My journey to becoming a vegan wasn't complicated by the thought of giving up eggs, since a couple years prior, I'd developed an aversion to eggs. Boiled eggs with 'runny' yolks? Urp! Soft scramble eggs? Gag! I'm not entirely sure where this aversion began, since I'd been a real fan of eggs before that. I worked hard at learning to cook eggs perfectly - from poached to hard-boiled to the fluffy scramble, and everything in between.
I also wasn't much of a baker, so that wasn't really an issue. Beyond making the French style Galette, cakes weren't my thing. After going to a WFPB (Whole food, plant-based) lifestyle, I became more aware of the inhumane conditions that the vast majority of eggs are produced in. That was a serious buzz-kill. Then, there is the issue of egg productions' carbon footprint and climate change. More reasons to simply not care about eggs.
About a year into this, I happened to see the JUST Egg product appearing on store shelves. Being insatiably curious, I thought "Oh, what the heck! Try it!". I don't know why this product didn't produce the same gag reflex as real chicken eggs, but I keep at least one bottle of the liquid version, and a box of the frozen patties (think: fast 'egg' sandwiches with vegan ham or bacon, lettuce, pickle) on hand at all times. I love the product.
Then, during this most recent year of the pandemic, I've started baking bread again after a hiatus of about two decades. One thing led to another, and I decided to try egg substitutes for quick breads, and the occasional pumpkin pie, in earnest. The great news? There are so many good products out there now, beyond the powdered egg substitutes of old!
The JUST Egg products makes it possible to whip up a fast, easy scramble anytime! This helps to use up the bits of vegetables or plant-based meats (such as the last few slices of the Renegade Foods cured plant-based cured 'meat') lurking in the fridge. And, did I mention Fritatta? Oh. My. I toss in some leftover boiled tiny potatoes, cooked carrots, chopped thin asparagus, diced sweet peppers, fresh spinach leaves, or maybe some Chickpeas ... pour the JUST Egg over the veggies, bake for about 40 minutes in the oven, 10 minutes to cool, and you've got a satisfying entree that reheats great for lunch the next day.
I sauté a bit of this and that, then pour the JUST Egg over, allow it to set up for a couple moments, then gently push it around the pan as you would real eggs. Low-ish and slow-ish are the rules when cooking real or vegan egg substitutes.
Nutritionally similar to chicken eggs, a serving of JUST Egg has five grams of high-quality protein compared to the six grams in a chicken egg. Without all the artery-clogging saturated fat and cholesterol.
Now, let's talk about baking with egg substitutes. This is a whole different delicious discussion - easy with the newer products, but needs a more nuanced, and slightly 'science-y' approach. Don't get scared. I'll take you through this.
Eggs play a few important roles in cooking and baking. They bind ingredients (like my Lentil Loaf), add moisture, help to leaven (rise) and stabilize the overall structure of your cake, cookies or quick bread. Before you bring the flour out of the pantry, stop and consider what roll egg substitutes will play in your creation. The good news? You probably have some perfectly good egg substitutes in your fridge or pantry now.
An overripe mashed banana will sub for one whole egg. This works best in quick breads and muffins - a perfect place to begin your vegan baking journey. Just remember though, that bananas will add a bit more sweetness and some banana flavor. You need to decide if that's right for you. Don't use a banana in a recipes that isn't meant to be sweet, and you might want to cut back on the sugar a little bit. Best in: quick breads, muffins, cookies.
Vegan Yogurt - my favorite is the Forager Cashew Yogurt! - offers some pros and cons. It won't alter the flavor, with soy or cashew being pretty flavor neutral. But, yogurt doesn't bring much in the way of binding ability to the party. You can try it when the dry ingredients have some binding ability - like oat or wheat flour. Try 1/4 cup yogurt for one whole egg. Best in: quick breads, muffins.
Flax or Chia seeds are well-known as vegan egg substitutes, and work well in a wide variety of recipes. I keep both on hand to sprinkle in many dishes since they offer a vegan version of Omega 3 fatty acids. Flax eggs (*using ground flax seeds!) work well in cakes, cookies, quick breads, muffins and pancakes. I haven't used Chia that much. For each whole egg called for in the recipe, mix 1 tablespoon of ground flax (or Chia) seeds with 3 tablespoons water. Let it sit for 10 minutes. This produces an egg-like mixture that you can toss right into the mixing bowl. Best in: cakes, brownies.
*If you're new to Flax seeds, you can't use them whole. They have to be ground up. The hulls are simply too hard. A simple, inexpensive coffee/spice grinder does the job if you can't find them already ground up in a bulk bin at the grocery store. I used to grind my own, but Winco has the ground up product in the bulk section.
