Photo by NYC Andre
There are so many dishes that incorporate eggs in some manner that it’s difficult for many chefs to conceive of what it would be like to work without them. They’re used to add moisture and richness in many baked goods (and are often used as binding or leavening agents as well), and they’re vital ingredients in custards, dressings, and many other recipes.
How does one approach egg-free cooking, then? Furthermore, why would anyone want to cook or bake without eggs?
To touch upon the latter part of that query, so many people adhere to vegan diets nowadays that it’s important to expand one’s repertoire to be able to cook and bake without ingredients sourced from animals. There are also those who suffer from egg-related food allergies, and it’s lovely for them to have meal options that won’t throw them into anaphylactic shock. As for the former question, the first priority is to determine what role eggs play in your dish, and then sort out what you can use instead.
Note: an excellent general, all-purpose egg substitute is 1 tbsp ground flax seed blended with 3 tbsp hot water—you whisk the two together and set that mixture aside until it’s thick and sticky.
If you’re using eggs as binders for things like burgers, breads,
A couple of tablespoons of potato starch or arrowroot powder can work really well as a binder, but you’ll have to make sure there’s a bit of extra moisture added as well. For burgers, meatloaf, etc. you can mix a bit of tomato paste and water with 2-3 tbsp of either powder mentioned to equal the binding powder of one large egg.
For baked goods like muffins, cakes, or breads, you can either use half a banana (mashed) as a substitute for 1 egg or 3 tablespoons chickpea powder mixed with water.
The jury is still out on whether gnocchi can (or should) be made without eggs, but some people swear by an egg-free recipe in which you just use a bit of extra olive oil or butter to help bind the potato and flour. Feel free to experiment and let us know how that worked out for you.
Photo by Kristen Loza
A substitute that many ovo-avoiders use is Ener-G Egg Replacer. Vegan and gluten-free, it’s made primarily of potato starch and tapioca flour with a couple of leavening ingredients added in, and works spectacularly well in most baked goods. It’s not only great for binding and leavening, it provides that moist springiness that’s so vital in breads, muffins, and cakes.
For sweet baked goods, a variety of fruits can be used in lieu of eggs: their natural pectin helps to bind things well, and the moisture in the fruit pulp acts as a good stand-in for egg albumen. To replace 1 large egg, try 1/4 cup of applesauce or pear puree, 2 tablespoons of canned pumpkin, or just mash up half a banana.
If you’re not baking something sweet, 1/4 cup of silken tofu will also work well for this purpose, as will the flax meal mixture, or 1/4 cup mashed avocado. For non-vegan recipes, feel free to use yoghurt or sour cream for extra moisture instead.
Photo by qousqous
Breading and Glazing
Have you ever accidentally dipped meat or tofu into breadcrumbs without schlepping it through beaten egg first? If you haven’t, kudos. If you have, you know that the crumbs won’t stick to the main ingredient and you’ll be left looking like quite the idiot for having tried.
For recipes in which an item is traditionally run through an egg coating, you can use a few different alternatives. If the issue at hand is an egg allergy, try using yoghurt or milk to coat the ingredient before rolling it around in the crumb coating. If you’re cooking for vegans, you can use soy milk, soy yoghurt, or the magical flax mixture.
In lieu of an egg wash or glaze for baked goods, you can use melted margarine or butter, though you won’t get quite the same effect. Milk or cream can be used for better effect if you’re not baking for vegans.
Though nothing can ever completely stand in for eggs, many of these options have been used to good effect. The key is to be creative, experiment in your own kitchen, and determine what works best for you. If you discover a substitution that’s truly spectacular, be sure to let us know!