One example is flax seed gel. Flax seeds are ideal substitutes because they are – just like eggs – high in protein and fat, which acts as a strong binder. To make flax seed gel, all it takes is to mix two tablespoons of ground flax seed with three tablespoons of water. She recommends including the nutty flavored flax seed gel in whole grain foods like bran or corn muffins.
Other stand-ins include fruit purees, like bananas and applesauce. Some may be surprised by this; Fruit works?! “The pectin from the fruit acts similarly to fat, holding the air bubbles in the batter” Bradley says. She advises including an extra ½ teaspoon of baking powder along with an extra teaspoon of oil or butter to maintain the texture of the recipe. The best recipes to proxy fruit for eggs are denser, sweeter delicacies like muffins or coffee cakes.
As a typical rebel chef, I had to try this. I made chocolate chip cookies and substituted ¼-cup applesauce for one egg, along with the additional ½-teaspoon of baking soda. To give the batter more firmness, I added ¼-cup flour. The cookies came out a bit more moist in the center, but still had that lovable crunch!
For recipes calling for less than three eggs, Bradley proposes using a combination of baking powder, water, and canola oil. “Baking powder replaces the leavening provided by the egg; water and oil replace the liquid and fat that egg provides.” Add two teaspoons of baking powder, two teaspoons of water, and one tablespoon of canola oil for best results.
Getting rid of the fatty, but delicious, butter
Then again, maybe it will. Lori Alden, in ‘The Cook’s Thesaurus: Fats”’ writes “in many recipes for quick breads, muffins, and cookies, you can reduce the amount of fat by about a third without seriously compromising the quality.”
Alden also names apple butter as a suitable replacement. “Apple butter can replace up to ¾ of the shortening [butter and shortening are interchangeable] in many recipes. Also, reduce sugar if the apple butter is sweetened; add with the liquid ingredients.” Mix in apple butter with breads and muffins for a heavier dish. However, she writes, “avoid substituting oils for solid fats when baking cookies, cakes, and pastries; it will make the dish greasy and dense.”
For some dishes however, I can use olive oil as a stand-in for butter. Who knew? Carol Firenze raves about the benefits of olive oil in ‘Baking with Olive Oil Instead of Butter.”’ By using Olive oil instead of butter, cholesterol and saturated fat content of desserts is dramatically reduced.
“Because olive oil contains Vitamin E, it helps to naturally maintain the freshness of baked goods and creates moist biscuits and muffins.” For ½ cup of butter (1 stick), she recommends ¼ cup and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
But what about the sugar?
If brown sugar is not healthier, then what is? Elizabeth Warden RD discusses the merits of different sweeteners in ‘Natural Sweeteners, Which Ones Should You Use?’ She loves black strap molasses, as it is the only sweetener that includes very helpful levels of nutrients such as calcium, potassium, iron, selenium, magnesium, and manganese. Another front-runner is dark honey; the high levels of anti-oxidants help to keep our cells healthy.
Agave nectar is another possible substitute for typical sugar. The nectar has inulin, which “slows down blood sugar response to dietary sugar, and may be why agave doesn’t raise blood sugar levels as much as sugar and other natural sweeteners.” Warden states the only drawback with agave nectar is price; a small 8-ounce bottle can run up to ten dollars.
A granular sugar substitute is stevia, also known as “Truvia.” However, while it has been generally recognized as safe by the FDA, the Center for Science in the Public Interest “is concerned about animal and lab tests suggesting high doses of stevia may result in mutations that might lead to cancer” reports Warden.
“The real issue,” Warden believes, “is the total amount of sugar…not the type.” With a little tweaking, we can lower the sugar in our kitchens, along with replacing eggs and butter with other, more interesting, substitutes.