Vegan recipes have long been using ground flax seeds mixed with water as a replacement for real eggs. Even if you're not into vegan baking, you can learn how to make a flax egg substitute for many recipes that require regular eggs for binding ingredients, especially if you're in, well, a bind.
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What the heck is a flax egg?
A flax egg is a pretty simple mixture of flaxseed or flaxseed flour with water to create a binder in place of an egg. It's a clever way that vegans and non-egg-eaters have been mimicking the qualities of eggs in vegan baked goods for years. Flax eggs and regular eggs are a 1:1 ratio, meaning that for every egg that a recipe calls for, you'd make one flax egg mixture. To do that, you will need:
- 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed. If you have whole seeds, you can grind them in a coffee grinder or a food processor.
- 3 tablespoons of water
To make a flax egg, all you need to do is add the ground flax seed to a bowl, then add room temperature water. Let it sit for about 15 minutes.
Alternatively, you can use boiling hot water, and the flax egg will only have to sit for about two minutes until you get the same gelatinous texture. If you need more than one egg, you can combine two or three flax eggs in the same mixing bowl.
When to use it
We love a recipe hack, but in this case, it's wise to use a flax seed egg only in the case where the recipe you're using requires only a small amount of eggs. Pancakes? Yes. A souffle? Would not recommend it. Unfortunately, this vegan egg substitute is no match for the structural integrity that a chicken egg provides for things like frittatas, enriched breads, or anything that require copious egg whites, like meringues.
Flax eggs do work for most baked goods that have a lot of flour, however. Chocolate chip cookies, pancakes and waffles, and quick breads like banana bread and muffins are all great candidates for experimenting with a flax egg recipe. It also works for salad dressings that need an emulsifier. When mixed correctly, the flax egg provides the same gluey-ness that is crucial for binding ingredients together.
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Are flax eggs healthier?
And of course, we would be remiss if we didn't mention the health benefits of this vegan egg replacer: the flax seed egg has fiber, omega-3's, protein, and has been shown to help prevent heart disease and breast cancer. If you're cutting back on cholesterol, dealing with hormone imbalances, or just wanting to get your digestion, um, on track, the flax seed is the perfect superfood.The pantry-friendly egg recipe can also work using chia seeds, if that's your thing. A chia seed vegan egg substitute is just as good of a substitute for real eggs in vegan cooking and baking.
And then there are those of us who have little to no interest in vegan recipes, or the virtues of healthy eating in the context of dessert. We hear you. But the time will come when you will look into the fridge in the middle of making zucchini bread and realize with horror that the omelet you made two days ago polished off the last of the carton, and you will frantically pull up this article. Welcome back.
A note about gluten-free recipes
You may want to find another substitute for eggs if you're using a gluten-free recipe. The protein in gluten provides structure, as does the protein in regular eggs. Without either, your muffins will be sad flax pogs, and your cookies will be greasy, crumbly little saucers. Oat flour is maybe the only gluten-free alternative that is flax egg-friendly.
Flax seed is useful and healthy but you don't want to keep it in your cabinet for too long, or else those health benefits go out the window, and actually the flaxseed will have the opposite effect than it would if it were in its prime. If you're going by expiration dates, whole flaxseed can last months past their expiration date, but ground flaxseed can spoil just a week after.
If you buy flaxseed in bulk, a good way to tell whether it's spoiled is to take a whiff of the bag. Does it smell kind of sour? Almost like a box of crayons? Time to toss it. It probably tastes acerbic too, and nothing like the warm, nutty notes of flavor it once had. The reason it smells and tastes funky is because the omega-3 fatty acids in the seed have become rancid. Ground flaxseed is more likely to have this smell because the seeds have been broken open and the acid has been oxidizing for longer.
So how do you prolong the shelf life of flaxseed? First thing's first: don't even try to store flax eggs. They don't keep, even in the fridge, so when you're measuring out your flax eggs, be precise to avoid having extra. Aside from that, you can store flax seed or flaxseed meal in an airtight container; putting them in the fridge isn't necessary, so long as you have a dark, cool pantry.
Flax eggs are so simple to make that even with two dozen chicken eggs in the fridge, you might as well see what all the fuss is about. With the right texture and a little ingenuity on the part of the baker, the unassuming seed gets the job done.