You started baking back in 2020 when the need for a new hobby reached a fever pitch and you’ve been going strong ever since. So naturally, you know that egg wash is a mixture of water or milk and egg that’s brushed onto baked goods to make them look glossy and golden-brown (and sometimes used as a binding agent in the preparation of breaded foods). But what to do when you cracked the last few eggs in the fridge to make your morning omelet? Easy—just pick an egg wash substitute from the following list and you’ll be able to achieve the very same Insta-worthy results in any recipe.
Need an Egg Wash Substitute? These 10 Alternatives Will Do the Trick
1. Milk or Cream
According to David Joachim, author of The Food Substitutions Bible, the very best substitute for egg wash is milk or heavy cream. Simply brush the baked good with 1 tablespoon of milk or heavy cream for every ¼ cup of egg wash the recipe calls for. (So if your recipe asks for one cup of egg wash, you can sub with 4 tablespoons of milk or heavy cream.) Note: Joachim recommends sprinkling 1 to 2 teaspoons of granulated sugar after brushing on the dairy for a “more homestyle country glaze.”
Butter gives baked goods the same golden, crispy finish as egg wash, with the added benefit of tasting like, well, butter. To proceed, first melt the butter over low heat—being careful not to brown it—and then use a pastry brush to sparingly apply an even layer to the soon-to-be-baked item. (Note: If you use too much melted butter, the item will absorb it in the oven and emerge a greasy mess, so don’t go crazy.)
3. Almond Milk
Good news, vegan friends: Almond milk is an excellent plant-based alternative to egg wash that will give baked goods an attractive brown crust and a pleasant nutty taste. To use, just brush the surface of the item with as much almond milk as you need to apply a single, thin layer (i.e., don’t drench the dough).
Here, another vegan substitute that yields a crispy, glossy and golden crust when lightly brushed onto dough before baking. Vegetable oil is our top pick because its neutral taste is well-suited to most any recipe, but other types of oil—including grapeseed, olive and coconut—will work, too, as long as the flavor profile is harmonious. As with butter, too much oil will result in a greasy (and potentially burnt) finished product, so use a light hand.
5. Golden Yolk
As the name suggests, this substitute requires that you have eggs on hand. That said, the folks at Epicurious note that golden yolk is sometimes favored over traditional egg wash because it results in more even browning and a richer color to boot. To give it a try, just separate the yolk from the white of an egg; then, whisk and apply the former and discard the latter. (Note: If need be, you can whisk two teaspoons of water into the yolk to get more mileage out of the wash.)
6. Egg Whites
Another egg-based alternative to a standard egg wash is an egg white wash. This is prepared in the same way as a golden yolk wash, except the whites are whisked until frothy and brushed onto the dough, while the yolk is discarded. Egg white washes produce a very high sheen with less pronounced coloring.
7. Honey or Maple Syrup
If you’re baking something sweet, consider swapping honey or maple syrup in for egg wash. Both these sugary liquids will caramelize in the oven, imparting a golden hue and nice gloss to any baked good that benefits from the extra touch of sweetness. Both can be brushed directly onto the surface of the dough. However, the pros at Bakerpedia.com say that honey and maple syrup are more likely to burn at high temperatures and, thus, are best for quick-baking recipes. (You can also apply either towards the end of the baking process for items that require more time in the oven.)
For fried and oven-baked foods that call for egg wash as a binding agent, not a varnish, yogurt can be used instead. Leave the yogurt as is, or if it’s particularly thick, whisk in a tablespoon or two of water; then, dip the food into the yogurt prior to dredging in flour and/or breadcrumbs for a crispy coating that stays put. (Psst…we recommend testing it out in this delicious potato chip fried chicken recipe.)
‘Flax egg’ is a clever, vegan-friendly substitute that can be used both as a varnish and as a binding agent in breaded foods. To replace a one egg quantity of egg wash, stir together 1 tablespoon of flaxseed powder (i.e., ground flaxseed) and 3 tablespoons of warm water, and let the mixture sit until it reaches a gooey consistency (usually about 5 to 10 minutes). Then, dip food into it before breading, or lightly brush the stuff directly onto the dough of any baked good.
It should come as no surprise that mayonnaise can be used in place of egg wash, since eggs are the primary ingredient in both. When using mayonnaise as a binding agent for breaded foods, follow the same dip-and-dredge process described for yogurt and flax egg. Mayonnaise can also be thinned out with a small quantity of water and brushed onto the dough of savory pastries and baked goods for added shine and color. (Fun fact: Vegan mayo will work just the same if you’re in need of a plant-based egg wash substitute.)