Baking without eggs
Replacing eggs is one of the most fascinating and exciting aspects of baking without animal products. Eggs perform various functions in baking, from binding and leavening to adding moisture and richness, so learning how to replicate those particular functions with healthful, plant-based ingredients is a necessary lesson if you want to bake vegan-style.
While there are some recipes that are difficult to replicate (that soft, luscious meringue that tops lemon pie, for example), in general, you can find easy ways to replace eggs without changing the texture or flavour of a recipe. Below is an overview of which egg replacements work best when, and in what quantities.
Vinegar and baking soda work in combination to produce carbon dioxide that forms into air bubbles in the batter. When heated, these bubbles expand and help to rise or lighten the final product. The general ratio is 1 tsp baking soda along with 1 tbsp vinegar (white or apple cider) but I often use only 1 tsp vinegar and it seems to work fine. This combo works best in cakes, cupcakes and quick breads because it helps to form a light and tender crumb.
Flax seeds are the most concentrated form of essential omega-3 fatty acids, so they are a great nutritional bonus in baking. Try to buy whole flax and grind it yourself for best results, and store flax in the freezer to keep it from going rancid. As an egg replacement, whisk 1 tbsp ground flax with 2 tbsp warm water in a blender until the mixture is thick and gooey, much like an egg white. Whisking it by hand and microwaving it for 15-second intervals also works well. Flax works best in baked goods that are grainy and nutty, such as pancakes, whole-grain muffins, breads and cookies, but it may not be what you want in cakes or light-flavoured items.
Mashed bananas are a great binding agent, which is the reason why most banana bread recipes don’t require eggs. They hold air bubbles well and make things nice and moist. In general, consider half a mashed banana as a replacement for one or two eggs. These work best in breads, muffins, cakes and pancakes, but keep in mind that they will add a distinct banana flavour, so use in recipes where the taste will be complementary rather than intrusive. I’ve also noticed that baked goods with banana brown very nicely. When I have ripe bananas sitting on my kitchen counter, I store them in the freezer specifically for this purpose.
Fruit purees like unsweetened applesauce work by providing binding and moisture in baked goods. About 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce equals one egg. It works best when you want the results to be moist, such as in cakes, muffins and brownies. Fruit purees tend to make the final product dense, so if you want a lighter texture try adding an extra 1/2 tsp baking powder to the dry ingredients.
Silken tofu as an egg replacement works best when you want rich, dense and moist cakes and brownies. For one egg, whip 1/4 cup silken tofu (I use Mori Nu) in a blender or food processor until smooth and creamy. You may need to scrap down the sides of the mixing bowl a few times in order to get all the chunks. Tofu also works in smaller quantities for lighter cakes and fluffy things.
Then there are commercial egg replacers, which are essentially made from potato starch. These products last forever in your kitchen pantry and provide a convenient and economical alternative to real eggs—one box of egg replacer is enough for 112 eggs! However, it doesn’t add nutritional value like tofu, flax and bananas do. Simply follow the instructions on the box (typically 1 tsp egg replacer mixed with 2 tbsp water). I don’t use this option often but find it works best if you need something that doesn’t add flavour.