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DIY Substitutes for Staple Ingredients
Food

DIY Substitutes For Eggs, Milk, & Flour

Don’t you hate it when you’re making a recipe (let’s say, pancakes), and you open the fridge to find that your kids drank all the milk (and didn’t tell anyone)? Or, when your banana bread recipe calls for two eggs and you only have one? Here are some clever substitutions for kitchen staples – like eggs, milk, and flour – that you can literally whip up in a few minutes.

Bonus: Read to the end for a clever avocado substitution and “mock”-amole recipe.

A Note About Current Events

As of March 31, 2020: The spread of the coronavirus has upended our lives in many ways. For example, grocery shopping was an everyday task a few weeks ago, but now, it’s a full-on strategy. Whether you are using grocery delivery or going to the store yourself, you’ve probably noticed that certain grocery items are in short supply or simply unavailable.

I’ve been using the following substitutions – for one reason or another – for years. However, I wrote this post because I am using them more than ever over the past few weeks of “Stay Home, Stay Safe.” 

Egg Replacers

For Baking

This substitute for eggs is the one I use most often in my own kitchen. I started using this sub many years ago when I was a vegan, so that I could make breads, cookies, and cakes without eggs.

Not that these egg substitutes will work for baked products only. If you try to make an omelet out of these egg replacers, it will not work the way you want it to. (But if you try it, let me know what happens!)

Introducing: The “Seed” Egg

Both flaxseeds and chia seeds make great egg substitutes in baking because:

  • They thicken up when combined with water, mimicking the binding properties of eggs.
  • Flaxseeds and chia seeds will keep in the pantry (but better in the freezer/fridge) for up to 10 months.
  • Nutritionally, both seeds are good sources of fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, minerals, and antioxidants.
  • Chia seeds have slightly better binding properties, but the black seeds will leave visible specs in your baked goods.

How to Make a Flax or Chia Seed Egg:

The steps and ratios, whether you’re using flax or chia, are very similar. However, flaxseeds should be ground before using as an egg substitute. It’s easy to find and buy ground flaxseeds, or flaxseed meal. If you have whole flaxseeds, use a coffee grinder or high-power blender to grind them up first. Chia seeds can be used whole.

Most large or extra large eggs are close to 2 oz in volume, which is equivalent to 4 tablespoons of liquid. So, the following recipes will yield one egg-equivalent.

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Flax Egg


  • Prep Time: 2 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 hours
  • Total Time: 2 minutes
  • Yield: 1 1x

Description

Use this flaxseed egg recipe for vegan baking (or if you run out of eggs!).


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 Tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 3 Tbsp water

Instructions

  1. Whisk ingredients together in a small bowl and microwave for 15 seconds, or let the mixture sit for 15 minutes, until it has a gel-like consistency.
  2. Use your newly-made flax egg in your recipe.

Notes

If you only have whole flaxseeds, grind them in a spice grinder before mixing with water. Whole seeds will not form a gel when mixed with water.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 egg-quivalent
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Chia Seed Egg


  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 hours
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 1x

Description

Chia seeds aren’t just for uber-healthy pudding recipes! Mix up a couple of chia seed “eggs” in your next batch of cookies or pancakes.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 Tbsp whole chia seeds
  • 3 Tbsp water

Instructions

  1. Mix ingredients together in a small bowl let the mixture sit for at least 5 minutes, or until it has a gel-like consistency.
  2. Use your newly-made chia seed egg in your recipe.

Notes

Chia seeds can be used whole – no need to grind them.

Chia seeds eggs don’t bind exactly like chicken eggs, but they work great in pancakes, quick breads, and cookies.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 egg-quivalent

Dairy Milk Substitutes

Dry Powdered Milk for Baking

Dry powdered milk (reconstituted) is a great shelf-stable substitute for fluid milk when you’re making pancakes and quick breads. You can find Nestle/Carnation and generic-branded dry milk in most grocery stores.

I don’t recommend trying dry milk for drinking. Many people find it very bland and that it has a bad aftertaste. There are many ideas for how to make it more palatable for drinking, but that’s outside the scope of my post. Check out this post from Mom Prepares if you’re interested.

Non-Dairy Milk Alternatives For Baking and Drinking

For Baking: Non-dairy milk alternatives (plant-based milks, or NDMAs) can often be substituted directly for dairy milk. Soy, almond, coconut, and others are very versatile when it comes to baked goods. A couple of considerations:

  • Soy milk is a good plant-based option for replacing cow’s milk in baking and cooking. It works well because soy milk is typically the closest to cow’s milk in terms of protein and fat content.
  • Coconut milk is a good replacement if you need a higher fat content.

