What do eggs do?
So, what are cakes like without eggs? Dry, dense, and without structure! Doesn’t sound very appetizing, does it? Eggs act as both leaveners and emulsifiers, which essentially means they help our baked goods to be light and fluffy. They increase the amount of air we can incorporate into our batters which increases the volume, tenderness and appearance of the final baked product. Eggs are also, if you remember our “chemistry” of baking, part of the liquid equation in cakes, which means they keep our cakes moist.
As a general rule, eggs are considered a good food. They’re an excellent source of protein and contain a lot of nutrients the body needs. Unfortunately, whole eggs also have fat and cholesterol in the yolks which many folks need to avoid for a variety of health reasons. Other people like my son are allergic to and cannot eat the whites of the egg.
Given what eggs do for baking, many are hesitant to substitute other ingredients for them, but it is quite possible to bake without them and to also bake with just the whites of eggs.
How to substitute egg whites
If you simply want to eat healthier (i.e. without the yolks), the simplest approach is to use egg whites only. One large whole egg is about ¼ cup of egg whites, so I usually use liquid egg whites and substitute accordingly for the whole eggs. If you want to separate egg whites from the yolks, usually two egg whites is equivalent to one whole egg.
How to substitute for eggs altogether
If you need to avoid eggs altogether, I recommend four best approaches. Substituting 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed mixed with 3 tablespoons of water for every egg in a recipe; adding 1 tsp of baking soda with 1 tablespoon of vinegar (or other acid like lemon juice) to the recipe after you’ve substituted 1/4 cup of pureed fruit or vegetable or yogurt or sour cream per egg as the binder; using 1/4 cup of aquafaba which is the liquid generated when cooking chickpeas; or making or buying an egg replacer.
If you utilize the flaxseed substitution, you should mix the flaxseed and water in a mixing bowl, and let it sit to thicken. Once it thickens, it looks a bit like beaten eggs and acts like eggs in a baked good.
If you’re making cookies or brownies instead of a cake, where the eggs act mostly as a binder, simply substituting pureed fruit or cooked vegetables in place of the eggs works very well. My favorites to use are applesauce, bananas, pumpkin, and squash. About 1/4 cup of pureed fruit or cooked vegetable equals one whole egg. As well, if you don’t have any dairy allergies, yogurt works nicely, especially if it’s a thick yogurt like Greek yogurt.
If, however, you need the baked good to rise, then after substituting a binder for the egg, you need to use the baking soda plus vinegar option to leaven the baked good. If you try the baking soda and vinegar approach, you mix the baking soda with the dry ingredients and add the vinegar (or other acid like lemon juice) at the very end, just as you’re mixing the dry ingredients with the moist.
A third option for replacing eggs is to use aquafaba. You can make your own by cooking dried chickpeas or you can purchase canned chickpeas and use the liquid. You’ll want no salt, no sugar added versions of store-bought chickpeas. 1/4 cup of the liquid equals to one egg. Simply whisk the liquid with a fork until frothy. You can also whip aquafaba like regular eggs into a meringue by adding cream of tartar and whisking in a mixer until white and fluffy.
A fourth way to substitute for eggs is to use the egg replacers you can purchase at the store or to make your own. Egg replacers are simply a version of the baking soda plus vinegar trick. It basically just adds a starch and a gum to a powder leavener and acid (i.e. baking powder, which is baking soda plus cream of tartar). To make your own, you can mix 1/2 tsp of baking powder (which already has the baking soda and acid mixed together in powder form) with 1 tsp of a starch like tapioca or arrowroot or cornstarch and 1/8 tsp of a gum like xanthan or guar. Add 2 tbsp of warm water and whisk. Let it sit and then rewhisk right before adding to your wet ingredients as an egg. Simply multiply the amounts per number of eggs needed for the recipe.