The Ingenious Tricks Behind Vegan Eggs

“What strikes me now, living in [South] Korea,” Reaney explains, “is that culinary expertise is based on long-term experience – and if people haven’t used aquafaba for that long, if you haven’t traditionally used an ingredient, then you just don’t know how to use it yet.”

Likewise, Boukid is confident that egg substitutes will soon have a wider variety of uses. “I think we are now working on the first generation of alternative products, which try to imitate conventional products,” she says. “I think in the future, we will move to the second generation where we will innovate to produce better products, or similar products offering the consumer new experiences such as new flavors.”

Failing that, how about a chemically identical lab egg?

US biotech firm The Every Company announced last year that it was working to manufacture lab-grown egg whites using real chicken egg protein. The process would involve adding the genes that code for a cocktail of these proteins to yeast cells, then growing them in vats – the same technique currently used to make synthetic insulin for diabetics.

Unfortunately, even this futuristic solution wouldn’t work for everyone. As with other lab-grown animal products, it seems likely that some vegans would consider it unethical – not to mention that the yolk-free formulation could be disappointingly fried, boiled or poached.

Thus, the search for an ideal artificial egg continues. But if after just over half a decade of intensive research, vegans can already eat their own versions of every conceivable kind, who knows what new developments are on the horizon. Could people ever listen in wonder when they were told that the ingredient they call “egg” had something to do with chickens?

At the very least, I’m optimistic that the next time I make vegan cakes, they’ll be incredibly light and fluffy — and most importantly, they’ll hold their shape.

Zaria Gorvett is a senior reporter for BBC Future and tweets @ZariaGorvett

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