bummer, but thankfully there are reasonable alternatives for eggs in almost every application, from baking to breakfast and beyond.
What eggs are good for -- and how they can be replaced
First, we'll run through a few of the things that eggs typically contribute in our culinary exploits, followed by some suggestions for plant-based alternatives that are no yolk.
Emulsification and binding
Eggs are the glue in mayo, the binder in quick breads and pancakes and the holder-together in custards and sauces. They're not the only game in town, though: Mayo made with coconut oil (and other plant-based ingredients) is just as spreadable, and pancakes made with mashed banana still have the sticktogetheritiveness that is the perfect vehicle for gallons of maple syrup. Similarly, applesauce stands in for eggs (in a binding capacity) in Chowhound's vegan brownie recipe.
Commercial egg replacers are fine for baking purposes, as well: They eliminate a lot of the guessing and are shelf-stable, which is an added bonus to switching away from the "incredible edibles." Soaked flax or chia seeds (i.e., flax eggs and chia eggs) also do the trick, and are a good natural substitution in breads and other baked products.
Cookies, bread and cakes rely in part on eggs for their ability to lift and rise as air becomes trapped in the whipped or vigorously mixed whites when they retain heat. Eggless recipes have been around for generations, however, and during lean times ingenious bakers devised "crazy cakes" and "depression cakes" that contained no eggs, butter or milk. They're just as good when times aren't tough, though. After all, who needs an excuse to eat delicious, delicious cake? (You'll find some recipes below.)
Two less common but extremely effective egg substitutes in baking, according to The Kitchn, are a mix of oil, water and baking soda, or plain old carbonated water.
Foaming and frothing
Meringue, how we will miss you. Egg whites, with some proteiny magic property that allows them to hold air within their structure when vigorously whipped, are the main ingredient in light-as-air meringue, as well as angel-kissed cakes and fluffy soufflé.
Thankfully, some modern plant-based geniuses discovered that aquafaba, the pot liquor created from making chickpeas (and the liquid they're found packed in when they're canned) can swap in and make all sorts of lovely mild-tasting frothy goodness, including creams, mousses, toppings and, yes, incredibly delicate breads, cakes and pastries.
For folks who don't eat meat, or who are looking for a break from the old stand-bys of chicken, beef, fish and pork, eggs can offer a satisfying and protein-rich element to a meal, especially a lighter meal like a salad that could use some (pardon) beefing up in order to stand alone. Hard-boiled eggs are at the center of dishes like Pan Bagnat or salad Niçoise, while a poached egg on a bed of spinach or grilled asparagus is a perfect light springtime supper.
Don't fret, however: Tofu of different textures can be an equally delicious stand-in, both texturally and with its mild and adaptable taste. If you like a hard-boiled egg, try pressing and seasoning firm tofu for a similar chewy element; if you're the runny-loving type, a spoonful of jiggly soft tofu topped with hot sauce or salt and pepper with fresh herbs can often do the trick.
Read more on Chowhound: Vegetarian chefs share their best tofu tips and tricks
Egg substitutes in action: Egg-free recipes to try
Check out some specific examples of all the ways you can replace eggs in recipes with these sweet and savory treats.
Folks intimidated by mayo can breathe deep, since it's usually the egg that's the anxiety-provoking ingredient. This mayo relies on soaked chia seeds as the emulsifier, and has all the creamy texture and tangy taste you'd expect, plus with added vegan-friendly omega-3s. Get the egg-free mayo recipe.
Tofu scrambled eggs
One of the best things about eggs is their ability to taste like just about anything, including cheese, hot sauce or any other tasty add-in you dump in your morning scramble. A block of tofu will provide that same selfless service, and when crumbled in a pan it also takes on a remarkably scrambled-like texture. Perfect to stuff a breakfast burrito, or eat by the forkful with a side of toast. Get the tofu scrambled eggs recipe. (Or try this vegan chickpea scramble recipe.)
Three ingredient aquafaba chocolate mousse
The most heavenly, cloud-like texture is achieved with aquafaba here: Flavored with intense dark chocolate and boosted with a little sweet stuff, this three-ingredient dessert couldn't be easier or feel more decadent. Get the three-ingredient aquafaba chocolate mousse recipe.
Olive oil brioche with aquafaba
Is it possible to make pillowy brioche without eggs? You bet it is, thanks again to our new friend aquafaba. This bread has a weightlessness and crumb reminiscent of the perfect eggy brioche, but shhh, don't tell it's vegan. Get the olive oil brioche with aquafaba recipe.
Turmeric chickpea eggless egg salad
Picnics won't have quite the same sense of egg-in-the-sun dread when you swap in hardier chickpeas for your no-egg-salad to scoop or sandwich. Turmeric gives the chickpeas a yolk-like brightness, and garlic and onion as well as some crunchy element like chopped celery will finish the job. Get the turmeric chickpea eggless egg salad recipe. (Try adding a pinch of black salt for an authentic eggy flavor if you miss it.)
Grain- and egg-free banana muffins
Mashed bananas are practically magic: They act as a binder, a sweetener and a flavor in easy baked goods like muffins and quick breads, and you know you're bound to have a couple slightly-too-ripe ones laying around some morning and want to use them up fast. This recipe has the double-whammy of bananas and chia "eggs" for a totally healthful, plant-based morning treat. Get the grain-free egg-free banana muffins recipe.
Maybe the craziest thing about these cakes (also called wacky cakes) is that they're so easy and economical that they shouldn't be considered "crazy," they should be the norm! Versatile enough to take all kinds of flavors, they're adaptable for anything from after-work weeknights to special occasions, no fuss at all. Get the crazy cake recipes.
This story was originally written by Erin Meister for Chowhound.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.