The flax “egg” is a name given to a simple mixture of ground flax seed and water. A few minutes after mixing these together, mysterious but wonderful components from the flax seed form a gel with the water. I say mysterious because, after browsing around on the wonderful Internet, the closest I could come to what forms the gel is that flax seed is rich in soluble fiber.
Anyway, in baked goods, this flax-water gel acts very much like an egg does to leaven and bind the dough or batter. In a meat loaf, it adds body and fiber. If you let the flax meal-water mixture sit for 10 minutes or more, it will thicken impressively!
In baking, the flax “egg” can be simpler to work with than a chicken egg. If you’ve run out of eggs but have a bag of Bob’s Red Mill ground flaxseed in the freezer (see note), it’s easy to just whisk up a batch.
If you think your recipe might be too moist, just reduce the amount of water. In a recipe like my Apple-Apricot Fruit-Sweetened Muffins, notice you don’t add water as an ingredient, but rely on the moisture in the coconut milk to form the “egg”. The volume of a typical large egg is 1/4 cup, by the way.
Caveats: you probably can’t fry the flax “egg” up like an omelet – or if you have done this, please let me know!! It does not add the protein that an egg would, so hypoglycemics like me have to be careful of making a recipe too high in carbohydrate. It will probably not work if your recipe calls for more than two eggs, either. That’s pushing the binding properties of the gel as opposed to the proteins in eggs.
The gel holds together enough to paint a little spiral form with. Who says you should never play with your food? Thanks, soluble fiber!
The flax “egg” is a simple mixture of ground flax seed and water that gels to bind the other ingredients together. It’s a common substitute for eggs in vegan baked dishes– and flax increases the fiber content. It is easy to mix up and add to your recipe. You can even adjust the amount of moisture according to the notes below.
1 tablespoon ground flax seed
3 tablespoons water (up to 1/3 cup) – see note
If making the gel, measure the flax seed into a small dish. Pour in the water while whisking gently. The gel will take a few minutes to form and will continue to thicken over time.
If using in a recipe, add the flax meal with the dry ingredients and the water with the wet. Or if the recipe already calls for flax meal and there is other liquid, don’t add any extra water unless the batter seems quite dry.
I found a range of egg-substitute equivalents in browsing recipes. The resource on elimination diets that I’ve been using for over a decade calls for 1 tablespoon of flax meal to 1/3 cup water. Other sites give the proportion as 1 tablespoon flax meal to 3 tablespoons of water. If you are trying a recipe for the first time, err on the side of less water — you can always add more, but not take it out!
Why keep your flax meal in the freezer? In addition to containing wonderful fiber, flax is also an excellent source of plant omega-3 fatty acids, mostly ALA (alpha-lipoic acid). You want to keep those fatty acids from going rancid, especially if you buy your flax meal in 3-or 4-pound bags as I do!
Keywords: egg substitute, elimination diet, vegan egg, flax meal