Egg is a key ingredient in so many of our favorite dishes. Whether it be in cakes, in noodles, rice, or even egg on its own plays a huge part in so many meals across the world.
Not only is it used in many dishes, but it is also the key ingredient to making fried foods crispy. It gets that crunchy coating to stick to your delicious foods – particularly with dishes like fried chicken.
But have you ever found yourself halfway through a recipe and realized you have no eggs? Or maybe you have decided to try a vegan diet and need a replacement for that staple food?
Well, have no fear, as today I am going to talk you through a number of alternatives, so whatever eggless predicament you find yourself in when frying foods, you should be able to resolve by the time you have finished reading this!
What is Fried Chicken?
For the purpose of keeping this article simple, I will focus on using egg as a substitute for frying chicken. But the alternatives can be used in place when breading and frying a number of ingredients, from eggplant to tofu to cauliflower – you name it!
So, what actually is fried chicken?
Fried chicken is created by taking your chicken, dipping it in flour, dipping in egg and then coating in breadcrumbs. Some people repeat the flour and eggs before the breadcrumbs to create an extra thick layer of crispiness!
Fried chicken is enjoyed all over the world. But with a growth in vegan diets, many people are looking for a substitute for not only the chicken part, but also the egg part of the frying process.
Once you have chosen a substitute for the meat, there are a number of alternatives you can use in place of the eggs as well. This means your recipe will not only be vegetarian (depending on the chicken replacement), but also has the potential to be entirely vegan as well.
Egg Substitutes for Frying
A number of these substitutes are vegan. Though some will only be appropriate on a vegetarian diet, which is important to remember when choosing what you are going to use to prepare your dish.
The process for each will be the exact same as using egg and flour to coat chicken. But when coating some vegetables you may need to do a couple of layers of coating because vegetables can absorb more of the coating than chicken would. The veggies will not end up so crispy.
Flour/Starch and Water Slurry
This is a great alternative because creating the slurry requires no extra ingredients. The original method requires flour already, and water is available and free for use.
Using a 1:1 ratio of flour to water, you will create a consistency that is slightly thicker than heavy cream. Alternatively, you can create an even thicker batter, or a thinner one, depending on how thick you would like your coating to be.
The thickness of your batter will also depend on what you are cooking. For more delicate foods, like fish, you may want a slightly thinner slurry, but with chicken and firmer vegetables you can stick to a thickener slurry.
If you do not happen to have any flour available there are a number of other ingredients that will work perfectly in place:
- Arrowroot Powder
- Chickpea Flour
- Rice Flour
Some of these are also great for a gluten-free diet. I prefer to use cornstarch for frying my foods as it sticks better and creates a really wonderful crunch.
Once you have mixed your flour and water to the correct consistency and made sure it has absolutely no lumps, simply dip your chicken (or veg) in some flour, then your slurry, and then finish off with the breadcrumbs.
This mix, combined with the breadcrumbs, will stick really well and create a really delicious crunch when finished cooking. However, the ingredients in this means that it is one of the slightly heavier alternatives to using eggs, but this can be altered by changing the consistency!
Flaxseed and Water
A flaxseed and water mix is a very common substitute for eggs in many vegan recipes, and works wonders as a substitute for eggs when frying foods in a batter.
Combining water and flaxseeds creates a thick, gel liquid, which is very similar to that of a whisked egg – ideal!
The recommended ratio is two and a half teaspoons of ground flaxseed to three tablespoons of water. Mix this and leave it to set for around 5 minutes and you should have enough to replace the same amount as one egg. You can up the ratios depending on how much egg you need to replace.
If you want to thin your mixture or thicken it more, you can add more flaxseeds or water depending on what you desire. As long as it has the consistency of whisked egg then you are on the right track!
Similar to flaxseeds, the same ratio of ground chia seeds will do the same job or alternatively you can use a vegan egg substitute.
Using the same method as above, dip in the flour first and then the mixture. Before dipping in the breadcrumbs you should give it a bit of a shake to ensure the coating isn’t too thick.
This mixture is scarily close to the results created when using regular egg, however the flaxseeds provide a slightly nutty taste. This can be a bonus depending on what the rest of your meal is!
Not only is the taste slightly different, but the color also goes slightly darker than when using flour and egg and so the results end up looking slightly more southern fried. Again, this may not be a negative depending on what you are cooking and how you want to present it!
When using milk as a substitute, you can use either animal or plant-based milk. This is another great alternative as it is an ingredient you are likely to have in the house anyway and so it is fantastic if you are in a rush or underprepared.
