Some people probably prefer not to eat baked goodies and other pastries because they are intolerant or allergic to some of their ingredients, or they are simply vegans.
Baking goodies could be a challenge if you do not like eggs, gelatin, and other dairy products. However, nowadays there are various alternatives to those ingredients that are plant-based.
Eggs are popularly used as one of the binding ingredients when baking apart from its health benefits but if you do not like eggs, you can choose a binding agent that suits your baking needs which are plant-based like flour for example.
What Is A Binding Agent?
A binding agent makes baked foods firm. It also enhances the volume and texture of the baked food.
Eggs, flours, and starch from potatoes are the most commonly used binding agents when baking or cooking though some commercially prepared or manufactured food use artificial binding agents.
Flour and starch are plant-based binding agents that every vegan would love to use when cooking or baking.
Eggs are not only used as binding agents, but it also acts as emulsifiers and coagulants when baking. It also enhances the texture and adds color to the food.
Another commonly use binding agent is gelatin, it makes the food gooey or gives it a sticky texture. It is often used in candies, ice creams, yogurts, jellies, and jams. Most gelatin are extracted from animal skin and bones and vegans do not patronize.
Gelatin and eggs are commonly used as binding agent, but there are also alternatives to these ingredients that are plant-based, and they could be just sitting on your countertops.
The Best Vegan Binding Agents
Most binding agents are vegan friendly except for eggs and gelatin and here is the list for you to choose from.
You must keep in mind though that these agents can also thicken the dish or food you want to prepare that might affect the texture and consistency of your dish.
Flours and Gluten
Flour is commonly associated to baking, bread, or pastries but it also commonly used as a binding agent aside from eggs. You can purchase it at any supermarket, and it is also very affordable.
Flour or glutenous flour can make the dish or food a bit gooey or firm without affecting the taste of the dish. Thus, it also use to make thicken soup or sauce, as batter for frying, or simply as thickener in some dishes.
So, what kind of flour can you use? Nowadays, people choose what is healthier and goes for gluten-free products like flour. An all-purpose flour is good, or you can opt to use whole wheat flour that is gluten free and there are other kinds of flour that is as good as any other.
Pick you choice from all these gluten-free plant-based flour.
- Buckwheat flour. An organic buckwheat flour is rich in protein, dietary fibers, and B vitamins. It is best for making a gooey dish since it is really sticky.
- Chickpea flour. This flour has taken a fair share in the market and has become in demand and easy to use in thickening your soups and sauces.
- Teff and amaranth flour. This has a slight nutty taste, but it will not overcome the flavor of your dish. It is best for substitute for other binding agents on your dish.
- Sorghum flour. A good binding agent if you want fluffy cakes or muffins. It is also rich in protein. Also known as jowar flour and makes a good substitute to flour to make breads.
- Almond flour. Of finely ground almonds so you can be sure of its nutty taste, but almond flour makes a good binding agent for any type of dish.
Finely ground seeds make a good binding agent though they seem to look like the typical flour. Here are some of the popular ground seeds that vegans love to use
- Psyllium Husk. Others consider finely ground psyllium husk as the best seed-based binding agent especially when used for baking however it is a bit difficult to find it in the supermarkets. A tablespoon or two of this seed flour mix with the wet ingredients, can easily cause it to rise so you need to cook it right away.
- This is a good choice if you want a gelatinous dish. Two to three tablespoons of flax meal can make a batter gooey. However, you need to wait for a minute or two for the batter or dish to thicken.
- Chia Seeds. Famous for aiding in weight loss, but few people know that when finely ground it can be a good binding agent. You need to wait a minute or two for this agent to make your dish thick.
You might not have any kind of flour sitting on your cupboard but if there are some fruits or vegetables in your fridge, you can still make a binding agent that is healthy and gluten-free.
Finely crushed fruits or veggies can be used to thicken your dish or make your baked goods fluffier though it may make add more moisture when used for baking that may affect the texture of your dish. Though they are healthy and a good binding agent, you have to know your recipe well and balance the ingredients to get the outcome you desire.
Here are some commonly used fruits and vegetables binding agents.
- Mashed sweet potatoes. Mashed or cooked them into yams and you will also get a good binding agent. Add some of it to thicken your dish and it will also make it taste better.
- Applesauce. If you do not want the dish to be to thick or heavy, you can just add some applesauce and it will do the trick.
