Flaxseeds add a distinctive nuttiness, and when used whole, a slight crunch. Not to mention, they’re an amazing plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids. They’re good for so many things: in smoothies, as a salad topping, and even as a vegan-friendly substitute for eggs in baking. If you don’t have flax on hand, there are actually a few other foods you can use in its place; it just depends on the recipe.
The high nutrient content, crunch, and versatility of flaxseeds—they can be used whole or ground up—makes them a unique ingredient. You won’t find another that has the same exact combination of properties, but you can choose your flaxseed replacement to mimic the most important elements.
Chia seeds are the most common flax alternative because they can be similar. Like flaxseeds, chia seeds are naturally high in soluble fiber, so they can be used as a thickening agent. They also happen to be little powerhouses of omega-3 fatty acids. Both seeds are naturally gluten-free, too.
Chia can be used exactly like flaxseeds as an egg substitute. Blend 1 part ground chia seeds with 3 parts water for 1 egg.
For a nutritional boost, add chia to your morning smoothie.
However, because the seeds can become gelatinous when combined with liquid, they’re not recommended on top of salads or in soups or stews.
Hempseeds come from the hemp plant, which is not the same as marijuana even though they’re from the same family. Hempseeds are naturally high in omega-3 fatty acids, and especially high in protein. They contain all the essential amino acids, like flax does. Unlike flax, though, the seeds don’t have a hard outer coating, so they’re easier to digest.
While hempseeds don’t have the thickening ability of chia and flaxseeds, they can be added to smoothies and shakes for added nutrition. The nutty taste of these seeds also brings a similar flavor to salads, soups, and baked goods.
Egg Substitute Alternatives
Flaxseed, when ground into a meal, is commonly used as an egg substitute in vegan baking. While one of the most popular options for this is chia seeds, there are other alternatives, too. (Note: Flaxseed as an egg substitute doesn’t provide any leavening—only binding and moistening.) Try silken tofu or yogurt—use 1/4 cup of either in place of one egg. Some mashed fruits can work, too; sub in half of a mashed, ripe banana or 1/3 cup applesauce for one egg.