Flax Seed Egg Replacer - An Egg Substitute That's Almost Magic
Understanding the Egg
Flax Egg Replacer
Flax seeds have an outer hull consisting of five layers. The outermost layer, called the epiderm, contains a mucilaginous material which makes up about 8% of the flax seed by weight. This goopy material, known in the food science world as a mucilage, or gel, can be drawn out of the seed in several ways and used as an egg replacement that is suitable for many vegan baking applications. Flax gel is a hydrocolloid, which is defined as a substance that forms a gel when combined with water. The term comes from hydro, meaning water, and colloid, meaning a substance microscopically dispersed throughout another substance. The hydrocolloid family is huge, with vegan variants including foods such as tapioca starch, corn starch, potato starch, arrowroot starch, agar, carrageenan and even lesser known ones with weirder sounding names such as xanthan gum, guar gum and sodium alginate. It seems almost as if there is a law somewhere that states that many hydrocolloids need to have names that sound like scary alien rulers. Fear not, because most of the time, these wonder ingredients are made up of basic food building blocks known as polysaccharides. Hydrocolloids usually work either build structure, emulsify and soften mouthfeel; many things that eggs already do in traditional baking applications.
Other plants such as chia seeds, aloe vera, okra and even some basil seeds also contain polysaccharide gels. I have experimented with okra and chia and found that chia seeds can be substituted for flax seeds on a roughly one to one basis, although they are considerably more expensive. I found okra gel to lack suitable density to be superior to flax and chia gels.
Flax Seed Drawbacks
Finding the right Flax Seeds
- Never buy pre-ground flax seeds. Flax seeds contain oils that are extremely perishable. When the flax seed is ground, the oil is exposed to oxygen and begins to oxidize almost immediately. This oxidization turns the oils rancid which makes them toxic and causes them to impart a linseed oil aroma and flavor to your food. Linseed oil is in fact oxidized flax oil. When you buy pre-ground flax seeds there’s no way to tell how long they’ve been sitting around oxidizing. Always buy flax seeds whole, grind them yourself with a coffee grinder if you’re using them ground and store them in an airtight container in your freezer where they will keep for about a year. If you detect the taste of linseed oil in food prepared with flax seed egg replacers, this means that the flax seeds have gone rancid and should be discarded.
- Look for golden flax seeds instead of brown.The brown variety will be more likely to darken your baked goods due their brown hulls.
Using Flax as an Egg Substitute
Flax Meal Egg Replacer Recipe
Pros of this method
- It’s fast and works great for most egg substitutions where eggs are used, such as in baking applications where moistness and denseness are desired qualities.
- If you bake rarely you can pre-grind a large quantity of flax seeds, store them in your freezer and only use what you need when you need it.
Cons of this method
- Flax meal has a subtle mealy flavor that's usually not prominent enough to stand out in most baked items as long as you don't add any more than about 3 Tablespoons of flax meal per normal, family-sized recipe.
- Flax meal can work as the opposite as a structure builder in cakes because its slippery nature holds onto moisture. The mucilage can actually coat the gluten and gliadin, effectively blocking gluten bonds from forming. So I recommend against using it in cakes. I admit, it took me a while to figure this one out!
- This method won’t work when a smooth, creamy texture or a uniform light color is desired; the flax seed particles will make soft ingredients such as frostings and sauces grainy and light colored baked items will have golden flecks.
1) Grind your flax seeds
2) Whisk water into your flax seed meal
Flax Gel Egg Replacer Recipe
Pros of this method
- Since there are no particles in the flax gel and it is translucent, it performs much more like an actual egg. It won’t impart as much flax flavor, color will not be affected and it won't contribute to a mealy texture. The purity of this flax gel allows you to use more of it where you need extra binding or emulsifying power such as soft and chewy cookies, bars or even ice creams.
- Preparing flax gel allows you to make it in large quantities which can be a benefit if you bake often.
Cons of this method
- This method is far more involved than the Flax Meal Egg Replacer. If you don’t bake often it may be more trouble than it’s worth.
- It can be tricky to measure flax gel due to its high viscosity and elasticity, but a solution is below.
- Once you make flax gel, its life is limited to about 1 week in your refrigerator or up to 3 months in your freezer where it will have to be thawed out before each use. You can make this convenient by measuring out small quantities into an ice cube tray, placing it in a plastic freezer bag and freezing it.
3 cups water
1) Boil the flax seeds in water
2) Strain off the flax seed mucilage
3) Allow the flax mucilage to cool
Measuring Flax Gel
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I really appreciate the basic scientific background you included here.
Thanks for the information.
I wanted to let you know I quoted you and linked to this post on my blog today: http://kathys-second-half.blogspot.com/2016/08/egg-experiment.html. Thanks for the great information!
Great information with excellent step by step instructions! My family has been growing, milling, and processing flaxseed in Manitoba, Canada for over 25 years and it's only now that people are becoming more aware of the functional properties of flaxseed. Being able to replace eggs with flaxseed is fantastic for vegans but also for people who are allergic to eggs!
