Are Eggs Vegan? Overview, Ethics, and Plant-Based Alternatives

While vegans don’t eat animal products, "veggans" make an exception for eggs.

Still life of organic eggs
The Good Brigade / Getty Images

Veganism tends to draw clear lines between acceptable and unacceptable foods, and eggs often top the list of what to avoid. Whether from birds, lizards, or snakes, eggs are, by definition, animal products, prompting the overwhelming majority of vegans to skip them at the breakfast buffet.

However, a small number of vegans point to their disdain for industrial farming as the issue with eggs, not the animal product itself. These so-called veggans include backyard eggs in their otherwise animal-product-free diet.

Here, we dive into the ethical questions surrounding eggs and explore the many egg substitutes available in stores and restaurants.

Why Eggs Are Not Vegan

Eggs are an animal byproduct and therefore not vegan. In addition, most vegans don't consume eggs for a variety of animal welfare reasons.

The egg industry is inextricably linked to the poultry industry at large, and chickens by far are the most slaughtered land animals. The World Economic Forum estimates that 50 billion chickens are killed each year, and as of 2019, about one-third of all meat eaten worldwide comes from poultry. 

These statistics intersect with egg farming: The slaughter numbers don't include male chicks born on egg farms that are killed almost immediately because they serve no economic purpose. Neither do those numbers reflect the hens inevitably sent to slaughter after they no longer lay eggs. 

Beyond their concerns for the demise of chickens born into the egg and poultry industries, vegans consider many commonplace chicken farming practices as inhumane. Chickens are cannibalistic, and they will often peck each other and eat their own and other chickens' eggs, especially in crowded conditions. To avoid this, farmers clip the beaks of egg hens and chickens raised for meat. This procedure has both short- and long-term detrimental effects on the well-being of chickens, including pain and loss of normal beak function.

Additionally, the living conditions of egg-laying hens are often crowded and filthy, even on farms with free-range or cage-free practices. Chicken feces contains a high amount of ammonia, which could have numerous adverse effects in a crowded environment.

Other animal welfare concerns include forced molting to induce egg production (caused by either intentional starvation or giving the chickens zinc), high levels of antibiotics, cramped cages, and genetic engineering for fast growth.

Did You Know?

Evaluating the sustainability of eggs is a complex issue involving animal welfare, environmental impact, food safety, worker health, and affordability. In 2015, the Sustainable Egg Coalition compared the sustainability of three popular hen housing systems: cage-free aviary, enriched colony, and conventional cage. The results revealed the many trade-offs that occur given the different hen housing options. Unfortunately for consumers, this study doesn't point to one system as superior to the other in terms of overall sustainability.

What Is a “Veggan”?

A small minority of vegans who consume eggs have dubbed themselves veggans. These folks generally follow the other tenets of veganism, but they consume eggs that they (or a friend or family member) have raised outside of the industrial system. Since backyard chickens aren’t subject to the same inhumane living conditions as chickens in commercial farms, many veggans believe that eating backyard eggs still aligns with their vegan values. 

A small study of egg eaters in Australia may help explain this rationale: People interested in consuming cage-free eggs pointed toward their dislike of the industrialization of food rather than to the welfare of hens as their primary motivation. Other veggans cite the higher environmental impact of industrially processed plant-based meat and dairy alternatives as less in alignment with the spirit of veganism than eating eggs from a personally owned and maintained hen house.

Mainstream vegans, however, argue that even these more humane and sustainable practices constitute animal exploitation and therefore stand in opposition to veganism. These vegans believe even backyard eggs should be left in the hen house as chickens will often eat their own eggs to replenish calcium and Vitamin D levels. (It’s not uncommon for chicken owners to feed eggs and eggshells to their flock for this reason.)

Common Substitutes for Eggs in Cooking or Baking

image of bowls with chickpeas , chickpea's liquid water brine and whipped aquafaba , egg replacer in cooking
Aquafaba alone or with flax meal makes a great egg substitute for baking and cooking. Kristina Ratobilska / Getty Images

Some recipes call for eggs without requiring the taste or texture of traditional chicken eggs. In cooking and baking, eggs often add moisture, help bind the ingredients, and give the food a light, fluffy texture. These common substitutes can easily step in as plant-based alternatives.


