Food Science: Egg Substitutions in Cookies and Brownies

updated May 2, 2019
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(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

We recently received a question in our Kitchn inbox about substituting yolks for whole eggs in a cookie recipe. Baking is often more chemistry than anything else, so we thought we’d take a look at this question from a scientific perspective!

We know from our own baking experience that eggs help make the finished product tender and moist, give it a golden color, and provide some richness of flavor. Along with flour, eggs also help set the structure of whatever it is you’re baking.

In these cases, we’re generally talking about whole eggs. To get an idea for what happens when yolks are used instead of a whole egg, we turned to our new favorite baking resource BakeWise by Shirley O. Corriher.

She advises us to think of an egg as three ingredients that each do something different in the cookie. Egg whites are mostly protein, so they help set the structure and dry baked goods out. Yolks are primarily fats, vitamins, and minerals with some protein, and they make baked goods moist and give a smooth texture. Whole eggs do a bit of both.

Based on this understanding of what the different parts do, our guess is that substituting a whole egg with two yolks would give us a very tender and moist cookie with a cake-like structure. Because we lose the proteins in the whites, the cookie would likely be crumbly. The flavor wouldn’t be affected very much, though the cookie would taste richer.

Does anyone have experience with substituting eggs in cookies or other baked goods? What do you think would happen?

(Image: Emma Christensen for the Kitchn)