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Eggs getting too expensive? Substitutes to use in baking, scrambles and more

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That avian flu outbreak you’ve been hearing about is poised to affect egg prices in a big way. Right now, big chains—the McDonald’s and Paneras of the world—are mainly feeling the squeeze, but analysts predict grocery shoppers could see prices skyrocket this summer. So what if you are hesitating to shell out big bucks for a carton? We turned to vegan experts, who assured us there are plenty of ways to make sure you won’t miss eggs in recipes, no matter your motivation.

When events like the avian flu outbreak occur, they “open the door to look at the other issues that are so critical, like our environment and the suffering of animals,” Robert Grillo, executive director of Free from Harm, a non-profit organization promoting farmed animal rescue and advocacy, told TODAY.com. “If we can cook what we want and enjoy it without harming anyone, why would wouldn’t we do that?” (His site also has a great collection of recipes made with egg substitutes.

Of course, eggs play a pretty scientific roll in dishes—they are responsible for all that binding and leavening—and there are dozens of substitutions out there, so you need to pick and choose based on the flavors brought to the recipe (for example, bananas are great binders for baking, but for burgers, you probably want to go avocado). Here a few of the most common and tried-and-true options to get you started:

Baking

Great all-purpose:

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Recipe: 1 tablespoon flax to 3 tablespoons of almost-boiling water, whisked = 1 egg

This versatile egg sub is used in lots of vegan recipes, and is full of omega-3s. “It works so well for binding purposes—just like an egg,” says Doug McNish, vegan chef and author of the new book, “Vegan Everyday: 500 Delicious Recipes,” out this week.

For binding and leavening:

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Recipe: ½ mashed banana = 1 egg

Recipe: ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce = 1 egg

Again, substitutions require a little bit of playing around—McNish tested some recipes for his cookbook a dozen times to perfect them—but banana and applesauce work well in many recipes, such as pancakes and cookies, because they lend moisture and hold air pockets, the chef told TODAY.com.

He also reminds us not to underestimate the power of baking soda and baking powder for leavening. If a recipe calls for say, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, try omitting the egg and adding ¼ teaspoon of baking soda for that “extra boost” of lightness, he says.

Breakfast

For scrambles, frittatas and quiche:

Recipe: 2 cups boiling water boiling + 3 or 4 tablespoons chickpea flour, whisked, with a hint of turmeric for color

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Silken tofu is commonly used to get that scrambled-egg texture, but with all the soy allergies today, McNish has been gravitating toward chickpea flour, which is also loaded with protein, just like an egg. “It’s a great base for vegan quiche, scrambled eggs or frittata. You do need to season it, add whatever you want: spinach, red pepper, mushrooms, olives.”

Fried:

Cookbook author Miriam Sorrell has even developed a much-copied Perfect Vegan Fried ‘Egg,’ which looks just like a sunny side­–up egg. She uses tofu for the ‘white’ and a combo of ingredients, such as instant mashed potatoes and vegan margarine, for the yolk. Her full recipe is here.

Savory

Binders for meatballs, veggie burgers, etc:

Recipe: 1 tablespoon flax to 3 tablespoons of almost-boiling water, whisked = 1 egg

Recipe: ¼ cup avocado = 1 egg

Avocado works well as a binder because it has a nice concentration of fat, just like an egg, McNish says.

For egg wash:

To give flaky pastries and crusts foods that shiny coat, the blog Eggless Cooking recommends brushing on oil, dairy/non-dairy milk or dairy/non-dairy butter.

For battering:

Recipe: 1 cup almond milk + ¼ cup Dijon mustard

Years ago, McNish worked a breading station at a restaurant, where, of course, everything is dipped in a milk-egg mixture. He tried a million subs until he found this one. “I use it for everything—onion rings, vegan crab cakes. I even used it at a recent pop-up dinner to make fried pickles.”

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