Aquafaba is the nearly clear, odorless liquid in which canned chickpeas are stored. This versatile kitchen staple makes an excellent replacement for egg whites. Aquafaba can be whipped to create meringue, mousse, mayonnaise, marshmallows, souffle, cocktail foams, and washes. You can vigorously shake aquafaba to achieve the proper bubbly texture, but a hand beater works best if you’re aiming for fluffy peaks that rival traditional chicken egg whites.

Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Egg Replacer

Made with four simple ingredients, Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Egg Replacer works wonderfully in breads, cakes, brownies, pancakes, cookies, and more. All you have to do is add water. The premade mix provides binding strength from potato starch, tapioca flour, and psyllium husk fiber. The leavening power comes from baking soda.

Flax Egg

An excellent choice for baking and cooking, a flax egg is a simple, homemade way to bind baked goods, give them a light and airy texture, and provide the necessary moisture. Replace a single traditional egg with one tablespoon ground flaxseed (also known as flax meal) mixed with three tablespoons of warm water. Stir for about 30 seconds, then let the mixture sit for five minutes while it thickens. If you’ve got aquafaba on hand, you can use it in place of water for extra binding ability.

Vegan Egg Replacements

Vegan Scrambled Tofu Eggs with Tumeric and Kala Namak
Tofu with black salt and turmeric makes a great egg substitute in scrambles. Selwa Baroody / Getty Images

Recently, a variety of plant-based eggs have made their way onto grocery store shelves and restaurant menus. These egg replacements recreate the texture and taste of traditional chicken eggs with relatively equivalent protein content, minus the animal cruelty and cholesterol.

BeLeaf Vegan Fried Egg

Unique in the vegan egg game, BeLeaf Vegan Fried Egg replicates the taste and texture of a fried chicken egg. These frozen, soybean-and-pea-fiber vegan eggs can be pan-fried, stir-fried, deep fried, or grilled. Add it to your sandwich, or enjoy a vegan fried egg by itself. 


JUST Egg simulates traditional eggs so well you may send your food back to the kitchen thinking they got your order wrong. Sustainably grown mung beans provide the base. Use JUST Egg on its own or in frittatas, quiches, French toast, and other baked goods that require whole eggs (but not just egg whites). 

ORGRAN Vegan Easy Egg

Made in Australia, ORGRAN Vegan Easy Egg is a shelf-stable powder egg replacement made from a base of chickpea and corn flour (and sustainably sourced palm oil). Each pack is equivalent to 15 conventional eggs and makes cooking plant-based quiches, omelets, and scrambled eggs a snap. 

Follow Your Heart VeganEgg

With a soymilk powder base, Follow Your Heart VeganEgg bakes and cooks like a traditional chicken egg. Even their packaging evokes old-school cardboard egg cartons. VeganEgg works as an excellent binder in cooking and baking, and it can be prepared on its own or as a scramble, frittata, or omelet. 


A staple in many vegan kitchens, tofu makes a great egg replacement, especially for quiches, scrambles, and sandwiches. Add a dash of black salt to give your vegan eggs that familiar sulfur smell, and add a hint of turmeric for a golden hue. Choose firm tofu for recipes requiring a dryer texture, or opt for silken tofu if you’re looking for a looser, creamier consistency.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • Can vegans eat egg?

    According to the most agreed-upon definition of veganism, no. Vegans abstain from eating or using any animal products. As products of oviparous animals (the scientific term for egg-laying birds, snakes, and lizards), eggs don’t fit the bill.

  • How are eggs not vegan?

    Not only are eggs the direct product of animals, but many vegans also take issue with the industrial practices of egg farming. Eating eggs might not directly kill or harm an animal, but the process surrounding eggs does.

  • What eggs are vegan-friendly?

    An explosion of vegan egg products have recently hit supermarket shelves across the globe. Unlike traditional animal eggs, vegan eggs are made from a combination of plant-based proteins (often in the form of legumes), spices, and oils. Vegans can also make egg substitutes from common kitchen ingredients like flax meal and tofu.