I did want to point out, however that one of the biggest misconceptions is that milled flaxseed will immediately go rancid once milled. Years of research and data gathering through oxidation testing has shown that poor quality seed is definitely an issue when it comes to rancidity, however rancidity will be an issue the minute the seed is ground and should never be used. Using the product immediately, or storing in an airtight container in a refrigerator will not help and again - it should never be used! That all said, good quality flax evidenced by seeds that are uniform in color, not broken, and not diseased (as evidenced by discoloration) will be stable for at least 2 years even after milled. Flaxseed has a plethora of antioxidants which keep the product stable even when milled - this is backed by 25 years worth of data. Unfortunately there is a TON of poor quality seed being sold and seed selection standards are not used uniformly in the industry. Take the time to look for good quality seed!
Check out the following links for more information;
Thank you so much
I am a passionate baker from France, and I fell into vegan baking a month ago. I was a bit disappointed by some recipes, because bloggers were not rigorous enough. Therefore what a pleasure to read your article! You go deep into your explanations, making it perfectly clear. Your blog is, according to me, a huge reference in the vegan baking word. Bravo!
Tips for flax seed gel
You can also strain the gel through panty hose or a knee high. I buy them just for straining things.
Flax seed gel also makes a wonderful hair gel.
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Not Great for Cakes
I just found your site after trying TWICE to make a cake with flax seed slurry. I wish I had found you sooner! Both cakes refused to cook completely in the center and did not rise as they should have. It is especially frustrating because I was trying to make a chocolate birthday cake for a little girl who has numerous allergies (gluten, soy, dairy and nuts) and I just hate wasting food. Thankfully, my husband will eat anything that isn't burnt or too weird-tasting, so I am freezing the cooked edges to be eaten as a treat over time. The thing is, I still need to know what I can replace the eggs with that will work with gluten free flour? Any ideas? Thanks for such a well written article with great pics!
Can someone PLEASE tell me whether to use raw or roasted flax seed in making egg substitutes. I've been to 10 sites and they never specifcy. Is raw preferred, or required? thanks!
what do you use for cakes now?
Awesomely helpful info. Quick question though, you mention this not being your go´to method for cakes anymore. What have you found that works better? I tried looking at a couple cake recipes on this site but they seem to use golden flax. Thanks so much for the tips!!!
Great info, I've been using flaxseed meal as a substitute for my baking needs for years but never knew you can boil. Thanks!
Curious if you have any experience in baking yeast rolls with flaxseed subsitute? I'm wanting to try it in this recipe: http://anoregoncottage.com/soft-100-whole-wheat-dinner-rolls/
With vegan substitutes for the dairy as well.
Thanks in advance!
I've used the ground flaxseed egg replacement for a while and been quite successful with it. But I bake enough that making some gel is a better idea. Can you give me a rough estimate of how much gel your recipe produces? And can the flax gel recipe be doubled?
Note that making gel out of ground flax sort of works too. Not that there's any reason to use it, but I was out of whole seeds and wanted to see what would happen...
Great job! Thank you very much for sharing the knowledge. I love the fact that you take so much interest in responding to queries too in a much positive manner and with utmost interest. I have made the gel just now. It would be nice if you can give a measure of how much water to use for a cup of flax seed to make the gel just like you. I am not sure how mine would turn out. Waiting it to cool.
I made the flax gel yesterday after trying a few different egg substitutes. It worked perfectly in the cookies! They turned out exactly as they would have if I had been using eggs. My non-vegan friends felt the same. I am happy to find an alternative that does not create a different taste or texture. I used brown flax seeds but there was not any flax taste was in the cookies after they baked.
Thanks for the great recipe!
This is such a detailed article. Thank you so much. Just checking quickly - I am making a chocolate cake for a birthday. I want it to be dense and moist, not airy and dry. Do you recommend I use the powder or the gel?
Can u use flax seeds as a substitute In making of fried Churros. Instead of eggs?? Please help
I made brownies with flaxseed specks I found at Marshalls, of all places. They came out better than if I had used egg!
About other egg uses
Don't miss eggs, not baking, but there is a function of eggs that is missing - the binding capacity for coatings. I have tried vegan "fried" (I actually bake everything) things like seitan or tofu but the coatings will not adhere. Most recent fail was a tofu "chicken nuggets" where all the lovely coating ended up in the dish while I was eating pretty much just tofu. Some dropped off on the baking sheet, more when I put it in a container to store and the rest when I took it out to eat. Will flax "egg" substitute function here? Has anyone tried it?
Raw or Roasted.
I have to make some vegan wedding cake this summer and I am planning to try this gel. My question, as I'm shopping for flax seeds, am I looking for a raw flax seed or a roasted? So far I've only really seen roasted. Thanks for the advice!
Golden vs. Brown Flax seeds?
Other than the colour...is there a noticeable difference between golden vs. brown flax seeds? Are the golden ones more tasty and/or more goopy?
Uses of Flax Seeds
Hi, Can Flax seeds be used for all recipes calling for eggs? Eg: Cakes, Muffins,etc...? I'm new new to baking. So your answer would be very helpful.
I used this to replace two eggs in zucchini muffins tonight. I ground two tablespoons with some of the zuch and oil mixture and it made a real glob of goo in the blender. Very good binder I'd say!