COOKING WITHOUT EGGS
Looming shortages – cook without eggs with these alternatives
Aquafaba. Yoghurt. Silken tofu. Chia seeds. Carbonated water. Beer. Nut butter. Vinegar and baking soda. They all have one thing in common: they’re substitutes for eggs in cooking. Let’s dive into this rabbit hole and see what else we find.
A shortage of eggs in certain parts of the country, with the potential to become more widespread, was reported this week, although there had been warnings in May that this was looming in the wake of an outbreak of Avian ‘flu. Be prepared, as Boy Scouts and Girl Guides have always been taught: so we went down a sizable rabbit hole for you this week to find out what can be substituted for eggs in cooking should the worst come to the worst.
Eggs are glue; they stick sugar to pastry. Eggs are a leavening agent, like yeast. Eggs add colour; just look at that glaze on the pie from the eggwash. Eggs bind. They emulsify. They add structure. And they create a sheen. Can we do without them?
Plenty, it turns out, although cooking without eggs does have its limitations. Experts (no, not eggsperts, we’re trying to avoid puns here) say that nothing can exactly replicate the role of eggs in a dish. But there are no-egg solutions that can help you turn out a reasonable result, whether it be a cake, an omelette, and even meringues.
There are commercial products that promise to replace the egg in your recipe. There are alternatives and things that you can mix together to get a fairly good result, in some cases an excellent one.
The quarter cup rule
One helpful fact that came to the fore while down that rabbit hole was what we could call the quarter cup rule. Eggs (large ones) have a specific quantity. And that equals a quarter cup. So, when substituting something else for one large egg, a quarter cup of whatever that substance is will be what you’re looking for. And when following a recipe and some say a large egg, others a jumbo egg, don’t let that worry you. As long as it has not less than one large egg it is likely to be okay. Some cooks just like to have a bit more of it in there (me included).
One large egg (which is the common recommendation of egg size in most recipes) is equivalent to a quarter of a cup of all sorts of alternatives, from puréed tofu or plain yoghurt to apple sauce, mashed banana or aquafaba, which is the viscous brine in a can of chickpeas. Vegans have known forever that aquafaba can be used to make egg-free mayonnaise. But you can even use it to make meringues. Experts say that aquafaba is by far your best alternative to eggs.
So: expect there to be a shortage of canned chickpeas soon once word gets out.
What are your options for egg alternatives?
Aquafaba. This is the brine in a can of chickpeas. For one large egg, substitute 1/4 cup (57g) of aquafaba.
Plain yoghurt or buttermilk, in similar quantities. Plain (Greek) yoghurt adds moisture without lending flavour. Yoghurt is packed with protein and fat.
Flax and chia seeds: Combine 1 tablespoon flax meal or whole chia seeds with 3 tablespoons water and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes, until gelatinous, says the kingarthurbaking.com website.
Silken tofu purée: ¼ cup blended until smooth. Like flax and chia seeds, it can make baked goods dense. Good for brownies and biscuits.
Starch substitutes: Mix 2 tablespoons cornflour, arrowroot powder, potato starch, or tapioca starch with 3 Tbsp (42g) water to form a thick slurry, according to kingarthurbaking.com, who say this is among the weaker substitutes for eggs.
Mashed banana. But it will add banana flavour too, so choose what to use it for with that in mind. Ditto with unsweetened apple sauce. American food websites make much of apple sauce, mashed banana, and pumpkin purée. These add plenty of moistness but tend to make the end result dense or chewy. But, like bananas, apple sauce and pumpkin will add their own flavour to what you’re baking.
Vinegar and bicarbonate of soda (not baking powder): working together, they make magic in our own malva pudding, adding lightness and airiness. They can be used in other baking too.
Nut butter: The foodnetwork.com website says 3 Tbsp (60 grams) of nut butter such as peanut, almond or cashew will replace 1 egg, in recipes for nutty breads.
Sparkling water, would you believe, can substitute for eggs although it is somewhat hit-and-miss. Not recommended for creaming eggs and butter but can be whisked into melted butter with some success.
Beer can work too: think beer bread (and batter). But note that it adds flavour too.
Gelatin and agar-agar are gelling agents that give a dish body and substance, holding it together in the way that an egg binds. (This is not a vegan option, however.) The ratio per egg replacement is 1 Tbsp gelatin to 3 Tbsp cold water.
Soy lecithin is a stabiliser that can replace egg yolks: 1 Tbsp equals one yolk.
How do we get a golden finish without eggs?
