Meatloaf, in the contemporary American sense, has been around since the invention of paperclips, and back then, it was regarded as a breakfast staple rather than a comfort food for dinner.
Traveling all the way back, one ingredient has always been a crucial part of the docket that made everything work.
It served the role of a structural binder which brought everything together from the ground pieces of meat to the crumbs and bold seasoning that made the loaf taste amazing. This ingredient is called egg, and i’ve found a way to ditch it. Read on to discover how.
Substitutes for eggs in meatloaf
There are a handful of reasons why you might not be considering eggs for your meatloaf.
Maybe it’s your inner preference that dislikes the type of interaction water has with the network of proteins in an egg, so you’re not completely drawn in when it comes to the flavor, texture and taste, or
- you’re made to hate them for spiritual reasons,
- or for health reason,
- or for cultural reasons,
- or you’re allergic to them,
- or you have a dieting that forbids using them,
- or your ethics is against using them,
- or, put simply, you’ve run out of the perfect ovals in the refrigerator! – Usually the case!
Whatever the reason is for leaving out the eggs, you should know that it’s completely safe and possible to bake the perfect meatloaf without using any eggs.
Yes, eggs are recommended, and they are tagged as necessary ingredients, but that’s only when they’re available in the pantry. If they’re not, a handful of substitutes can easily hop in for the rescue, and one of them is absolutely nothing. Yes, you heard that right!
We’ll explore every sensible option for substituting eggs below, for now, let’s understand the role of eggs in meatloaf, so perhaps, the genius in you might awaken and inspire a substitute of your own.
What good does egg do in a meatloaf?
Plain ground meat is impossible to cook to structure, thus the use of binders.
Egg is one such binder in the meatloaf that brings together the meat and the crumbs to form a perfect whole that our hands love slicing.
Some staple ingredients (the likes of meat) and other processes used during the meatloaf process also help with this too, while adding their own features such as tenderness, moistness, aesthetics, softness, and taste.
Egg serves as a good binder because of its protein content. As the egg is whisked and added to the meat mixture, the proteins set and therefore results in the addition of structure, strength and stability to the meatloaf.
Aside the biding function, egg also serves another distinct role. It adds flavor, enhances flavor (because of the fatty contents in the yolks), adds richness, and also helps with moisture.
I still consider these to be secondary functions though, since other ingredients are far better at enhancing all these things than the egg itself.
So now we know the role of eggs in a meatloaf. In order to get the perfect replacement for the egg, we must find a pantry ingredient that closely or equally matches it’s binding capacity.
The perfect substitute will be that which adds a great deal of structure to loaf while simultaneously acting null in the flavor department, or, enhancing it in a way that isn’t irritating.
We don’t want anything that binds but lends a funky flavor. That’s why we can’t use just about every type of binder we can think of. They’ll work their purpose, but they’ll also shape the flavor the way they like it, not the way YOU like it!
Quick list of egg substitutes in meatloaf
|How to substitute one egg
|Bake egg free.
|Bake egg free.
|Freshly ground flax seed.
|1 tablespoon ground flax seeds mixed with 3 tablespoon almost-boiling water whisked together.
|Freshly ground chia seed.
|1 tablespoon ground chia seeds mixed with 3 tablespoon warm water.
|1 cup of mayonnaise for every 3 pound meat.
|Homemade egg replacer powder.
|1 ½ of powder mixed with 3 tablespoon of water.
|Commercial egg replacers.
|Use a directed.
|¼ cups chickpea flour plus ¼ cups of water.
|¼ cups of yogurt.
|¼ cup unsweetened applesauce.
|3 ½ tablespoon of unflavored gelatin blend.
|¼ cups of avocado.
|¼ cups of cheese.
|¼ cups of creamed spinach.
The substitutes in details
1) Bake egg free
When it comes to baking a structured meatloaf, completely ditching the eggs and carrying on with the rest of the task is always a decent option, but… that’s only an option when you’re making a proper panade!
That has always served the purpose of a binder (secondarily) alongside the eggs, and it can definitely push on with the task without them (with a little more tweak)!
A panade is basically the pasty mixture of bread crumbs, cubed fresh bread, oat, crumbled saltine crackers, flour and dry milk powder, with evaporated milk, whole milk, water, stock, butter, or yogurt thinned with water to serve as an alternative for milk. Butter mill can also be thinned for the same purpose.
You may not remember exactly when you’ve ever made this for your meatloaf (depending on the recipe your working with), but it’s undisputed, you do this all the time!
Remember when you stuff in the ingredient in a large bowl for a proper mix: the ground beef, the crumbs, the milk, the egg, the onion and the seasoning? There has always been a panade buried somewhere within, and it has always helped with the addition of moisture, tenderness, velvetiness, alongside some binding properties.
But now that the eggs aren’t available, you’ll have to work each step a little more carefully. And this time, you’ll be putting in more effort in making the panade work the exact biding effect that eggs are loved for.
To do that, you should let the breadcrumbs or bread or whatever you’re using to soak long enough inside the milk solution or whatever substitute you’re using before adding that to the ground beef and seasoning.
That should get them all hydrated and therefore make them ever ready to bind pieces together – not as good as using an egg though! For proper binding, let the panade soak in for at least 10 minutes!
