Eggs are so versatile, and universally-loved, that they’re hard to replace. Lots of people are up to the challenge, however. Replacing the eggs in vegan baking is simple. My personal favorite is ground flax seeds mixed with water, but depending on the function of the eggs in a recipe, cupboard staples like bananas or a can of chickpeas (specifically, the liquid known as aquafaba) could work wonders. Even delicate items like meringues are doable for vegans and people with egg allergies.
Non-baked eggy dishes, however, are harder to replicate, as the flavor, not just the texture, needs to pass muster. Food companies keep trying to best each other when it comes to producing more advanced and realistic egg simulacra. For years, Clara Foods has been working on a chickenless egg white derived from bioengineered yeast. Another much-hyped product is Hampton Creek’s Just Scramble, which, unlike the conventional powder-based options, will come in liquid form. Its launch has been delayed by several years, and the company has been beset by food safety and ethics controversies. Follow Your Heart, the company behind the VeganEgg, is planning to launch a liquid version within the next few months, to be found in a store’s refrigerated section.
Follow Your Heart’s CEO, Bob Goldberg, explained to me some of the challenges of creating plant-based egg products. One is getting it to look and feel realistic. “We always operated from the assumption that a vegan egg should exactly replicate as many of the properties of a chicken egg as possible, such as scrambling, binding, and baking. Unlike a veggie burger, where many people are turned off by something which resembles meat too closely, we felt that VeganEgg needed to come across as very authentic so that it could easily replace eggs in most situations.” It took over a decade for the VeganEgg to come to market.
But Goldberg thinks that this market is set to grow. He says, “I suspect that we will see a steady reduction in the use of actual eggs in products, much like the replacement of milk by the many alternatives to dairy products.”
With this in mind, I tried out some of the mainstays of the vegan egg world. I tested the following products in a classic dish where the faux eggs would be front and center: humble scrambled eggs, with red pepper, red onion, and chives. The results were... well, not hugely inspiring. Of course, these are my opinions only; your mileage may vary.
- Follow Your Heart has aimed to make the experience as egg-like as possible, starting with the egg carton box that houses the powder. As soon as you open the package, there’s a strong smell of black salt, imparting to food an earthiness that’s meant to resemble eggs.
- The VeganEgg is versatile, as it can be used both for scrambled eggs and for baking. (When baking, you may need to add plenty of cooking time, as it produces very moist foods.)
- This mix is based on algae, with the first two ingredients being “whole algal flour” and “whole algal protein.” Algae is often touted sustainable superfood of the future (although it should be noted that meal replacement company Soylent has blamed algal flour for making some customers sick).
- The mix bubbles a lot when cooking, and it takes a while to cook it to firmness. You’ll need some patience.
- The final product does look suitably eggy, but the texture is a bit rubbery.
- A single serving doesn’t produce much food, so it’s best to cook several servings’ worth at a time.
- You can make this with just a microwave, in a short amount of time.
- The process for preparing this product, based mainly on soy and algae protein, is a bit awkward.
- You mix the powder with water, microwave for a minute, scramble with a fork, and repeat.
- The smell is cardboard-y, and a bit off-putting. The scramble-via-microwave technique led to yellow lumps in some parts and liquids.
- The taste is chalky, and hard to get over. Not a fan.
- As the name suggests, the Egg-Free Omelett Mix is meant to be used in omelet form, yet it can still be worked into a scramble.
- The Omelett Mix mainly composed of a mixture of starches. Unlike the other plant-based egg products, it develops a crisp exterior and a sticky, stretchy interior (probably due to the cassava starch). These don’t make for the most traditional scrambled eggs, but it’s a nice change.
- As with the VeganEgg, the powder has a slight smell of black salt, but this dissipates on cooking, leaving just a subtle savoriness.
- The mix is available in Europe, but not yet in the U.S. (It comes from German company Terra Vegane.)
- These eggs taste richer than the others due to the addition of milk.
- There’s the possibility of making many other egg-based dishes, using the components of Eggz Essentials.
- Even before you get to cooking, this item is a slight pain in the butt. It can only be ordered from one online company, Modernist Pantry.
- It’s not great value for money; the product is $20, and the e-book of recipes to use the product costs another $20. (The other vegan eggs available generally include a free recipe for scrambled eggs on the packaging.)
- The cooking, too, involves more steps than the other products. You combine packets strangely labeled just A (plant fiber) and B (gellan gum) with non-dairy milk and seasonings, blend, and refrigerate for a few hours.
- The scrambled eggz are a bit gummy, chewy, and gluey.
The Egg-Free Omelett, followed by the VeganEgg, is the best of the bunch: easy to prepare and pleasant-tasting (though not mind-blowingly so). The Eggz Essentials might be enjoyable for a person who likes experimenting, as the e-book is loaded with techniques and next-level vegan dishes, such as Eggz Foo Yung. Not Your Parents’ Tofu Scramble, though, is not one I recommend.
Another option is the humble tofu scramble, which is endlessly customizable, gives a nice chew, and is cheap and easy. Playing around with innovative products can be fun, but at the moment, the plant-based classics are satisfying enough.
Vegans: What are your favorite ways to replace eggs? Let us know in the comments!
The Food52 Vegan Cookbook is here! With this book from Gena Hamshaw, anyone can learn how to eat more plants (and along the way, how to cook with and love cashew cheese, tofu, and nutritional yeast).Order now