If using a plant-based milk, ensure you are not using a sweetened version as this will impact the flavor of the final product.
Milk is a lot thinner than egg and so using it as an egg substitute may not work with everything you are trying to fry. It works great for things like chicken, but will simply slide off other ingredients such as vegetables.
Even with chicken, the coating is a lot thinner though and so you can thicken the milk by adding some yogurt or mayonnaise, but again this will add a slight flavor and may not be convenient if you are working with limited ingredients.
You can also use a thickening agent like cornstarch to thicken the milk, but in this case you could also just stick to cornstarch and water to create the slurry mentioned above.
Aquafaba is the gooey liquid left in a can of chickpeas and is commonly used as an excellent egg substitute. You can often find bars and restaurants using it as a substitute for vegan dishes, but also in cocktails that require egg whites.
It whips up perfectly like egg whites and so usually it is only used in place of this. However, it works as a great binder and therefore is ideal when binding the breadcrumbs to your chicken.
Not only is it a fantastic substitute and gives a sticky and crunchy coating, but aquafaba is free if you are already using chickpeas and also means you don’t have to waste any part of the can of chickpeas!
Aquafaba is slightly thin, it does work well as a sticking agent but you may have to do a couple of coats to get that thicker, crunchier layer.
Because it is slightly thicker, you get a better result than using regular milk and it also comes with a slightly yummier, tangier flavor.
However, the breadcrumbs do soak up a lot of the milk which means that the overall coating is slightly less crispy than using other egg substitutes and so the fried chicken ends up tasting slightly wetter.
As indicated in the name, heavy cream is a lot heavier and thicker than using milk or buttermilk. You can find out more about the differences between them here.
Heavy cream is not an extremely healthy substitute for eggs. But overall the frying process is not very healthy anyway so this may be a factor you choose to ignore!
Heavy milk gives a very similar result to buttermilk. However the coating is slightly thicker and crispier as the breadcrumbs do not absorb it so easily.
Again, the mixture is slightly wetter than other coatings. Whilst it does give a crisp finish, it is not as accurate as a substitute for eggs as you may get with some of the other alternatives.
As mentioned before, mayonnaise works as a great binding agent. Any thick sauces can do a similar job, such as:
- Sour Cream
- Natural Yogurt
- Tomato Paste
- Horseradish Sauce
When using any sauces it is important to apply a layer thin enough that the flavor of the sauce will not overpower the chicken. However, sometimes using a sauce can really add a kick to your meal. So it really depends on what you are cooking.
Sauces work well for adding crunchiness, but aren’t quite as stable as other alternatives. Also, the breadcrumbs do not stick to it as well. Applying sauces can be difficult to do evenly and so overall it can give a blobby, uneven finished product.
It is important to stay away from any sauces that contain a lot of sugar. The sugar can burn when being fried and may ruin your dish.
Many people attempt to use oil as a substitute, however oil is known for its grease and non-stick tendencies. Because of this, very little will stick to the oil. As soon as the breadcrumbs are added and you go to fry the food, you will be left with very little coating.
Overall, oil does not work well as an egg substitute.
Finally, many people attempt to use melted butter in place of egg, but this has the exact same outcome as using oil.
Very little stays stuck to the butter. So you would be better off frying your chicken without any form of coating instead of applying one that will mostly fall off. It’ll leave your chicken with an odd, uneven layer that has sporadic areas of crispiness.
Egg Substitutes for Frying Chicken – Final Thoughts
There are a number of substitutes you can use in place of egg when frying foods. If you are looking for an overall vegan substitute, then sticking to flour and water may be your best bet.
Flaxseeds work as a great substitute when looking for a vegan, crispy coating, or alternatively you can use aquafaba. This is a cheap, easy alternative for eggs in many recipes and may be one of the better substitutes.
Alternatively you can use milk, buttermilk, or heavy cream. Although these will create a crispy coating, they are slightly thinner and dont have that thick, slurry outcome that using flour and water may have.
Many sauces can be used to help stick the breadcrumbs to the chicken. However these can alter the flavor and may cause burning if they have too much sugar. They also do not work as well as other alternatives as a binding agent.
Whatever you do, avoid using oil or melted butter. The outcome of these will be more useless than simply frying your chicken with no coating at all.
So, if you are stuck for eggs, try out one of the above. Even if you have eggs, some of these alternatives can spice things up a bit in the kitchen if you want to try something new, and some even add more flavor! So why not give them a try? You may find a whole new method to cook and enjoy the beloved fried chicken!
While you’re here, why not check out our post on flour substitutes for frying?