Traditionally, many baked goods, such as cookies and cakes, are not vegan because eggs are trusted with providing structure to the baked good. Eggs help with leavening or rising of the product, as well as adding flavor to the final product.
There are numerous vegan friendly egg substitutes that can be used in baking, however it is important to be sure to use the appropriate substitute based on the role the eggs are playing in the original recipe. Substitutions can be tricky even for experienced bakers, as one needs to know what the dough or batter should look like normally in order to be confident that the vegan version is similar, if not equal, in regards to consistency, texture, flavor, and form.
Some common substitutes for eggs include overripe bananas, coconut oil, tofu, avocados, and baking soda with vinegar. Black beans can also be substituted for eggs in rich, dense desserts like brownies. These substitutions each have their own properties that they bring to a baked good.
Baking soda with vinegar, for example, is generally best in a lighter, fluffier dessert such as sponge cakes. Avocados can also be used as a substitution for butter in baking recipes, but it is very important to make sure proper conversion adjustments are made to the original recipe. Avocados may also cause a green discoloration to lighter coloured dough and batters even though it usually will not affect the taste. Bananas, however, generally will not affect the appearance of the final product but are often very prominent in the flavoring of baked goods.
A major factor to consider when deciding on a vegan friendly egg substitute is allergies. Banana and coconut allergies are common, which can be quite severe to individuals who are unaware of any allergies they may have, or are unaware of the ingredients within their food. Always be sure to check for allergies before providing treats when using potentially undetectable allergens, especially in environments such as school, work, or other community or public events.
I decided to test to some of these vegan friendly egg substitutes and then conduct a blind taste test of four versions of chocolate chip cookies, three of which would be made using a vegan-friendly egg substitute and one would be made with eggs; all four batches would be otherwise identical in recipe and preparation. The four types of cookies were judged by a panel of Muse editors and staff in order to determine which substitute was most and least preferred, how well these substitutions worked in comparison to the original recipe using eggs, and whether or not the judging panel could tell which batch of cookies was not vegan.
I made two batches of cookie dough, following the recipe exactly until it came to adding the eggs. For this experiment, I specifically sought out a recipe that adds the eggs towards the end of the process to assure consistency between the four types of dough. I divided each batch into two equal portions. For three of the four portions, I added one of the three vegan substitutes I had chosen, which were coconut oil, an over ripe banana, and puréed soft tofu. To the fourth batch, I added egg.
Before the last step of adding flour to the batter, I added food colouring to colour code each dough so that they would not get mixed up or confused before the taste test. Pink was added to banana, green to tofu, blue to coconut oil, and purple to the one with the egg. After coloring the batter, I followed the recipe again, and where I divided the flour into two portions and added each to one of the colored batters, starting with the one made with egg so I could get an idea of how the texture and consistency of the dough should look and feel as a finished product.
The recipe stated to add more flour if needed to assure that the dough pulled away from the bowl into a tight ball that was not sticky to touch. The dough made with eggs and the dough made with coconut oil needed roughly a quarter of a cup of extra flour added. The dough made with tofu did not need any extra flour, in fact, it did not need all the flour that was called for originally and still felt very dry and crumbly in comparison to the original recipe cookie dough. The dough made with banana used more than twice the amount of flour called for in order to create a similar product to the original recipe, however the final product had the most similar texture to the dough made with the egg. All four types of dough were refrigerated for thirty minutes after adding dark chocolate chips. After removing from the refrigerator, the coconut oil dough was dry and crumbly, similar to the tofu dough.
All four types of cookies baked thoroughly in the recipe’s recommended timeframe. The cookies made with eggs, as well as the cookies made with the banana, stayed very round and plump, the tofu cookie sunk a little in the centre, and the coconut oil cookies flattened down a great deal more than the others.
The judging panel consisted of nine participants who were unaware of the types of vegan friendly egg substitutes that had been used (no one had any relevant allergies). Each of the participants tasted one of every type of cookie and then filled out a questionnaire regarding their thoughts on the taste, consistency, and texture of the cookies. They were asked to rank their favorite cookies on a scale of 1 to 4; 1 being their favorite, and 4 being their least favorite. The participants were asked if they could taste any additional flavors in either of the cookies, and if they could identify which cookie used the traditional non-vegan recipe.
The favorite recipe was a tie between the original recipe with egg and the cookies made with coconut oil, where each recipe received four votes. The tofu recipe was the least favourite. Only two of the nine participants identified the original recipe cookies as the ones that were not vegan. Four people voted that the coconut oil recipe was the non-vegan recipe; two people voted that the banana recipe was not vegan, and one person voted that tofu was not vegan. On average, banana was the least favourite, followed by tofu.
Eight out of the nine participants were able to identify the flavoring in the banana dough. One participant was able to correctly identify the coconut flavor in the batch made with coconut oil. Ideally, this experiment would have featured other baked good with various textures, densities, and consistencies such as pie crust, sponge cake, brownies, cheesecake, and other desserts like bread pudding where the egg is one of the main components of the dish, in order to be able to determine which vegan friendly egg substitutes work best in different environments.
When making substitutions in any recipe it is always a good idea to reflect on what the substitutions are and how they affect the final product. Some vegan substitutes might work best in cookies or brownies but are not ideal for lighter cakes. This is true when making any substitutions such as making a recipe diabetic friendly or gluten-free. It is also good to remember that even though a cookie might be vegan it does not necessarily mean that it is healthy. Snacking vegan doesn’t necessarily make the snack good for you.
The science of vegan baking might be an acquired skill that requires practice and dedication, but is definitely a more cost efficient way to provide vegan treats at parties and events. Vegan friendly egg substitutes can also be used in recipes that are not limited to baking. Appetizers, entrées, and even breakfast items like tofu scramble – a mock scramble egg dish – can all be made vegan.
For more vegan recipes, or vegan baking and meal ideas visit The Vegan Society at https://www.vegansociety.com/resources/recipes.
The Muse will be expanding this vegan friendly egg substitutes experiment to students on campus in November, more information to come!