For Drinking: NDMAs won’t taste like dairy milk. However, depending on the situation, I like some of them even better than dairy milk. For example, I think almond milk is fantastic in cereal.

  • The shelf-stable cartons (aseptic containers) of these milk alternatives can be stored for six months, so you don’t have to worry about it going bad.
  • If you want to stock up, warehouse stores and online retailers sell soy, almond, coconut, and others in cases of six quarts.

Costco will deliver a six-pack to your door.

The Nuclear Option: Make Your Own Milk

Warning: DIY milk can get messy.

Make your own milk, using nuts, oats, or rice.

  • You will need a blender and a sieve of some sort. I’m a hack, so my sieve is a fine-mesh wire strainer, but a legitimate milk-maker uses milk bags or even an old T-shirt.
  • If you use nuts, they usually need to be raw (not roasted) and soaked overnight before using to make milk. For this reason, I prefer using oats to make my own milk, because I can just throw them in the blender with some water.
  • Resource: I’m no expert in this area, so check out the Minimalist Baker’s series of posts on all types of non-dairy milk-making.

Flour Substitutions

Tricky But Doable

There are a couple of options when it comes to substituting all-purpose flour with something else. None of them are great, but all are better than nothing.

  • Non-wheat flours like almond and coconut flour. They are more expensive than wheat flour, but often more available. Be sure to look up recipes specific to whatever kind of flour you’re using. Because almond and coconut flours are higher in fat, they cannot be simply swapped out for regular flour.
  • DIY oat flour: If you have oatmeal on hand and a high-powered blender, grind it up and make oat flour. Again, it won’t be the same as all-purpose wheat flour – fresh ground oat flour is more similar to whole wheat flour.
  • Modified Pastry or Cake Flour: This is the best-case, although least-likely scenario. Side Note: I’ve only purchased cake four once in my life – because my husband thought he was going to bake a fancy cake. Five years later, it’s still in the pantry, unopened. If you randomly find yourself with these types of flour, they can often be easily used for all-purpose flour. Just check the package or Google for directions.

Bonus: Avocado Substitute

Guacamole is a Comfort Food!

For guacamole and smashed avocado recipes, sub frozen green peas (thaw them first).

Resource: I love Serious Eat’s recipe for green pea hummus. Using this recipe as a base, simply add green onions, tomatoes, and cumin for a guacamole-like (“mock”amole) dip. Mmmm …


Green pea guac – yummy! [Photo from Serious Eats]

There are plenty of great substitutes, even for staples like eggs, milk, and flour. The suggestions above work for me, but I know there are tons of ideas out there!

I hope that if you find yourself short an egg or cup of flour – or need some emergency guacamole – that you find these useful. What ingredient substitutions are your favorites? Please share them in the comments below!

Wishing you health and happiness!

~Brook

Works Cited

Aires, Kevin, et al. “Powdered Milk Taste Bad? Tips To Make Dried Milk Drinkable.” Mom Prepares, 14 Apr. 2019, momprepares.com/powdered-milk-taste-bad-tips-to-make-dried-milk-drinkable/.

“Averaging Egg Weights.” Cook’s Illustrated, www.cooksillustrated.com/how_tos/5652-averaging-egg-weights.

“Flax Meal.” Flax Council Of Canada, 19 Mar. 2015, flaxcouncil.ca/resources/nutrition/general-nutrition-information/flax-in-a-vegetarian-diet/forms-of-flax/flax-meal/.

Katie. “How To Make A Flax Egg – Just TWO Ingredients!” Chocolate Covered Katie, 13 Mar. 2020, chocolatecoveredkatie.com/2019/05/30/how-to-make-a-flax-egg/.

Pamela, et al. “How to Make Dairy-Free Milk: Minimalist Baker Recipes.” Minimalist Baker, minimalistbaker.com/guide-making-dairy-free-milk/.

Vegan Richa, et al. “How to Make a Flax Egg or Chia Egg.” Vegan Richa, www.veganricha.com/recipe-pages/how-to-make-a-flax-egg-or-chia-egg/.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. The information I provide is based on my personal experience, education and study of dietetics, human nutrition, and biochemistry; and my experience as a runner and athlete.  Any recommendations I may make about exercise, nutrition, supplements or lifestyle; or information provided to you in person or on this website are for information purposes only and do not take the place of professional medical advice.

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