Here’s an easy trick for making your rolls, scones, pie crusts, and lots of other baked goods look and taste even better: Brush them with egg wash before baking. They will brown more deeply and take on a beautiful, lustrous shine.
What is Egg Wash?
The classic egg wash is made by mixing one whole egg with a little milk or water. In the oven, its proteins and sugars trigger flavorful Maillard browning, while its fat lends shine.
But what if your baked goods are vegan? Is there another way to get this same effect without using any animal products? To find out, we searched for plant-based alternatives that contained protein, fat, and sugars and landed on a lineup of eight contenders:
I brushed the products onto scones, rolls, and pie dough before baking them, comparing them to the same items brushed with real egg wash—and found a clear winner.
Sign up for the Cook's Insider newsletter
The latest recipes, tips, and tricks, plus behind-the-scenes stories from the Cook's Illustrated team.
What Is the Best Vegan Substitute for Egg Wash?
Only one of these options managed to create beautiful browning as well as shine: the vegan eggs.
In fact, the brand we tested, Just Egg, which is formulated to contain similar amounts of protein and fat as real eggs, produced results identical to regular egg wash. So if you’re looking to add shine to your baked goods without adding egg, vegan eggs can be your best bet. (One caveat: Because different brands of egg substitutes are formulated differently, they may not all give the same results.)
Other Decent Vegan Egg Washes
If you don’t keep vegan eggs on hand, though, we did achieve acceptable results with several other products.
The plant-based milks and aquafaba created rich, even browning. Their downside: None of them produced much shine. So, if you’re willing to compromise a little on aesthetics, these are worthy choices as well.
Steer clear of vegan butter, vegan mayo, and coconut oil. All three products made the rolls look dry and matte.
What’s more, the vegan butter and vegan mayonnaise imparted unwanted flavors, while the coconut oil left a slightly greasy residue on our hands.