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Best Egg substitute for meatballs


You’ve already started preparing your meal and realized you need an egg substitute for meatballs. So, what can you use to help bind these tasty bites together? Below, you’ll find top options to replace eggs in meatballs so you can continue the recipe without running to the grocery store.

cooked meatballs served on the white plate

What Is an Egg Substitute?

An egg substitute is any option besides egg that you would use as a binding mixture to help keep meatballs (or meatloaf) together. Without an egg substitute, your meatballs will fall apart during the cooking process regardless of the cooking method.

Eggs help keep meatballs moist as well, so an egg replacement is necessary if you can’t use or don’t have any eggs on hand.

Types of egg substitutes

There are multiple egg substitutes that you can use while making egg-free meatballs, including dairy-based alternatives and vegan options.

While vegans are likely not eating traditional meatballs, you can use many of the same ingredients when making a plant-based meatball option. In this case, it’s still necessary to use a binding agent to keep the meatless meatballs moist and together while cooking.

Best Egg Substitute For Meatballs

Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes are a perfect egg substitute for binding meatballs. You likely already have this swap in your fridge as leftovers from a previous dinner, making them easily accessible as a swap.

Using mashed potatoes in meatballs will help to provide a rich flavor due to the butter and dairy inside. These starchy vegetables help maintain moisture in the interior of meatballs, creating a juicy finished product.

Pros
Mashed potatoes do not have a strong flavor, so they’ll mesh well with any ground meat or similar product that you use for your meatball recipe.

Cons
If you don’t have any prepared mashed potatoes on hand, you’ll need to purchase some at the store. Or, create a fresh batch of mashed potatoes, adding time and steps to your recipe.

Cooking Tip:
Use ¼ cup of mashed potatoes for every egg in your recipe.

Ricotta Cheese

Ricotta cheese is an excellent option if you don’t want eggs in meatballs. This swap adds a creaminess to meatballs for a delicious final dish. They also provide a similar consistency to beaten eggs, making it an easy exchange.

This option is an ideal swap if you’re creating an Italian recipe, as it bodes well with the typical spices. Since it has a mild flavor, it will work well with most seasonings, and you can use it for other types of cuisine.

Pros
You can easily find ricotta cheese at grocery stores near the dairy or cheese section. Because of the moisture it offers, it holds meatballs together well. Consider adding bread crumbs, especially if you have higher moisture ricotta, as this will help the meatball from becoming too soft.

Cons
This swap is not a good option for vegans or those who don’t consume dairy in their daily lives.

Cooking Tip:
Like mashed potatoes, you will want to use ¼ cup of ricotta cheese to replace one egg.

Unsweetened Applesauce

Unsweetened applesauce is another excellent option to replace eggs in meatballs. This swap is vegan since it just cooked apples and nothing else. This substitute has a good amount of moisture in it, so it will help keep the interior of regular or vegan meatballs from getting dry.

Pros
This option is easily accessible – most people have applesauce in their cupboards. It also provides a slight sweetness which can work well in many recipes.

Cons
If you only have sweetened applesauce on hand, it’s not a suitable replacement for unsweetened applesauce. Unfortunately, you’ll either need to run to the store or make a homemade version which can be time-consuming.

Cooking Tip:
Use 1/3 cup of unsweetened applesauce to replace one egg.

Plain Yogurt

Plain yogurt is another option for egg replacement in meatballs. This substitute provides a delightful tangy flavor that will help balance more decadent sauces. It also works well with most recipes. It also helps keep meatballs moist inside.

Pros
This option is also easily accessible. You likely already have a container in the fridge. If not, you can find plain yogurt at any grocery store.

Cons
Unfortunately, this option is also not vegan-friendly or non-dairy friendly.

Cooking Tip:
Use ¼ cup to replace one egg in meatloaf. If the mixture is too wet, you can add breadcrumbs to help soak up some moisture.

Tomato Paste

Tomato paste is an excellent substitution for eggs, especially if you’ll be putting the meatballs in a tomato-based sauce like marinara sauce. Tomato paste adds a delicious tomato flavor, and if you’re using it with heavier meat like ground beef, the acidity will help cut the heaviness of the meat.

Pros
Tomato paste is readily available, and you can easily find it in grocery stores. It has no flavor added, so you can season your meatballs as you please without worrying about conflicting tastes.

Cons
If you’re using a very acidic sauce (like a sauce with lemon), this substitution will be too overpowering. You’ll need to thin the tomato sauce with water or broth. Otherwise, it will be too thick and leave the meatballs with an odd texture.

Cooking Tip:
Use one tablespoon (paste + water) to replace each egg. Adjust as needed.

Buttermilk

Buttermilk is another excellent option as a substitute for eggs in meatballs. It provides richness to the meatballs while cooking and keeps them from drying out. While this swap works well for all types of meat, it works exceptionally well with turkey or chicken as it will keep these leaner meats more sumptuous.

Pros
Buttermilk provides a delicious tang like what you would find when using plain yogurt as a replacement. It’s also easy to find.

Cons
You’ll need to alter the buttermilk with breadcrumbs or panko crumbs as it is slightly too runny of consistency to add into meatballs by itself. This option requires experimentation to find the correct ratio between the two items, adding time to your recipe.

Cooking Tip:
Use ¼ cup buttermilk for every egg the recipe calls for.

Mayonnaise

Mayonnaise is another great option as an alternative to eggs. This swap offers a delicious tangy taste from vinegar in the recipe. If you’ve ever used mayonnaise for baking, you’ll know how great it is at keeping baked items moist.

