Substitutes for liquid soy lecithin are sunflower lecithin, egg yolks, dairy, mustard, and honey. Substitutes for soy lecithin powder are guar gum, xanthan gum, and agar-agar. Soy lecithin is most commonly used in food to act as an emulsifier, which is why these are good alternatives.
Which ingredient you use will depend on what you’re making. You’ll find more details on which ingredients work when and how much to use.
Liquid Soy Lecithin Substitutes
If a recipe calls for liquid lecithin, or you’re making a liquid mixture, such as salad dressing, a liquid substitution is ideal. Here are some options:
1. Sunflower lecithin
Sunflower lecithin is actually preferred by many people over soy lecithin because it’s more natural. Most soybeans are genetically modified and the extraction process requires chemicals. Sunflower lecithin is extracted naturally, with a cold processing method. They act the same but sunflower lecithin is the healthier option.
2. Egg yolks
Lecithin is found in the yolk of an egg, so an egg can be a great substitution for some recipes. If you’ve ever made your own mayonnaise or hollandaise sauce, you may have seen it in action. A simple mayo recipe uses eggs, vinegar, salt, and oil, and as long as you drizzle the oil in slowly while mixing vigorously, you get a thick, smooth, consistency with ingredients that stay mixed together. This is my favourite mayo recipe with great directions. It includes mustard, which is also an emulsifier.
An egg may be used in a sauce to thicken it up, as long as you don’t need to heat the sauce too much, or it will cook the egg. Start by mixing the egg with the watery ingredient and then very slowly add the oil while whisking vigorously. This will help to evenly disperse the oil among the emulsifier.
Milk proteins act as emulsifiers, so a little bit of milk, cream, or butter in recipes such as a salad dressings, sauces, or gravies can help give them a smoother consistency. Slowly add a tablespoon at a time (milk, cream, or melted butter) and whisk vigorously as you do. Continue adding the dairy product slowly, until you have the consistently you desire.
You may also consider swapping milk for water in bread recipes, or butter for oil (source).
The outer coating of a mustard seed is called mucilage, which is an emulsifying agent. So salad dressings commonly call for a teaspoon or two of mustard because it adds a tangy flavor and helps keep the mixture together. Some mustards contain more mucilage than others, so look for a whole-grain mustard. A Dijon or dry ground mustard powder will give you the best emulsion, however, you can use yellow mustard too.
If you’re making a salad dressing or sauce that mustard will work with, try adding ¼ teaspoon to start and add more to get your desired taste and consistency.
Although honey is not an emulsifier, it can work as a thickening agent and will help stabilize a mixture. A little bit of honey in a salad dressing will add a touch of sweetness and help combine the ingredients. Start with half a teaspoon of honey in a dressing and whisk ingredients together. Add more to achieve the taste and consistency you desire.
Powder Soy Lecithin Substitutes
If a recipe calls for lecithin powder, a powder substitute is ideal. Here are some options:
6. Guar Gum
Guar gum is made from legumes (guar beans) and is often used to thicken the consistency and bind ingredients in food products. As an emulsifier that comes in powdered form, this may be a good alternative for your recipe. It’s most commonly used in cold foods, such as ice cream, but can be used in baking as well (and is often used for gluten free baking).
This ingredient is a good alternative when making dressing, sauces, spreads, smoothies, ice cream, popsicles, or baking. You often don’t need much more than a teaspoon, but here’s a great guide for how much to add depending on what you’re making.
7. Xanthan Gum
Xanthan gum is made from fermented corn sugar and is dried and ground into a powder. It’s commonly used in gluten-free baking to add elasticity or chewiness gluten would typically contribute. Xanthan gum is also a thickening agent and an emulsifier and is best used in baked goods, but can also work in dressings and sauces.
Bread and baking recipes often call for about ½ teaspoon for 1 cup of gluten-free flour (as long as the gluten-free flour doesn’t already contain xanthan gum). If you’re making bread and the recipe calls for soy lecithin powder, try swapping xanthan gum powder in at a 1:1 ratio.
Agar agar is extracted from red algae (a type of seaweed) and is commonly used for its gelling properties but is also an emulsifier, stabilizer and thickener. Many vegans use it as a substitution for gelatin.
It may be a good substitute for soy lecithin if you’re making a jelly, pudding, or custard and can be swapped in for gelatin at a 1:1 ratio. Because of its gelling properties, this would not be a good substitution for soy lecithin when it’s called for in dressings, gravies, breads, or other baking recipes.