- Mashed bananas. A good but light binding agent that is best for baking muffins and cakes.
- Pumpkin puree. Crashed squash finely or blend them makes a good binding agent that makes baked goods soft but firm. Be careful on the amount of water on your recipe though because this puree is a bit watery.
- Zucchini and carrot. They are both starchy that is why they make a light binding agent when turned into a puree, but like pumpkin, they are a bit watery so be good to calculate the water you add to your dish or you may add another binding agent to your recipe.
- Pureed beans. Beans contains a great amount of starch so when you blend or pureed it makes an effective binding agent but these can make your dish too thick so you need to check your recipe.
Butter and toast is like peas in a pod, they usually taste best together but when butter is made from nuts and seeds, they are not only good on toast, they can also be an active binding agent. These type of butter makes our protein and granola bars stick together.
Though nuts are flavorful, they meld well in a dish and gives you a rather more delectable food. Butter made from sunflower seed or raw cashews for example can give the dish a light binding effect.
Cornstarch is the most widely used type of starch added to dishes for light binding effect but other starchy crops like tapioca, potatoes and arrowroots are good binding agents as well. Though starch has less nutritive value they are also the best alternative to other plant-based binding agents. It is also inexpensive and easy to find.
Starch is usually used to thicken sauces, soup, gravy and when baking some cookies or puddings.
Powders and Additives
Manufactured or commercialized food tend to have additives or powders as binding agents. These are also used in most restaurants to enhance the appearance of food. Agar-agar and guar gum are what they commonly use.
Agar-agar however is said to be healthy because it came from seaweeds and not from animals. Vegans also use this in their kitchen. This makes the food gelatinous and in fact what most gelatin powder is made of.
Guar or Xanthan gum is also a plant-based binding agent that also has a gelatinous effect on dishes.
Aquafaba is basically a starchy liquid taken from soaked beans like chickpeas or garbanzos. This liquid resembles egg whites and is used in recipes that needs to foam for better appearance like the famous meringue.
When these beans are soaked for some time just like canned chickpeas, the liquid becomes starchy and creates an unlikely odor, but this liquid is tasteless and works best as a binding agent. Do not worry because the odor usually disappear once it is mixed with the dish.
If you want to use aquafaba to bake or cook, here are some measurements you can follow and remember that aquafaba is just like an egg.
1 egg yolk = 1 tablespoon of aquafaba
1 egg while = 2 tablespoons of aquafaba
1 whole egg = 3 tablespoons of aquafaba
Honey is basically sweet and sticky but apart from those characteristics, it is a good binding agent especially if you want to bake cookies or make sweet sauces. Its natural pasty quality can make some dishes thick and gooey too.
We are thought that eggs are full of nutritional value that our bodies need so it is best to eat eggs even every day. However, there are also studies that suggest otherwise.
In this case, we are free to choose what we think is best for us. We can eat eggs moderately because we cannot deny the fact that it has healthy benefits. Then, we can sometimes remove egg in our diet and find a healthier substitute. There is a variety of organic and plant-based food to choose from.
Some people can go on without dairy products and some people just cannot. Likewise, we cannot deny the fact that some dairy products are plant-based and healthier than others. So, if you are the one who cannot go on without dairy products like cheese, milk, yogurt and others, it really does not hurt much to have them once in a while but you can always choose the best alternative.
Health Benefits of Eliminating Eggs and Dairy
Awareness on health and the food we eat is very important and it is not limited to choosing the right dairy product or eliminating eggs from your diet. Having a balanced meal and choosing organic and plant-based food has to be a choice whether a vegan or not.
Are vegan binding-agents gluten-free?
There are different types of plant-based binding agents but unless you check on the labels you cannot be sure if it is gluten-free or not. If you want to be sure, you can make your own binding agent at home like fruit and vegetable puree.
How many bananas or applesauce does it take to replace 1 egg?
Remember that purees has water in it and thus adds moisture to your dish so watch the amount of water in your recipe. Follow this measurement: 1 egg = 1 whole ripe mashed banana or one-fourth cup of undiluted applesauce.
What do vegans eat instead of cheese?
Vegans who also love cheese choose those that are made from seeds like soy or nuts and others with plant-based ingredients. These kinds of cheese are already available in the market and you can check their labels to be sure.