Pros
This condiment is easily found in grocery stores, though you probably have it in your home already. Any variety of mayonnaise will work as a swap – including olive oil-based and avocado-based options. It will add a creaminess/richness to the meatballs for a more decadent meal.

Cons
Mayonnaise typically includes eggs, so if you have an allergy or don’t want to consume eggs, this swap is not a good option for you.

Cooking Tip:
Use three tablespoons of mayonnaise for every egg.

Aquafaba

Aquafaba is another great vegan-friendly option. This swap is the liquid found in the can of chickpeas. It has a similar consistency to eggs so that you won’t notice it in your meatballs. It also has a subtle flavor, so it won’t overwhelm any seasonings you add or other flavors.

Pros
This swap is budget-friendly easy, and you likely have a can of chickpeas in your cabinet that you can use for the liquid. Aquafaba is starchy, like potatoes, so it will have no problem keeping the moisture in your meatballs as they cook.

Cons
You’ll need to whisk the aquafaba before using it in a recipe. Otherwise, it does not hold the ground meat together as well.

Cooking Tip:
Use three tablespoons of aquafaba (measure before whisking) to replace each egg.

Panade

This swap is a great way to provide moisture to meatballs when you’re not using eggs. A panade is a mixture between starch and liquid. This option is a commonly used binding agent in meatballs. Generally, you’ll combine milk and breadcrumbs first, then add them to the mixture.

This both keeps the mixture moistened and keeps the meatballs stuck together. Plus, you only need two common household ingredients, so it’s an easily accessible swap.

Pros
You’ll likely already add breadcrumbs to the mixture, so it’s a convenient swap. Milk has a subtle flavor, so you will not have to worry about the other seasonings being overwhelmed when using this combination.

When using panade, the bread’s starch and milk create a jelly-like consistency which helps keep the meat from becoming overly chewy.

Cons
Using a panade requires an additional step and time as you’ll need to allow the bread to fully absorb the milk before including it in your meatball mixture.

Cooking Tip:
Once your panade is ready, you can use ¼ cup to replace one egg. Adjust as needed.

Parmesan

Parmesan cheese is another excellent choice for replacing eggs. While it does not have as much moisture as ricotta, it will still add flavor and it complements Italian dishes perfectly. As the meatballs cook, the parmesan melts and helps hold the meatballs together.

Pros
Opt for the shredded version to better mix the meatballs.

Cons
This option is not an excellent option for those avoiding dairy in their diets.

Cooking Tip:
Use ¼ cup for every egg the recipe requires. Add more cheese if needed.

Saltine Crackers

Saltine crackers might seem like an odd choice, but if you grind them up or crumble them, they’re very similar to breadcrumbs. They have a neutral flavor that will bode well with any recipe you use them in.

Pros
This swap is another pantry staple, so you probably already have a bag or so of saltines sitting in your kitchen. There is no additional seasoning (besides salt), so you can add Italian seasoning or your favorite seasoning mixture.

Cons
It will take some extra time to grind or crumble the saltine crackers before including them in the meatballs. This swap does not work with turkey or chicken; it needs fattier meat like pork or beef as the juices will combine with the saltine crackers while the meatballs are cooking to create a panade-like mixture.

Cooking Tip:
Use 1 cup of breadcrumbs and forego the eggs for this swap.

Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are a great way to substitute eggs in meatloaf. You’ll need to grind and soak the chia seeds in water or milk first to allow them to form a jelly-like substance.

This substitute for egg in meatballs will take about half an hour, so it’s necessary to account for this extra time when cooking. However, once the gelatinous texture has formed, you’ll find the consistency very similar to that of eggs.

Pros
This swap is an excellent option for those who can’t eat or don’t eat eggs. You can use this swap in any recipe that typically requires eggs.

Cons
Using chia seeds instead of eggs requires a few extra steps to the recipe.

Cooking Tip:
Use three tablespoons of the gelly-like mixture to replace one egg.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Make Meatballs Without Eggs?

Yes, you can make meatballs without eggs. Whether you have an egg allergy or can’t eat eggs, there are plenty of alternatives like mashed potatoes, unsweetened applesauce, cheese, and mayonnaise. These options will help keep your meatballs from falling apart during the cooking process.

What Is the Best Egg Substitute for Meatballs?

The top egg substitute is mashed potatoes. This swap is an easily accessible option that many have made in their fridge already. If you don’t have a batch made, you can also use the store-bought options that you mix with water to bind your meatballs together.

What Is a Good Vegan Option to Substitute Eggs in Meatballs?

Using aquafaba or unsweetened applesauce are the two best vegan options for meatballs. They both provide subtle flavors that will be unnoticeable once you add in other seasonings. Plus, they’re easy to find at the grocery store.

Can You Use Mayo in Meatballs?

Yes, you can use mayo as a replacement in meatballs. This swap is another convenient option that you probably have in your pantry. This option works well when you’ve run out of eggs, though if you’re seeking a vegan option or egg-less option, choose one of the other choices from above.

Summary

Next time you need an egg substitute for binding meatballs, give one of these a try! Mashed potatoes are a top option for those who are not avoiding dairy. Otherwise, aquafaba or ground chia seeds work well as a vegan replacement in meatballs.

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Natalia | Flavorful home
Natalia is a recipe developer, food photographer, and home cook. She started Flavorful Home to document her recipes and share home cooking tips. She loves creating flavorful and nutritious meals while keeping the cooking process simple and joyful!

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