This is excerpted from our newest cookbook, All About Eggs, an encyclopedic ovarian overview and the only tome you need to own about the indispensable egg.
Agar is a carbohydrate sourced from sea algae; more specifically, it is a complex mixture of polysaccharides composed of two major fractions: agarose, a neutral polymer, and agaropectin, a charged, sulfated polymer. When mixed with water, agar forms a vast gummy network similar to denatured egg protein. The tangled networks entrap moisture in baking and keep ingredients evenly dispersed.
CONS: It is only useful as a binder. Texturally, agar makes things stiffer and less creamy.
USE: 1 tbsp + 1 tbsp water = 1 egg
Moist and high in pectin fiber, apples are somewhat like bananas, and applesauce is a good egg substitute in certain baking applications.
CONS: Applesauce is generally high in sugar; even unsweetened applesauce will have much more sugar than eggs. It is not suitable as a leavener, so your cake will be denser and moister with every egg you replace.
USE: 1/4 cup = 1 egg
Baking Soda and Vinegar
Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) reacts with any acidic component to create carbon dioxide, which pushes and expands (and therefore leavens) the matter around it.
CONS: You only want to use this method in recipes with relatively few eggs to replace, to mitigate the vinegar from overwhelming the flavor profile. Baked goods also apparently won’t brown as deeply.
USE: 1 tsp baking soda + 1 tbsp vinegar = 1 egg
A very ripe banana’s starch, fiber, and high moisture content makes it an effective binder in certain baking applications.
CONS: Bananas are high in sugar, are not an effective leavener, and have a strong flavor.
USE: 1/2 medium ripe banana = 1 egg
Blood and egg have similar protein profiles (high in albumin), making it an ideal coagulator/binder. When whipped, blood approximates egg whites very well and is an optimal substitution for things like meringues.
CONS: Blood’s high iron content leads to a sharp metallic taste and strong odor that is off-putting to many. Strong aromatic changes can occur in uncastrated pigs due to their production of skatole and androstenone, which women have been shown to be more sensitive to. Some recipes, especially acid-forward ones, mask these qualities better than others.
USE: 65 grams of pig’s blood = 1 large egg (about 58 grams), or 43 grams of blood = 1 egg white (about 33 grams).
The fat and moisture content of buttermilk approximate that of eggs. It contains acid, so can be used as a leavener when combined with baking soda or powder.
CONS: Works best for substitution in single-egg recipes because of its high moisture content and overall flavor profile, which can quickly become fairly overpowering.
USE: 1/2 cup buttermilk = 1 egg
When chia seeds are placed in water, they exude a mucilaginous polysaccharide that surrounds each seed, effectively creating a gel with a biding capability similar to eggs.
CONS: In a recent study, a control cake (containing eggs) favored higher overall on taste, texture, and color among the subjects, compared to cakes with up to 75 percent chia substitution. Again, to be used in moderation: Works most effectively in recipes that call for fewer eggs.
USE: 1 tbsp finely ground seeds + 3 tbsp water = 1 egg
Chickpea (Liquid Aquafaba)
The science of aquafaba is as of yet murky. A community-based webgroup has hypothesized that aquafaba may contain: lipids, fatty acids, fibers, mucilage (similar to flax), and proteins (presumably albumins). When whipped, it is a strikingly accurate substitution for making meringues.
CONS: Not as versatile as eggs: most effective as a substitute for making meringues.
USE: 3 tablespoons drained canned chickpea liquid (each can yields ½ to ¾ cup) is the equivalent of about 1 egg white.
Commercial Egg Replacer
Egg replacers are generally made up of potato starch, tapioca flour, a chemical leavener, and cellulose gum. Cellulose gum is a binder that helps stablize proteins, improve mouthfeel, and absorb and retain water; the starches and flour also bind and give body.
CONS: Can only be used in baking. Also tends to lend a chalkier taste/texture than eggs and is not as effective at leavening (produces denser texture).
USE: For baking, 1. tsp Ener-G Egg Replacer + 2 tbsp water = 1 egg; 1. tsp Ener-G Egg Replacer + 1 tbsp water = 1 egg yolk
Cornstarch/Potato Starch/Arrowroot Flour
When heated in a liquid, starch granules (long chains of plant sugars) swell, absorb water, and burst, dispersing (and thereby thickening) more starch molecules into the liquid.
CONS: Texture and mouthfeel of starches versus eggs can be much gummier and slippier.
USE: 2 tbsp starch + 3 tbsp water = 1 egg
Flax is a hydrocolloid, meaning it becomes a gel when it’s mixed with water. Hydrocolloids build structure, emulsify, and soften mouthfeel—many things that eggs already do in traditional baking applications. It’s made up of mainly polysaccharides. Because of this, flax gel can work as a mild structure builder, low foaming agent, and emulsifier in vegan baking applications. Flax gel is able to do all three without imparting off-flavors, colors, or textures when it is done properly.
CONS: Eggs rely on proteins to do most of their work and flaxseeds use polysaccharides so the results will not be exactly the same. Flaxseed egg replacer is not a terrific foaming agent. That means it’s next to impossible to use it to make extremely airy desserts like angel food cake, choux pastry, or popovers. In fact, flaxseed egg replacer can even do more harm than good in cakes because of its tendency to hold onto excess moisture. It also is not a structure builder in that it won’t form protein networks that reinforce doughs like an egg will. It will work to stick things together instead.
USE: (1) Use the whole ground flaxseed meal dispersed in a liquid such as water, nondairy milk, or fruit juice and use it after it forms into a gel. (2) Make flax gel. Boil whole flaxseeds with water, which extracts the gel, strain the flax gel off, then discard the flaxseeds.
Gelatin is made up of collagen molecules, which help hold together connective tissue in bone/muscles. Collagen is made up of three individual protein chains wound closely together in a helix to make a rope-like fiber. When heated in liquid, the individual protein chains come apart and dissolve into the liquid. The unwound, separate chains are what we call gelatin. As the liquid they are dispersed in cools, the collagen molecules begin to reform their wound shape, essentially entagling all other molecules in a web, creating an emulsion.
CONS: Higher protein content, slippier mouthfeel when replacing 4 or more eggs. Cannot be used as a leavener. Not vegan!
USE: To replace 3 or 4 eggs, use 4 tbsp water + 1 tbsp gelatin. But, if replacing only 1 or 2 eggs, use 3 tbsp water + 1 tbsp gelatin.
Lecithin is a phospholipid found in eggs; replacing eggs with soy lecithin (or any other isolated lecithin), you are substituting like for like. Phospholipids resemble triglycerides (fat) except that a phosphate group replaces one of the fatty acids. Since phosphates are polar (water-soluble) and fatty acids are fat soluble, phospholipids connect water and fats. Lecithin is a good emulsifier.
CONS: Most ideal for emulsions and foamsin low quantities in instances where you don’t want to impart egginess into the flavor profile. Can be “chemical-y” in large quantity.
USE: To make a lecithin foam, take a flavorful liquid and whisk or blend in the lecithin. It is typically used at a ratio of 0.25% to 1.0% by weight to the liquid. So, for example, for so for every 100 grams of liquid, 0.25 to 1 gram of soy lecithin would be used. For the stabilization of emulsions, lecithin is added at a weight ratio of 0.3% to 1.0%, depending on how stabilized you want the emulsion to be.
Tofu contains lecithin, which aids emulsification. Soy is a complete protein (provides all the necessary amino acids) and cholesterol free and thus a health-foodier replacement for many savory egg dishes.
CONS: Can lead to much heavier, denser cake texture. Most ideal for binding.
USE: 1/4 cup (2 oz) silken tofu = 1 egg