If you’re new to plant-based eating, knowing which egg substitute to choose can be tricky; egg alternatives are many, and which one you want depends on what exactly you’re making. So here, a guide to how eggs function in baking and cooking, and how you can replace eggs in every recipe (including egg salad!).
People eschew eggs for any number of reasons, whether logical or not: Health, safety (oof, all that possible E.coli!), animal welfare, the sort of squicky feeling you get when you really think about what an egg is, and so on.
Unfortunately, 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 that are no yolk.
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.
Just Mayo, $3.78 at Walmart
This vegan mayo is based on canola oil.
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 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? (See some recipes below.)
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/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.
Related Reading: Vegetarian Chefs Share Their Best Tofu Tips & Tricks
Egg Substitutes in Action: Egg-Free Recipes
Check out some specific examples of all the ways you can replace eggs in recipes:
Folks intimidated by mayo can breath 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.
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.
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 3-Ingredient Aquafaba Chocolate Mousse recipe.
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.
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.)
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.
Header image by Chowhound.