Frequent bakers like to use eggwash (beaten egg) to brush on pastry and tarts to give them a golden sheen once baked. But there are a number of alternatives.
Use dairy milk (or a milk substitute such as almond or soya milk), cream, or melted butter. Even water brushed on pastry helps create a sheen. For a sweet pie or tart, a fruit-based glaze made from puréed fruit, sugar and water, reduced to a syrup, is the answer. Or (for a sweet dish) glaze with raw honey or maple syrup, even golden syrup, perhaps slightly diluted with water or lemon juice. Oil (olive, sunflower, canola) brushed on top will also do the trick, though it will add its own flavour too (using milk or cream instead avoids this). Personally, I’d rather use butter. (Takealot lists a product called Pappa Joe egg glaze substitute but it was out of stock. It is intended as a glaze for pies.)
Talking of commercial egg substitutes, Woolworths offers a “vegan egg” product online called JUST Egg, which is explained like this: “JUST Egg Folded was created with your breakfast ritual in mind. It’s toaster-ready, packed with 7g of clean, sustainable protein, and free of cholesterol. Tastes great on its own with a dash of hot sauce, or tucked into your breakfast sandwiches. Or chop it up for topping noodles and stir-fries.”
OrgraN natural egg replacer promises to help you produce “quality cakes and baked goods with similar texture to those with eggs”, adding: “Each packet has the equivalent of 66 eggs for all your baking needs. It can be used in cakes, meringues or to make egg-free mayonnaise.” OrgraN is the only egg replacer listed by Wellness Warehouse online, which I found surprising. OrgraN also has “vegan easy egg for cooking”, which they say can be used for scrambled eggs, omelettes, frittata and quiche.
But there are limitations: the kingarthurbaking.com website (one that I trust), based in Boston, USA, emphasises (before offering egg alternatives for baking) that “it’s necessary to acknowledge that nothing can exactly replicate eggs’ function in baking. Because eggs do a lot. Their specific role varies depending on what you’re making, but in general, eggs provide structure, emulsify, bind, and leaven. They’re key to texture, as well as appearance and flavour. So while many alternate ingredients can mimic these properties, nothing will be able to fully capture all of the wonderful work that eggs do in baking. But that doesn’t mean the below substitutions don’t come close.”
These experts say that “there’s not a perfect replacement that magically meets all these same needs, but there are many options you can choose to bake successfully”.
The best option, they insist, is aquafaba. You can whip it into stiff peaks just like egg whites (even vegan “meringues”), “and it can also be mixed directly into batters and doughs like a whole egg”. The website adds: “When it comes to substituting in recipes, 2 tablespoons (28g) of aquafaba is equivalent to about 1 egg white; 1/4 cup (57g) aquafaba is equivalent to about 1 whole egg. When whipped to stiff peaks, aquafaba is good for making meringues or Swiss buttercream. However, it’s too delicate for baked goods that rely on whipped eggs or egg whites for structure: cakes like angel food cake or chiffon cake, or cookies including macarons — we don’t recommend using it in these types of recipes.” (Read more here.) In the “cons” column, they say it doesn’t add a lot of structure.
So what can we bake with egg substitutes?
Plenty, from carrot cake and cinnamon buns to chocolate fondants and marble cake.
The BBC Food website offers a useful list of egg-free recipes in several categories, from eggless chocolate cake to shortbread. The UK’s Delicious magazine has 32 egg-free baking ideas including cinnamon buns and limoncello and blueberry scones. Britain’s Olive magazine gives us 18 recipes from lemon loaf cake to carrot cake.
The USA’s Food Network has a list of the best 15 ideas for eggless baking, from carrot cakes to chocolate lava cakes (chocolate fondants) and meringues made with aquafaba. Martha Stewart has 20 egg-free recipes including old-fashioned vanilla ice cream. The LA Times offers breakfast, dinner and dessert recipes including a fabulous-looking chickpea frittata and chocolate chip tahini cookies.
Australia’s excellent taste.com.au website offers 246 egg-free recipes for cakes, quiches and bakes including chocolate muffins and egg-free Parmesan quiche. India’s NDTV Food serves up 13 recipes including marble cake, almond and cashew cake and a vanilla cake made in a pressure cooker.
Sometimes you find oddities while down rabbit holes: The Taste.co.za website in South Africa has a list titled “egg-free” that includes a chocolate mousse with four eggs in it and a chocolate torte with five of them. They might want to revisit that. But here’s the link anyway as some of the recipes look delicious.
And with that, we seem to have got to the end of this story with only two egg puns. Eggcept this one. DM