Long gone are the days when vegan baked goods tasted stale, flavorless, and funky. Some of the best baked goods I’ve ever had or made have been vegan (and I’m a big fan of sweets).
The first thing to remember about starting out with vegan baking (or non-vegan baking for that matter) is that you might have a few flops. That’s okay! Keep trying! I’ve been determined to convert all my old favorite baked desserts into vegan versions. Lots of times they turn out just as I was hoping, but every once in a while, something goes wrong and I just have to try again, maybe with a different egg replacer, maybe by actually remembering to add the baking soda or baking powder, or maybe by baking it for more or less time. They say baking is a science. I’ve never treated it as a very precise science. You will NOT see me levelling off the measuring cups or spoons with the back of knife. When I bake, I am incredibly messy and fairly careless in my measurements. And it’s always (more or less) worked for me. That being said, if levelling off that measuring cup with a knife makes you more comfortable…by all means, stick with that.
When you’re first starting out baking vegan, one of the first things you’ll realize is “Oh shit, what about the eggs?!” Butter and milk are both easily replaced with oil/vegan shortening and nondairy milks. But eggs are a fairly unique ingredient. Sure, there are the commercial egg replacers. But honestly, in 3 years of vegan baking, I’ve never tried them…I’ve always felt like an identifiable substance that I already have in the kitchen is preferable. But if you want to try them–by all means, go ahead, and let me know what you think.
The first step in replacing eggs in baking is to figure out what the egg is used for. Do you even need to replace the eggs? For instance, pancakes turn out perfectly fine without the eggs and without a replacement. Eggs are generally used in baked goods as leavening agents, as binders, and/or to add moisture. What do you get from the egg? What properties do the replacements add? An egg is high in protein, so many of the egg substitutes are also high in protein. Soy yogurt, tofu, flax seed are proteins with binding and moistening properties. Applesauce and bananas contain pectin and so are good binders and moistening agents. Agar is a good replacement for egg whites.
Applesauce or Banana: Good for cookies, cakes, muffins, or quick breads. Use 1/4 cup of unsweetened applesauce or 1 mashed banana for each egg called for. Applesauce has a neutral flavor. Banana may give your baked goods a slight banana flavor. If you want a lighter texture to your baked good, you can add 1/2 tsp extra baking powder.
Nondairy Yogurt: Plain soy yogurt (or other nondairy yogurts) is a good egg replacer for cakes, muffins, brownies. Use 1/4 cup per egg called for.
Flax Seed: Ground flax is good for chewier, denser baked goods–heartier muffins, quick breads, brownies. Use 1 Tbls ground flax seed mixed with 3 Tbls water per egg.
Tofu: Tofu can be used as an egg replacer in two ways: 1) tofu is a dense egg replacer in baked goods–replace one egg with 1/4 cup pureed silken tofu; or 2) tofu actually can replicate the consistency of eggs in things like quiches, scrambles, etc. For a quiche, choose a softer tofu; for a scramble choose a firmer tofu.
Agar Agar: Agar Agar powder can be found at health food stores or Asian groceries. It is a sea vegetable. Agar can be used to replace egg whites in recipes. Dissolve 1 Tbls agar in 1 Tbls water for each egg white called for. Whip it together, chill it, and then whip it again. [Note: I'm not sure if this works in something like angel food cake, but something where fewer egg whites are called for should be fine].
These are my go-to egg substitutes. There are lots more out there, but with the exception of agar (which can be potentially difficult to find), I like these because they are all readily available at any grocery store and often I already have them in my pantry. Whether you are a beginning vegan baker, or a seasoned pro, you can’t go wrong with Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero’s canon of vegan baking perfection: Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, and Vegan Pie in the Sky. These will keep you busy with oodles of recipes for heavenly baked goods that will have people asking, “This is vegan?!?”