The vegan egg has been perfected. From the yolky, over-medium plant-based egg that tops Los Angeles eatery Crossroads’ carbonara to the impeccably light, crispy, and ever-so-chewy macarons made by a number of pastry chefs, innovators in the plant-based space have successfully replicated every form of chicken egg preparation out there. However, not all vegan egg replacers apply across every style of cooking, and when used in the wrong application, the results can be disastrous.
Alas, the trusty flax egg doesn’t work for everything, and all who’ve baked disappointingly flat cakes know it. This guide is here to help you get it right every time. Whether you’re making a simple scramble or attempting a vegan meringue for the first time, consult with us first to ensure a vegan win instead of an epic fail.
What are chicken eggs?
Most people accept chicken eggs as a staple food without truly knowing what they are. Let’s start with the basics. Only female chickens (hens) can produce eggs. Unlike female cows who only produce milk after giving birth, hens naturally produce eggs as part of their reproductive cycle.
If inseminated by a rooster, some of the hen’s eggs will be fertilized and develop embryos—the very beginning stages of a chick. Ova—or underdeveloped yolks within a hen’s ovaries—that are not fertilized will grow and make their way down the oviduct until they are laid. These embryo-less eggs still contain many of the same parts of fertilized eggs—the protective shell, the bacteria-blocking membrane, the nutrient-dense albumen (egg white), and the vitamin-rich yolk.
Further confusing the consumer are all the labels on chicken eggs, like “cage-free,” “free-range,” and “local.” These are more often than not, marketing ploys to make eggs seem more natural than they really are. Most eggs are produced by chickens kept in battery cages. These wire cages (yes, even on the bottom) are used to confine hens in large-scale animal agriculture operations.
Are chicken eggs healthy?
Like dairy, chicken eggs are often touted as superfoods, or at the very least benign sources of protein. What egg-promoting folks don’t realize—or choose to ignore—is that chicken eggs contain cholesterol. A large egg contains 200mg of this waxy substance. While necessary for several bodily functions, it’s not necessary to obtain cholesterol from food, as the human body can produce cholesterol on its own. When excess cholesterol is present, it can build up in arteries causing partial or complete blockages that lead to heart disease.
No, one or two eggs won’t kill you—a healthy person can regulate a little added cholesterol from time to time. However, those who eat large amounts of eggs might want to reconsider or at the very least get their cholesterol levels checked on the regular.
According to one 2021 study, published in PLOS Medicine, eating three eggs a week (which adds around 300 milligrams of cholesterol) raises the risk of premature death by around a fifth. “Intakes of eggs and cholesterol were associated with higher all cause, cardiovascular disease, and cancer mortality,” the study’s co-author, Zhejiang University’s Professor Yu Zhang, said.
“The increased mortality associated with egg consumption was largely influenced by cholesterol intake.”
So yes, while chicken eggs do contain a high amount of protein and relatively few calories (six grams of protein per 80 calories), the extra baggage of cholesterol isn’t worth it when a vast array of other foods provide these essential nutrients.
What are vegan eggs made from?
The variety of vegan egg alternatives extends even beyond vegan meat or milk alternatives. Depending on what it’s being used for, vegan eggs range from simple home remedies such as flax meal and water to perfectly engineered liquid eggs made from mung bean protein isolate and gellan gum.
Eggs are used for a plethora of cooking and baking applications including binding, leavening, and adding moisture, and different plant-based foods are used to replicate these properties based on what’s needed. Keep reading to discover just what’s in every vegan egg variety.
Whether you’re in the mood for a satisfying scramble or a sophisticated quiche, there’s a quality vegan egg replacement. Here is how to swap out chicken eggs in common cooking recipes.
1 Scrambled eggs
When it comes to a solid scramble, you’ve got options. Firm or extra-firm tofu is a classic go-to. Simply press the excess moisture out of a block of tofu, crumble, and warm it up in a pan with a sprinkling of salt, pepper, and turmeric for color. The tofu method doesn’t require a ton of effort, but for minimal effort, reach for a bottle of liquid egg. The directions: scramble like an egg and cook thoroughly. Products such as JUST Egg and Simply Eggless couldn’t make scrambled eggs any more convenient—you don’t even have to deal with a shell!
2 Quiches and omelets
A quiche and an omelet seem like very different things, but really, they’re both cooked, egg-based vessels for other tasty ingredients. One can make a satisfying quiche batter by blending firm tofu with spices, nutritional yeast, and a bit of non-dairy milk; an omelet batter is made in the same way, just with silken tofu. Alternatively, a batter of chickpea flour can also stand in for tofu when whipping up an omelet or quiche. As with the scramble, liquid eggs work wonders here, too.
Sometimes recipes for veggie burgers and loaves call for an egg as a binder. Tried and true, a flax egg is the perfect swap in this application. To make a flax egg, combine three tablespoons of flax meal with one tablespoon of water. Let it sit for a few minutes until the mixture forms a thick, gel-like consistency. It’s ready to use!
Certain creamy sauces such as hollandaise and mayonnaise are traditionally made with an emulsion of eggs and fat (either butter or oil). A hollandaise can be replicated using a base of either silken tofu or cashews. Excellent vegan mayonnaise can be literally whipped up at home by blending oil and other ingredients with aquafaba (brine from a can of chickpeas). When whipped, this bean juice magically replicates the viscosity of egg whites. Granted, it may not be magic but science that makes this happen.
5 Sunny side up
Unless you’ve got a fairly advanced kitchen setup, we advise leaving this type of egg to the pros. A few vegan companies make ready-to-go, plant-based fried eggs for whenever you want to put an egg on it (hello, ramen). Try Be Leaf or All Vegetarian to start.