2) Flax egg
Another egg replacer that is almost perfect — hindered from reaching perfection by the fact that it uses polysaccharides rather than a network of proteins to mimic the structural binding of eggs is flax seed.
It works decent to reinforce the meat and crumbs together without actually imparting too much difference that can cause disturbance in texture and flavor.
It’s only drawback, as stated earlier, is that it uses polysaccharide rather than a network of proteins for the process, so while you’re getting an excellent moisture retention in your loaves, the meat will mostly stick together rather than bind agreeably. It’s readily edible though.
Here is how to extract flax gel and use it as an egg replacer.
First, make sure you’re using flax seed that you actually grounded yourself. Use a coffee grinder and store the remainder in an airtight container in the freezer.
If you’re using the commercial ground ones, then you’ll likely notice an added aroma and flavor – a linseed essence in your final meatloaf.
That’s because the oils have oxidized when the seeds were ground which imparts on them a rancidity – the linseed aroma and flavor that you taste.
- Grind flax seeds into a meal using a coffee grinder. Fetch 1 tablespoon to use and store the remaining in an air tight plastic bag in the freezer for up to one year.
- Mix the flax meal with 3 tablespoon of warm water.
- Let sit for 10 minutes to develop into gelatinous mixture similar to a raw egg.
- Use as replacement for one egg.
This method is the most likely to impart something noticeable in texture, color and flavor due to the presence of flax particles having color.
- Boil flax seeds without grinding in 3 cups of water. Do not cover, and use medium heat.
- Lower heat and cook, stirring constantly until you get a stringy and gelatinous mixture.
- Use a strainer with holes tiny enough to hold back the seeds but large enough to allow the flax gel developed to pass through, to strain the entire mixture. Do this immediately after boiling.
- Discard the seeds.
- Allow the extracted gel to cool, then use a syringe to measure 3 tablespoon (45mL) which is the exact replacement for 1 egg.
- If you have some gel remaining, use the syringe to measure 3 tablespoon into a large ice cube tray and freezer for up to 3 months.
This method is the cleaner of the two methods, but there is some wastage of flax seeds there.
3) Chia seeds
Chia seed can also substitute for egg in the same manner that flax seed does. To use them, simply follow the steps outlined for flax seeds above.
Mayonnaise is another substitute for eggs in meat loaf. With this, you get additions in the cream department as well as in overall aesthetics and texture of the final baked good.
It doesn’t really bind as much, especially for the egg-free varieties, but i think whatever it lacks in binding it makes up for in the extra richness and complexity that it adds.
To substitute egg for mayonnaise,
Use one cup of mayonnaise for every 3 pound of meat you use.
5) Homemade egg replacer powder
This replacer mixes a vegetable gum, a tasteless starch and a leavener to form a decent binder for meatloaf.
- 2 ½ cups Arrowroot powder or tapioca (starch)
- ½ cup of Baking powder
- 1 tablespoon Guar gum powder
How to make the binder (one egg)
Mix all the ingredients to together. Fetch 1 ½ teaspoons and add to 3 tablespoons of water. Mix to form slurry and use it as a replacement for one egg.
Alternatively, you can also use one teaspoon per recipe of the Guar gum only (or Xanthan Gum).
6) Commercial egg replacers
There are a variety of egg replacers out there made with different ingredient to carter for the diversity in taste and preference of the audience out there. Look up the ingredients on the pack and see what concords with your taste. Use it as required.
7) Chickpea flour
Chickpea flour is another decent substitute for eggs in meatloaf. It adds all the protein you’d normally get from using eggs with and addition in minerals and vitamins such as folate and calcium. It doesn’t act as a terrific binder for meatloaf, but rather a mild binder just like the flex and chia seed.
To substitute egg for chickpea flour,
Add ¼ cup of chickpea flour plus ¼ cup water or non-diary milk to the meat mixture.
Diary or vegan yoghurt too can serve as a replacement for eggs in meatloaf. But it’s not a great binder, rather a great element for locking in moisture and adding complexity to the loaf.
To substitute for one egg using yoghurt,
Use ¼ cup of yoghurt.
Applesauce or other pureed fruit work decent to replace eggs in meat loafs. They add their own flavors to the mixture, especially if you’re using fruits with powerful flavors like banana, but they usually perform a good job at binding together everything.
To substitute egg for applesauce
Use ¼ cup of unsweetened applesauce.
10) Unflavored gelatin
Aside it’s mild binding properties, unflavored gelatin adds another level of moisture retention to the meatloaf. It also doesn’t add any flavor to the final mix which is a good thing to note.
To substitute egg for unflavored gelatin:
Use 3 ½ tablespoon of unflavored gelatin blend: which is basically 2 teaspoon of gelatin mixed in 1 cup of boiling water.
Avocado works as a decent binder because it has a decent amount of fat in it too, so that helps to mimic the binding effect of eggs.
Mind you, when substituting with avocado, you will get some noticeable alteration in taste. I don’t know for you, but avocado is one of the last things i’ll ever want to taste in a meatloaf.
To substitute egg with avocado
Use ¼ cup avocado for one egg.
As expected, these is one of those substitutes that add their own dimension of flavor to the final baked good.
If you don’t mind some extra cheesiness in your meatloaf, then cheese: the Parmesan and Mozzarella type (which melts quickly) is definitely a binder you can try.