The incredible, edible egg. This protein powerhouse has long been a staple on American breakfast plates and in most traditional baking recipes. These days, many people are looking to reduce the number of eggs in their diet, either to cut down on cholesterol or because they’ve decided to start eating an animal free diet. Whatever your reasons for cutting out eggs, you can be sure to find a number of great substitutes for whole eggs, egg whites and egg yolks.

The Basics: Why Do So Many Baking Recipes Include Eggs?

Before you start eliminating eggs from your favorite recipes, it’s good to know what function they serve. Beaten eggs typically act as a binding agent. They help to combine wet and dry elements, like flour, sugars, and leavening agents, into a smooth, consistent mix. Eggs are also used sometimes to change the texture of a dish. Whole eggs and egg yolks tend to make dishes a bit thicker, while beaten egg whites can lend a light, airy texture.

Sweet Substitution: Using Fruit In Place of Eggs

An easy, healthy way to swap out eggs is to replace them with fruit. This technique works best in dishes that are already sweet and moist, such as fruit breads. For best results, use fruits with a high pectin count, like bananas or cooked apples. Pectin is a naturally occurring substance in many fruits and is also used as a thickening agent in jellies and jams. Pectin also has the added distinction of actually reducing blood cholesterol levels, which is great to know for anyone on a low cholesterol diet. When using fruit, plan to use about 1/4 cup of sliced bananas or mashed apples.

Savory Swaps

For cozy baked dishes, like meatloaf, you want to avoid using fruit as an egg replacer. Instead, try 1/4 cup of silken tofu. Tofu is a great substitute in any prepared dish, because it will take on the flavors of the recipe. For those sensitive to soy, try a combination of oatmeal and tomato paste. Again, you’ll want to use about 1/4 cup of this mixture to replace a whole egg. Try to mix up a ration of one part tomato paste to 3 parts oatmeal, then adjust depending on if you want to add a little moisture to your dish. This mixture works especially well for replacing egg yolks in savory dishes.

Beyond the Basics

If you’re following a vegan or vegetarian diet, you might want to try investing in a couple of unique ingredients that serve as excellent egg substitutes: flax seed and agar powder. Flax seed works well in any baking recipe, provided that you mix your flax egg carefully. Don’t skip a step by purchasing pre-ground flax meal. Flax seed is delicate, and has a tendency to become rancid more quickly when it’s been pre-processed. Instead, purchase whole flax seed and store whatever you don’t use immediately in the freezer. Then, carefully grind your flax seed in a spice grinder or high powered food processor. Add one tablespoon of ground flax seed to three tablespoons of water, whip together, and then let rest for at least 15 minutes. Letting the mixture rest allows it to thicken up and take on a truly “eggy” texture.”

For a lighter texture that mimics the fluffiness of egg whites in a recipe, substitute one tablespoon of agar powder mixed with one tablespoon of water. Beat the powder with the water, let chill for 15 minutes, and then beat again until the desired consistency is achieved. Agar powder is a totally vegetarian thickening agent that can also be used in vegan pies and puddings. You can find it in most health food stores and several Asian markets.

With a little creativity and flexibility, you can easily reduce the calories and cholesterol of your favorite baked dishes, while adding fiber, vitamins, and other healthy nutrients. And best of all, you don’t have to sacrifice taste. Happy baking!

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