You can use dairy fat, soy or flaxseeds — along with a pinch of baking soda — to replace eggs in cornbread. Eggs have two ingredients that make them ubiquitous with cakes and quick breads: lecithin and fat. Lecithin binds the miscible with the immiscible — oil and water — to create a uniform, homogenized cornbread batter that bakes into a moist, dense crumb. Air gets trapped in the egg yolks when whipped, which helps the cornbread to rise during baking. Several ingredients leaven and emulsify, but soy, dairy and flaxseeds work best as a substitute for eggs in cornbread.
Several ingredients can add moisture and richness in place of eggs, but none emulsify cornmeal and milk as effectively as flaxseeds. Flaxseeds’ hard shells, or seed coats, comprise about 30-percent fiber, a majority of which consists of sugar-based gums. Gums are powerful emulsifiers. When mixed with water, the gum in ground flaxseeds gels and stabilizes the cornbread batter, just like the lecithin in egg yolks. Replace each egg called for in a cornbread recipe with 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds, 3 tablespoons of water and a pinch of baking soda for leavening.
Thick dairy products — cream, sour cream and yogurt — impart the textural qualities egg yolks give to cornbread and facilitate binding between cornmeal and milk. Sour cream and yogurt aren’t emulsifiers, but their viscosity and fat content make them a natural fit for cornbread recipes that call for milk. When whipped, dairy fat aerates — similar to whipped cream — and increases the volume of baked goods like a leavening agent. The more fat the dairy product has, the more stability it will impart. That’s why it’s necessary to use heavy cream, sour cream or yogurt. Use 2 tablespoons of heavy cream, sour cream or yogurt — along with a pinch of baking soda — for each egg needed in your cornbread recipe.
Soy products contain lecithin and have the same emulsifying effect on baked goods as eggs. You can buy soy lecithin in powdered form from health-food stores and online retailers and simply add about 1 teaspoon to the cornbread batter; however, using soy lecithin alone won’t compensate for the volume, structure and texture eggs impart. To remedy that, add powdered soy lecithin to thick dairy products, or go 100-percent vegan and substitute 1/4 cup of silken tofu for each egg, along with a pinch of baking soda. Use soft, silken tofu in cornbread; firm and extra-firm tofu weigh heavily in the batter and limit the bread’s rise. Add silken tofu at the same time you would add eggs in the cornbread recipe. You can also use a light cornstarch slurry as a vegan substitute — 1 tablespoon of cornstarch mixed with 3 tablespoons of cold water — for each egg called for in a recipe.
Vegetable-Based Egg Substitutes
Vegetable-based egg substitutes typically contain modified starch, such as tapioca and potato, along with a leavening agent and cellulose gum. Egg substitutes basically contain the emulsifying ingredient of flaxseeds — cellulose gum — and cream of tartar in a starch base. Mix and add 1 1/2 tablespoons of vegetable-based egg replacement powder and 2 tablespoons of water for each egg called for in your cornbread recipe.
References and ResourcesCook's Thesaurus: Eggs
On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen; Harold McGee