Egg substitute – chia or flax seeds?

So one of the most challenging things about veganism is finding a substitute for eggs. I love eggs but until we get our own chickens I’m probably not going to eat an awful lot of them over the near future. A common addition to many dairy/egg free recipes are ‘flax eggs’ and more occasionally chia seeds are mentioned.

I was curious to know if there is any difference between the three because, between you and me, from a scientific perspective there is a whole lotta difference. The gloop which the seeds produce is a mucilage – namely long chain polysaccharides (essentially starch). Chia seeds produce a hell of a lot more of this than flax seeds do. The proof is in this picture and in the fact that we have used it as a model mucilage of a £500k soil-root research grant….

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Flax on the left and chia goo on the right. Chia seeds produce a lot thicker ‘egg’ than flax seeds which is very watery in comparison.

Egg albumen on the other hand is higher in protein and unlike the seeds is low in fat. So kinda the absolute opposite to be honest.

The idea is that whatever is added should support air bubbles and create a lighter structure in whatever you are cooking. Now this is my first venture with using these seeds in this way and this is how I got on.  The first experiment was with waffles.

The recipe I used was for Chocolate Chip Banana Waffles made by the Minimalist Baker. There is no added sugar over and above the chocolate and banana but these are plenty sweet enough.

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I split the recipe in half and made half with a chia egg and half with a flax egg each made up as 1 tbsp ground seeds + 3 tbsp water, then left for 15-20 minutes. The chia seeds were very kindly supplied by Tim @ Chia Charge.

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There was absolutely no difference in the consistency of the batter plus they cooked exactly the same on our waffle iron. They look a little different in the photo below but that’s just because they were cooked for different times. In the interest of consistency we made sure and did the blind eating test with ones of the same brown-ness.

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The verdict – they were the same. Neither of us could tell the difference. We also reckoned that we probably wouldn’t realise that they were egg free either hadn’t we known to begin with. The waffles themselves are super tasty though, in both cases, and you get the added benefit of nutritious seeds. In future though I reckon I will use chia seeds because they produce much more of the necessary gloop which may be required in the recipes. However the verdict is still out as to whether they compare favourably with eggs.

Grinding the seeds up is also a really great way of releasing all the nutrients as the hard shells usually don’t break down in your digestive system. It’s pretty much instant chia gloopy goodness!




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