6 Hard boiled
This is yet another type of egg we recommend leaving to the professionals. Luckily, Crafty Counter’s vegan WunderEgg is now available at Whole Foods nationwide.
It may have once sounded impossible, but in a world first, US brand Yo-Egg has created a realistic version of a poached egg (it has also created a sunny-side-up egg, too, and a hard-boiled egg is in development). Right now, you can find it in a few restaurant locations across the US, including Rebel Cheese in Austin, Texas, and Voodoo Vegan Food Truck in Los Angeles, California.
How to replace chicken eggs in baking
Baking is a science, and as such, vegan egg replacement must be exact. Not all plant-based eggs work in all baking recipes. Here’s what you need to know to avoid a baking fail.
1 Quick breads, brownies, and cookies
Sweets with some heft, such as banana bread, muffins, and brownies, are generally the most forgivable when it comes to egg replacers. A homemade flax egg often does the trick and sometimes something as simple as applesauce or pumpkin purée (use one-quarter cup purée mixed with one-quarter teaspoon of baking soda per chicken egg) will work well. Note: If you go the fruit mash route, make sure there’s fat elsewhere in the recipe—either in the form of vegan butter, oil, or nut butter. Without this fat content, your goods will turn out gummy. In regards to cookies, the flax egg tends to be more successful.
If you’re making gingerbread, British chef Nigella Lawson also has an unusual egg-replacer tip: prunes. During a segment on Good Morning America, Lawson showed viewers how to make vegan gingerbread (which she calls “luscious vegan gingerbread”) for the holiday season. First, she melted together wet ingredients (like molasses, oil, and Lyle syrup), before adding brown sugar and prunes, which help to add flavor, but like eggs, help with structure too. She also added a dash of oat milk to help everything stick together.
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Classic cakes are lighter than quick breads and demand some lift. Vegan-as-is recipes typically rely on a combination of baking soda and/or apple cider vinegar to get the job done. If you’re trying to veganize a non-vegan cake recipe, try a powdered egg replacer. These contain the perfect ratio of binding agents and baking soda to mimic the chemical properties of eggs. On occasion, you may find silken tofu in a cake recipe. Some of these tofu-based cakes are fabulous, but they’re developed down to a science. We wouldn’t recommend swapping in blended tofu for eggs in a recipe that doesn’t specifically call for it.
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3 Custard fillings
Lemon bars, key lime pie, and pecan pie typically require egg yolks to obtain that thick, smooth, translucent custardy filling. Vegan bakers can replicate this texture (without altering the taste) with some protein-packed silken tofu. Generally, the mixture of sugar, cornstarch, fruit juice or extract, and silken tofu is blended together and then cooked over a stovetop or baked in the oven until thickened. Most recipes use between eight to 12 ounces of tofu. Again, we recommend working with a vegan-as-is recipe for these bakes, but if you’re in the mood to experiment, we applaud your efforts.
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4 Meringues and macarons
When some baker either intentionally or coincidentally discovered the great egg white-replicating powers of aquafaba, the world of vegan meringues and macarons opened wide. These extremely delicious and delicate sweets are mostly egg whites and sugar—which means former egg replacers such as flax eggs, baking soda, and tofu simply will not work. When whipped aggressively for several minutes, aquafaba (chickpea brine) peaks and fluffs just like egg whites. It’s an astounding and magical process to behold.
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Best vegan eggs
The best vegan eggs may differ, depending on what you’re cooking up. However, here are just a few of the readily available vegan egg products we’ve thoroughly enjoyed cooking and baking with.
1 JUST Egg
The world marveled when this brand launched its liquid vegan egg back in 2011. True to its marketing, the eggy yellow substance really scrambles and bakes just like an egg. Beyond its plethora of uses for plant-based omelets, quiches, and baked goods, we love this product for its price. The company is continually working toward dropping the cost to consumers in order to make vegan eating more accessible to all.
Find it here
2 Bob’s Red Mill Egg Replacer
Like Bob’s one-for-one gluten-free flour, the vegan egg replacer is a fairly dependable option if you’re looking to swap out eggs in a quick bread, cookie, or brownie recipe. You never know when the motivation will strike to veganize Aunt Edna’s famous zucchini bread.
Find it here
3 Acre Made
This emerging brand offers not one, but three different types of vegan egg products (or at least it will very soon). For things like frittatas and quiches, opt for its Plant-Based Egg Substitute pouch (all you need to do is mix with water!). If you’re craving a McDonald’s-style muffin, Acre Made is launching its own vegan egg patties very soon, too, alongside Plant-Based Protein Scramble Cups.
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Tofu brand Hodo Foods has taken the OG vegan scramble recipe, jazzed it up, and boxed it, so you can have a quick scramble without all the fuss. We recommend keeping it simple with toast and vegan butter, but it’s also delicious with noodles, in fried rice, and in a breakfast burrito.
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Spero usually specializes in soft vegan cheese, but recently it also came out with its own version of a pourable vegan egg. Available at Sprouts Farmers Market, the plant-based alternative is made from pepita seeds and packs in six grams of protein per serving.
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At the risk of getting egg on our faces, we’d like to say we think this brand has well and truly cracked the vegan egg market (sorry not sorry). Its pourable No-Egg Egg is great for things like scramble and pancakes, but its quiche range is hard to beat. Its Classic Quiche Lorraine, for example, comes complete with vegan bacon lardons, tomatoes, and vegan cheese.
FIND IT HERE