It’s hard not to notice the eye-popping prices of eggs these days. While we’ve seen some food costs come down, these cooking staples have remained stubbornly high at the supermarket. (A dozen eggs at my farmers market costs less than the going rate at the grocery store, so check in with your local vendors, if you can.) From November 2021 to November 2022, egg prices increased almost 50 percent.
“The egg industry is dealing with unresolved supply chain challenges kicked off by the coronavirus pandemic - including labor and building costs - as well as a devastating outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) that began in February,” The Washington Post’s Kim Bellware recently wrote. “According to the Agriculture Department, the flu has wiped out more than 44 million egg-laying hens, or roughly 4 to 5 percent of production.”
Perhaps the price has been making you think about how often you buy or use eggs. Maybe you’re looking for ways to substitute for them at least some of the time. Perhaps you are vegan or have an egg allergy.
Regardless of your reason for not using eggs, start by thinking about what purpose the egg is serving. Is it providing moisture and fat? Is it lending stability? Is it binding or setting the other ingredients? Take into account the particular food and what you want the result to be like. Soft and tender? Crisp? Smooth?
Cookbook author Isa Chandra Moskowitz says another important step in using an alternative in a recipe that calls for eggs is “accepting that it’s not going to be an exact replica.” If the recipe uses a lot of eggs or they are so central to the dish that there is no acceptable substitute, it may be time to find a different option, ideally a recipe that has been developed specifically without eggs. (Chickpea omelet? Tofu scramble?)
Let’s look at some possible situations where you can get away with a substitute.
Leaving out an egg entirely and not changing anything else is typically not a good idea, Moskowitz says. Her general rule of thumb is to figure on adding back 1/4 cup liquid per egg. Here are a few of her standbys:
Milk. If you’re making something fairly dense, such as a chocolate cake, use 1/4 cup milk of your choice instead of the egg. Moskowitz suggests making egg-free French toast with soy milk doctored with turmeric for color and Indian black salt (kala namak) for that characteristic sulfurous aroma and taste.
Flax. Whether you’re using whole flaxseeds or ground meal, Moskowitz recommends blending 1/4 cup liquid of your choice with 1 tablespoon flax per egg in a food processor (a mini is ideal), blender or personal blender such as a Magic Bullet. She likes this for cookies and muffins. If you’re worried about too much flax flavor coming through when you want a more neutral flavor, you can back off the amount a bit. For cookies, if you want a crisper result, consider adding 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch per egg along with the flax mixture, too (or more for something extra crunchy such as biscotti). To account for the loss of the yolk, you can increase the fat in the recipe by about 1 1/2 teaspoons per egg. Similarly, cookbook author and Serious Eats contributor Stella Parks found an oat slurry made with two parts water and one part oats swapped in one-for-one by weight for the eggs to be particularly effective in her vegan chocolate chip cookies.
Applesauce and milk. Applesauce has long been a favored swap-in for eggs and fat, and Moskowitz favors using it in conjunction with milk - 1/4 cup of each per egg. The applesauce adds moisture, making this an ideal adjustment in quick breads, muffins and chocolate cakes. You may get the flavor of the applesauce, or at least its sweetness, coming through, but in many scenarios, that might not be a bad thing.
Silken tofu and milk. “It’s such an old-school one but still one of my favorites,” Moskowitz says. If the recipe calls for two eggs, use 1/2 cup silken tofu blended with the milk or other liquid in the recipe. If there isn’t enough liquid to do that, use 1/4 cup tofu and 1/4 cup milk in lieu of 2 eggs. Try it in cookies, where the tofu will help the cookies set and you’ll get a brown, chewy result.
Aquafaba. It’s the seemingly miracle liquid from a can of beans (often chickpeas) that has been catching on as an egg replacement, particularly in instances when you’d whip egg whites, as with meringue. According to Washington Post Food editor Joe Yonan, 2 tablespoons of aquafaba can stand in for 1 egg white and 3 tablespoons for 1 whole egg. Moskowitz is less enamored of aquafaba - she got by so many years without it - but sees where it can help set custards and pies or help with airy foods such as cheesecakes.
Yogurt. Moskowitz rolls with plant-based, but pick your favorite. Use 1/4 cup per egg and expect it to shine in situations where moisture is good, such as cakes, muffins and quick breads.
Mayo. This one comes from David Joachim, author of “The Food Substitutions Bible.” After all, mayo includes eggs, and the spread can serve the same emulsifying purpose as what it’s replacing. Joachim says the swap is one to consider for cakes in particular, with 2 to 3 tablespoons per egg. Expect a very moist crumb.
Powdered egg substitutes. These are typically a mix of starches and leaveners. Common brands include Ener-G and Bob’s Red Mill. Guidance may vary on ratios for substituting, as well as uses, so be sure to read the packaging on whatever you buy. Liquid options, such as Just Egg, can work in some, but not all, types of baked goods.
Others. The Kitchn has a comprehensive side-by-side comparison of egg replacements in baking muffins on their website (thekitchn.com). I encourage you to take a look, if for no other reason than to check out the surprising winners: carbonated water (first place) and a combination of water, oil and baking powder (second).
Many foods destined for frying require a layer of egg before breading. The typical three-step process is flour, eggs and then breadcrumbs. Instead of the egg, Moskowitz recommends a mix of cornstarch and water, which, when stirred together, forms a slurry. It, too, is an effective glue, and you may even notice more crispness to, say, your chicken parm. This would also be another good scenario for a liquid vegan substitute.
Even some veggie burger recipes call for egg as a binder, as do such dishes as meatballs and meatloaf. Moskowitz says with breadcrumbs in the mix, you may not need a binder at all. Tofu is a possibility here, as well as mayo and oil.
Egg washes are a standard final flourish on a variety of baked goods. If you have it in the pantry, a glaze of melted apricot jam is nice, Moskowitz says. For something less sweet, go with a mix of maple syrup and milk (she uses soy) or a blend of soy milk and flax. Again, manage expectations - nothing will be as shiny as eggs. On breads, even plain milk will get you decent browning and some shine. For anything that skews Italian (calzones, pizza rolls), Moskowitz will brush on a mix of marinara and oil as a finishing touch.
5. Other uses
If you can think of a situation when you need an egg, it’s likely that someone else - like Moskowitz! - has thought of a way to make the dish without one. She has played around with hollandaise and carbonara made using cashew cream, mayo made with flax and deviled “eggs” with potatoes. “There really isn’t anything where I’m like, I just can’t do it,” Moskowitz says.