How Does This Trendy Plant-Based Egg Compare to the Real Thing?
The buzzy plant-based egg is now available in Canada.
The environmental benefits of eating plant-based have been well-documented. Food production and agriculture account for a quarter of all global greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions, with meat and dairy products accounting for more than half of that. Food production, particularly beef and lamb, is so carbon-intensive because of land use—27 percent of the world’s total forest loss between 2001 and 2015 was due to large-scale farming and ranching.
Cutting back on your meat consumption can offer some great health benefits as well: the Mediterranean diet (which recommends eating red meat rarely), for example, has been shown to lower the risk of coronary heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Luckily, with the ever-expanding availability of various meat substitutes like tofu, seitan and tempeh, it’s simple to make plant-based swaps. There are easy-to-source dairy alternatives too, everything from oat milk to cashew cheese to good ol’ “I can’t believe it’s not butter” margarine.
But what about eggs? Sure, vegans have long been whipping up flax eggs (a mixture of water and flaxseeds that serves as a binding agent in egg-free baking) and serving tofu scrambles for breakfast. But is there a way to better simulate egg’s texture and its ability to be scrambled, fried and baked?
Enter: Just Egg, a pourable liquid egg substitute that works (and tastes) like the real thing. It’s made primarily from mung bean proteins and gets its yellow hue from turmeric. The product first launched in the United States in 2019, but the faux egg made its way north of the border this past year, first with Just Egg Folded, an omelette-like product meant for sandwiches, and then with its signature liquid product, which you can use in place of a beaten egg.
While eggs are a more sustainable choice than beef (eggs produce about 4.67 kg of GHGs per kilogram of food, compared to beef which produces 99.48 kg of GHGs per kilogram of food), farming eggs uses up another precious resource: water. To make a dozen eggs, you need more than 2400 litres of water, meaning that each egg requires an average of 200 litres of water to produce. Just Egg, meanwhile, uses about 98 percent less water and 86 percent less land, according to its website, and produces 93 percent fewer carbon emissions than chicken eggs.
The health benefits of switching out chicken for Just Egg are also worth cracking into. “The two are very similar when you look at the macronutrients—the calories, fat and protein,” says Caroline Doucet, a registered dietitian in Kelowna, B.C., and owner of Nourished by Caroline. The main difference is that Just Egg has both poly- and mono-unsaturated fats, “healthy fats which we should be incorporating into our diet,” she says, but no saturated fats. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that chicken eggs have more nutrients like vitamins D and B12. But Doucet notes that as long as you’re eating a balanced diet, you’ll get those nutrients elsewhere, though vegans should consult a dietitian to be sure they’re meeting B12 needs.
Mung bean, the primary ingredient in Just Egg, is a great source of plant-based protein, says Doucet. However, she cautions that people who are totally plant-based will need to incorporate a variety of different protein sources (like beans, nuts and seeds) into their diet to access all the necessary amino acids. “But, as a part of a balanced diet, [Just Egg] is a great replacement.”
I am a veritable egg lover. I’ll toss a soft-boiled egg onto just about anything, so I was a bit skeptical at first. But I was pleasantly surprised by the fluffy egg-like texture of Just Egg Folded. I loved using it in my breakfast sandwiches in place of a fried egg, especially on mornings when I couldn’t handle anything more complicated than a piece of toast (you can heat it up from frozen in your toaster).
I was even more skeptical when I tried the goopy yellow liquid product. I made a spinach and feta frittata with it, using an entire bottle of Just Egg to substitute about six eggs (according to the company’s website, 3-4 tablespoons is equal to one chicken egg). My frittata turned out amazingly—the “egg” had set nicely, making the frittata jiggly and soft but not liquid-y in the centre.
While I am going to continue buying chicken eggs (I just can’t do without a runny yolk!), I plan to occasionally swap in Just Egg to help lower my personal carbon footprint. If you’re a vegan or someone looking to incorporate more plant-based protein in your life, it’s a great option.
Just Egg, $6, available at most major grocery stores.