What are plant-based eggs and how are they made?

Since ancient times the value of the egg in food has been recognized. Today it is one of the most versatile and widespread foods. However, in the last decade the rise of vegan diets has prompted food companies to seek what we now know as plant-based eggs.

This is how, what seemed unthinkable before, has become a fact, since rich vegan eggs can be prepared through the use of different types of vegetable proteins.

Commercial forms can be found in powder or liquid, but they must use some special ingredients to emulate the traditional egg and its preparations.

What are plant-based eggs made of?

For a plant-based egg to replace a chicken egg it must have the culinary properties of the white and the yolk. The ability to foam, bind, gel and emulsify prevail when used as the main ingredient.

Depending on the brand, the star ingredients of vegetable eggs are proteins from legumessuch as mung beans or green soybeans and peas. Seaweed is also used as a base.

The agronomists Miquilena and Higuera report that legumes contain between 20% and 24% protein. Algae also have a similar protein value, of almost 27%, according to what was investigated by the Chilean Nutrition Magazine.

Proteins isolated from these plant sources they are flavored with onion, carrot and turmeric to give a yellow color. It is necessary to add some synthetic additives that simulate the functional properties of the chicken egg.

For example, transglutaminase, as reported by a group of technologists, is used as a glue for ingredients. For its part, pyrophosphate is used to improve the texture and juiciness of mixtures.

Depending on the brand name, powdered soy milk, canola oil, and other plant additives, such as carrageenans and cellulose, can also be incorporated into the mix. They they will add volume to the preparations and will keep the emulsions stable. Salt, herbs and yeast are used to give the traditional salty flavor.

Eggs are ingredients in many recipes, so the vegan version must replicate their functions.

Advantages of plant-based eggs

The plant-based egg has several nutritional, health and even environmental advantages. We see them below.

Techno-functional

Dr. Luis Guerrero, a food specialist, says that Legume proteins have foaming, emulsifying, gelling and thickening properties. They facilitate the development of new foods, such as vegan eggs.

To health

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend reducing your cholesterol intake to keep your heart healthy. For this reason, some foods of animal origin, such as egg yolk, are reduced from diets.

Despite the fact that studies do not link the consumption of eggs with the increase of lipids in the blood, it is still a common prescription. Vegan eggs do not provide fat or cholesterol. With the exception of those added with canola oil, whose fat is a source of omega 3 fatty acids, protectors of cardiovascular health.

Also read: How to substitute eggs in recipes?

For the enviroment

The Public University of Navarra reported that ammonia and other gases produced by laying hens have a greenhouse effect associated with climate change.

The same does not happen with the cultivation of legumes, since according to international entities indirectly reduce greenhouse gases and they favor the absorption of carbon, beneficial for the planet.

Food safety

Legumes contribute to food security, since they its cultivation is inexpensive for farmers, they can be harvested in dry lands and have a long shelf life. So vegan eggs based on legume protein will never be missing from the table.

Disadvantages of plant-based eggs

Although the benefits and advantages are notorious, we must dedicate a part of this analysis to the disadvantages of vegan eggs. Let's see some.

Protein quality

Despite the fact that the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) establishes that the protein content of legumes is high, the quality of its amino acids is not as good as that of a chicken egg.

In the journal Nutrición Hospitalaria they highlight that egg protein is considered a benchmark to determine the quality of other foods.

Legume proteins have to bind with cereals to total the 20 amino acids necessary for tissue formation. Seaweed is also deficient in some amino acids.

Beware of sodium

The sodium content of vegan eggs is higher than that of chicken eggs. They have a contribution of between 150 and 170 milligrams for each serving. A traditional egg contains only 65 milligrams.

Ultra-processed food

The vegan egg formula includes many GRAS or recognized safe additives, which extends the list of ingredients. Unusual names on the product label are often frowned upon by consumers.

The World Food Research Program reports a close link between ultra-processed food consumption and non-communicable diseases related to diet.

Find out: Why are processed foods bad for our health?

How else to replace the egg in the vegan diet?

To prepare vegan eggs we can also use simpler ingredients that will allow us a good replacement for the chicken egg. Chickpea flour or flaxseed are excellent imitators.

Chickpea has foaming, hydrating and emulsifying properties that make it perfect for the preparation of new foods, as confirmed by engineer Vicky Aguilar. In addition, it is not only rich in protein, but also in starch, fiber, minerals, B complex vitamins and other fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A and E).

Flaxseed is not far behind. Agro Sur magazine indicates that it is an oilseed rich in mucilage which helps to give texture to many preparations. It also has unsaturated fat of the omega 3 type.

Chickpeas are a more than enough option to replace eggs in recipes that require them.

How are plant-based eggs used in cooking?

The techno-functional properties of eggs of vegetable origin allow their versatility in the kitchen. You can prepare any recipe created from your imagination or simulate traditional preparations based on chicken eggs.

Commercial products incorporate a dispenser to measure the powder or liquid mixture before adding water. When using chickpea flour or flaxseed, you only need to soak them for 5 minutes. Then mix until you get a viscosity similar to that of the egg.

You can prepare tortillas with potatoes, baked bread, souffle, pudding, cake, mayonnaise and other preparations in which the egg is the main ingredient.

For plant-based food, it is an achievement to be able to include in the diet a food with the culinary benefits that chicken eggs offer. However, don't forget that, despite being cholesterol-free, you must control sodium intake and combine it with other proteins, like those of cereals.