Vegan bakers have been using vegetable or fruit puree forever. A can of pumpkin puree will be going into some quick bread that I plan on making in the next couple of days. You can also use that last sweet potato in the bin. Cook it. Mash it up. Then there's applesauce. I keep those kid-sized serving packets of unsweetened applesauce in the pantry just for baking. That way I don't have an entire jar of the stuff languishing in the fridge. Use 1/4 cup of puree in place of 1 whole egg. Best in: quick breads, muffins, cookies.
It was a surprise to me that humble, ubiquitous corn starch could be a sub for eggs. It's in every cooks pantry for thickening gravy or pie fillings, but if you combine 2 tablespoons cornstarch with 3 tablespoons water, it yields a viscous, kinda eggy substance. Best in: custards, pies, cheesecakes.
If you've been noodling around vegan cooking forums much, you've probably heard about Aquafaba (aka Chickpea Brine) - that liquid in the can of Garbanzo/Chickpeas. When whipped up, it can be used as a sub for egg whites to make a meringue. But, give it a try in plain old baked goods, replacing each whole egg with 1/4 cup of Aquafaba. BTW: I pour the Aquafaba into small containers from cans of Chickpeas, and stash it in the freezer for future use. Best in: meringues, cakes, cookies.
Even if you're not a fan of Tofu, but love to bake, why not keep a shelf-stable box of the Silken (really soft) tofu on hand? Best in: creamy pies, puddings, cheesecake, quick breads*, muffins*, pound cakes*. NOTE: Tofu is best in recipes where you want a really moist end result. *You might need to add a bit more baking powder or baking soda to get the desired 'lift' using this substitution.
What about plain old baking soda and apple cider vinegar? Yup. That works. Combining these will take you right back to that middle school science class where you gasped in delight at the glorious bubbles it produced! Using this substitution produces a baked good that is light, fluffy and not too dense. NOTE: using this hack might require a little experimentation. The usual rule of thumb is replacing a whole egg with 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda with 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. Here's the other important thing: mix the apple cider vinegar with the wet ingredients, and add the baking soda to the dry ingredients just before baking. Don't mix this in advance! Best in: cakes, cupcakes.
Here are some final suggestions for baking:
1- If you're new to all this, try making quick breads first, as they are particularly 'forgiving'.
2- Making muffins? Muffin recipes typically use baking powder for leavening, so if you opt for using a fruit puree - which is denser than an egg - try adding an extra 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder than the recipe calls for.
Shown above: Vegan egg omelette with spinach and vegan 'feta' cheese.
Let's pivot to cooking now, and talk about scrambles, quiche/fritatta, burgers, meatloaf and meatballs.
The roll of eggs in a scramble or quiche/fritatta is fairly obvious, giving the dish silky, smooth texture and structure. To capture that 'eggy' flavor is crucial, which is why we add Kala Namak/Black Salt (it's actually kinda pink). The high sulfur content of black salt provides a believable egg-like flavor. You'll want to replace some of the salt in a recipe with black salt.
When it comes to burgers, meatballs or meatloaf, the egg offers the benefit of 'binding' and holding ingredients together. It can be used to adhere 'breading' , and as a leavening agent in pancakes and waffles, too.
A perfectly reasonable facsimile of 'liquid egg' can be achieved by combining 3 tablespoons chickpea flour, 3 tablespoons Aquafaba, 2 tablespoons Arrowroot Powder and 3 tablespoons water. Use as a sub in burgers, meatballs, meatloaf.
Chickpea flour (often available in grocery store bulk bins) is high in protein, working both as a binding and raising/leavening agent. It is one of the best natural egg replacements for scones, cookies and similar. It can also be used as the 'main event' rather than a leaving ingredient/egg replacement for scrambles and quiches/fritattas. The ratios given for 'liquid egg' above will work - with the addition of a bit of Black Salt - in scrambles, quiche/fritattas.
Crustless, vegan quiche - aka Fritatta - is a regular at my house. It reheats great for lunch. I make mine in a cast iron skillet so it can go right into the oven.
Looking for a more egg-like color in the liquid egg? Add just a pinch of ground Turmeric.
You can 'Google' many different recipes for chickpea scrambled eggs and similar by using the general search: "vegan scrambled eggs" + chickpea flour. You'll find some using Aquafaba, some using tofu, some using nutritional yeast ("Nooch"), Turmeric, Black Salt etc. Find the recipes that work for you.
Finally, there are many old and new products available to replace eggs. Here is a sampling:
Bob's Red Mill Egg Replacer. I've been successfully using this product in baked goods for years!
Vegg Vegan Egg Yolk and Power Scramble are products that are new to me. I have them on order now, and can't wait to try them!
Hella Phat Vegan Egg Flavor Seasoning Mix looks like it could be an easy spin on adding an 'eggy' flavor to tofu and similar.
Vör Aquafaba Powder looks really, really intriguing! I'm absolutely going to try this shelf-stable alternative to freezing leftover brine/Aquafaba from canned chickpeas! What a great idea!
I've included a downloadable, printable chart that you can keep handy in your kitchen recipe binder: