I am lucky enough to have very few dietary restrictions. I have close friends however who eat gluten-free, some are lactose-intolerant, and some are vegan. It does pose a challenge when we all get together to share a meal.
But I’ve been getting good at making recipes work with new ingredients, and I am more confident in the kitchen since I understand how different ingredients work. One such ingredient that I never paid much attention to is soy lecithin.
While I don’t mind using it in a recipe or eating commercially prepared food with it included, some of my close friends and family are more hesitant. So I set out to find good substitutes for it.
The best substitute for soy lecithin is sunflower lecithin. In baking recipes, try xanthan gum or egg yolks. Xanthan gum is particularly good in gluten-free baking. Ground flaxseed and honey can work in drinks or salad dressings. Dairy products, guar gum, and gelatin will work in soups, sauces, and cold creamy desserts.
Don’t forget that you can use cocoa butter as well. It makes a delightfully creamy hand lotion.
Keep reading for details about each substitution, which ones work best in different applications, and what exactly soy lecithin is.
Best Soy Lecithin Substitutes
1. Sunflower Lecithin Powder – Best Soy Lecithin Substitute In Baking
While soy lecithin is a safe food ingredient, some people do have concerns about eating soy due to the estrongenic effects or because soy is often considered to be a GMO.
If you have these concerns, sunflower lecithin powder is the best substitute for your kitchen. It will work in almost all the recipes soy lecithin will work in.
Sunflower Lecithin is made by cold pressing rather than by a chemical process. Due to that, many people prefer it as an alternative to soy lecithin.
You can substitute sunflower lecithin powder in a 1:1 ratio for soy lecithin powder. Just like soy lecithin, you should dissolve the sunflower granules in liquid before adding them to the rest of the recipe.
2. Xanthan Gum
Xanthan Gum is made by fermenting corn sugars then evaporating the resulting liquids.
It works well in gluten-free baking to create a soft texture. You can substitute xanthan gum in a 1:1 ratio for soy lecithin.
Although Xanthan Gum works best in baking recipes, you can also use it in sauces and a thickening agent.
3. Egg Yolk – Best Soy Lecithin Substitute In Cannabis Edibles
Egg Yolk is also an excellent source of lecithin for cannabis edibles. They add the binding properties as well as some leavening and extra moisture.
You even get a little extra protein from egg yolk. Substitute one egg yolk for each tablespoon of lecithin powder.
4. Ground Flaxseed – Great Soy Lecithin Substitute In Drinks
Ground flaxseed works well as a binding agent in smoothies, soups, and sauces. It also adds a nutty flavor and a boost of dietary fiber and omega-3 fatty acids.
Combine one tablespoon of flaxseed with 2 tablespoons of warm water and let it sit for a few minutes. Then, simply blend it into your smoothie and reap the benefits.
5. Liquid Sunflower Lecithin
You can use liquid sunflower lecithin in the same way as liquid soy lecithin. Try it in this balsamic vinaigrette recipe:
- In one bowl, combine ¼ cup balsamic vinegar, 1 teaspoon sea salt, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, ¼ teaspoon garlic powder, and a dash of ground white pepper
- In a separate bowl, whisk together ½ cup extra virgin olive oil and ½ teaspoon of liquid sunflower lecithin.
- Slowly drizzle the oil and lecithin mixture into the vinegar mixture while continuing to whisk.
- Whisk until it reaches the desired consistency. If you use a hand mixer, you can make it into a mayonnaise-like consistency and use it as a sandwich spread or a dip for French fries.
Honey is not an emulsifying agent, but it is a thickener. It also adds a nice pop of sweetness to your dressings. Try it in this simple balsamic vinaigrette:
- Combine ¼ c olive oil, 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, ½ teaspoon of kosher salt, ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper in a jar with a lid.
- Add 1-2 tablespoons of honey depending on how sweet you like your dressing.
- Shake well to mix. It will stay mixed for a while, but after you store it in the fridge overnight, you will have to shake it again to re-mix it.
7. Dairy – Milk/Cream/Butter
If your soup or sauce can handle a creamy base, add room temperature milk or cream one tablespoon at a time to the dish and whisk until it reaches the desired consistency.
Another option is to add butter that is just melted, one tablespoon at a time. Dairy will thicken and add richness to your sauces and gravies.
8. Cornstarch (or Other Starch)
If your primary goal is to thicken a sauce or the broth in a stew, cornstarch is a simple, common ingredient that will do the trick.
Whisk together 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and 1 tablespoon of warm water to make a slurry. Then add it to your soup or stew and whisk some more.
9. Polysorbate 80 and Mono – and Diglycerides
These ingredients are generally used in industrial food applications, but you can buy them to use at home if you want to.
Polysorbate 80 is a derivative of sugar alcohol and fat. It stabilizes the interaction of fat and water.
It is used in all kinds of products from chewing gum to ice cream to cosmetics. If you want to use this product in combination with the mono and diglycerides, you only need to add .02-.04% of the total weight of your mixture.
Mono- and Diglycerides are made from animal or vegetable fats. They stabilize the interaction of fats and air creating air bubbles in mixtures and keep them small.
You only need to use Mono- and Diglycerides at 0.1 – 0.2 % by weight of the total recipe.
If you are comfortable with using gelatin, it can make a big difference in creating a smooth ice cream that is free from random ice crystals.
It is also very easy to use in your ice cream mix. You will use 1 envelope of unflavored gelatin (about 1 Tablespoon) for 6 cups of ice cream mixture.
Some recipes have you soften the gelatin in ¼ cup of the ice cream mixture, then heat the mixture until the gelatin dissolves.
Another option is to bloom the gelatin in a ¼ cup of cold water before adding it to the heated ice cream base.
11. Guar Gum
A great natural ingredient to substitute for soy lecithin is guar gum. It comes from the guar bean and works like a thickening agent and stabilizer.
It works best in cold applications like ice cream, but you can use it in baking as well. Guar gum will make your ice cream smoother and creamier with fewer ice crystals.
Use ½ teaspoon of guar gum for 3 cups of ice cream mixture. Sprinkle it on the mixture a little at a time and whisk it in. If you try to mix it all in at once it will become lumpy.
12. Cocoa Butter – Best Substitute in Chocolate Making
The obvious emulsifier for chocolate is cocoa butter. It is more expensive than soy lecithin, which may be a barrier to some.
It also contains more fat than soy lecithin so you will need to adjust the recipe overall. Melt the cocoa butter in a double boiler before mixing it into your chocolate.
13. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil can also be used in chocolate making to help the chocolate harden more quickly.
You will have the best results when using coconut oil to make chocolate shells or drizzle that needs to harden.
14. Okra Pectin
Some studies have found that pectin derived from okra may work in chocolate manufacturing to substitute for soy lecithin.
Using .145% of the total weight of the ingredients of okra pectin. It will create milk chocolate with a similar flow and flavor to milk chocolate made with soy lecithin.
Best Vegan Soy Lecithin Substitutes
If you are following a vegan diet, it can be hard to determine which ingredients work best in your recipes.
Soy lecithin is a vegan-friendly product if you are ok with eating soy products. The best all-around substitute is sunflower lecithin.
It will work for everything that soy lecithin will work for. Other options include xanthan gum, ground flaxseed, honey, cornstarch, guar gum, cocoa butter, coconut oil, and okra pectin.
These substitutes do not work for every application, so be sure to understand what they do in the recipe to choose the best option.
Soy Lecithin In Baking
Lecithin adds stability to your baked goods and helps the dough bind together properly.
It also provides stabilizing and preservative properties improving the texture and extending the freshness of the baked goods.
Soy Lecithin Substitutes In Cannabis Edibles
Some people find that when they bake edibles, the result is a dry crumbly mess. Adding lecithin or additional lecithin to your edible recipes can improve the texture and structural integrity of your baking.
One of the qualities of lecithin is to bind ingredients together that don’t normally bind, like oil and water.
Therefore, it can be a helpful ingredient in edible because it helps the cannabinoids attach to fats in the recipe. Lecithin also extends the shelf-life and acts as a preservative.
Finally, some people report that lecithins increase the bioavailability of cannabinoids. The lecithins allow the body to absorb the cannabinoids more quickly so you feel the effects sooner.
You should use one teaspoon of powdered lecithin for each cup of liquid in your recipe.
Dissolve the granules in your liquid, then follow the recipe as it is written. As a substitute for soy lecithin, sunflower lecithin powder is an excellent choice in edibles. Sunflower lecithin powder is also the best choice for making gummies.
Soy Lecithin Substitutes In Drinks
Adding a lecithin to your smoothie or juice creates a bubbly, foamy feeling and helps stabilize blended ingredients.
You can make the foam in your drinks by whisking or blending in lecithin granules.
The typical ratio is 1 gram of soy lecithin powder for 100 grams of liquid. That is about ¼ teaspoon per ½ cup of liquid.
You can use sunflower lecithin (it is the best overall replacement), or egg yolk, if you are ok with having a raw egg yolk in your smoothie.
Soy Lecithin Substitutes to Make Emulsions
An emulsion is a stabilized combination of ingredients that don’t usually blend together.
Think about how oil and water won’t blend together, the oil separates into bubbles. An emulsifier allows the oil and water to blend together and stay blended.
Mayonnaise is an emulsion that you probably have in your fridge.
Liquid Soy Lecithin
Up until now, we have been talking about using powdered or granulated forms of lecithins. Now we have a great use for the liquid form.
When you make an emulsion, starting with the liquid form of the lecithin makes your job that much easier.
Use ½ a teaspoon of liquid soy lecithin for every ½ cup of oil in the recipe. To make a vinaigrette, whisk the oil and the lecithin together first, then slowly whisk it into the rest of the ingredients in the recipe.
Soy Lecithin Substitute in Sauces and Soups
Soy lecithin acts as a stabilizer and thickening agent in sauces and soups. One advantage to using soy lecithin in a sauce or soup is that it does the thickening work without adding additional starches or fats.
To maintain a goal of avoiding starches or fats, use a 1:1 substitution of sunflower lecithin.
Use ½ teaspoon of lecithin for every cup of soup or sauce. Dissolve the lecithin in a little hot water then whisk it into the soup or sauce for about 1 minute.
Soy Lecithin Substitutes for Ice Creams and Desserts
Ice Cream is a unique food when we look at the science behind it. Normally, we add emulsifiers to stabilize a mixture, but in the case of ice cream the emulsifier destabilizes the mixture to keep it soft.
One of the most common emulsifiers in ice cream is egg yolk which is cooked into a custard before being blended into the other ingredients.
For those who need an eggless ice-cream, soy lecithin is generally the next go-to ingredient. But it is not the only option.
Substitutes in Chocolate Making
If you make your own chocolates, you have found that getting the chocolate to flow, harden, and remain shiny takes some skill and practice. It also takes the right ingredients.
Many recipes for chocolate goodies call for soy lecithin due to its low cost and effectiveness in making chocolate behave properly.
Soy Lecithin Substitution For Making Gastronomic Foams
You’ve probably seen someone on a cooking show make a gorgeous plate of food then top it off with a colorful foam.
Making a foam is a delicate process that requires some practice and some interesting equipment.
The foam or “air” is made by creating a liquid from the chosen food like a strawberry puree and adding in stabilizers.
Then it is placed in a canister pressurized with CO2 or NO2. The foam is then gently sprayed onto the plate for service.
Soy lecithin is a common ingredient in foams because it dissolves well and makes stable bubbles.
Xanthan Gum, cream, egg whites, and sugar can also make effective foam stabilizers.
In Homemade Hand Lotion
When you are looking for the perfect lotion, you may find that making your own is the way to get what you want and need.
When you start looking for instructions on lotion making, you will find that there are hundreds of recipes and opinions on how to do it properly.
I’m not a lotion-making expert, but I am interested in learning how to choose the right ingredients.
Soy lecithin is an excellent emulsifier for lotions. It helps keep the fats, oils, and water all blended properly so that you can use it without having to mix it each time.
Many “recipes” for lotion have you begin with emulsifying wax. This is a pre-made product that often has the soy lecithin already mixed in.
So if you want to avoid this ingredient, this is where you should look.
Montanov 68 is another kind of emulsifying wax made from coconut oil and the tapioca plant.
You can make a lotion without emulsifying wax. Try this formula that uses cocoa butter for an all-nature, deliciously scented lotion.
Homemade Soy Lecithin?
As I searched for information on soy lecithin and how to replace it in recipes, I kept seeing the question “Can you make soy lecithin at home?” pop up.
After falling down several rabbit holes, I believe trying to make it at home would involve building a factory in your backyard.
If you are as curious as I am, you can read a detailed description of the industrial process and the history of soy lecithin as an ingredient.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Soy Lecithin
Soy lecithin is a mixture of sticky phosphoglycerates that are extracted from soybean oil.
The mixture may be diluted into a liquid or dried into a powder to be used as an emulsifier and thickening agent in food production and in other industries.
How Do You Use Soy Lecithin?
Soy lecithin is used to combine ingredients that would normally repel one another like oil and water.
It is commonly used in baking and in foods like salad dressings, sauces, gravies, and soups.
What Does Soy Lecithin Taste Like?
Soy lecithin is used in such small amounts in recipes that the taste will not be apparent. In very large quantities, it has a nutty, buttery taste.
Soy Lecithin Nutritional Information
Soy Lecithin is essentially a fat. 100 grams of soy lecithin has 100 g of fat which is 154% of the DV of fats.
There are no other nutrients to speak of in soy lecithin. Don’t let the fat content freak you out, however.
When you use soy lecithin in a recipe, you are likely to use about 1 teaspoon or 5 grams.
That whole recipe is going to be shared by multiple people. So one person will not be having a whole 100 gram serving of soy lecithin in one sitting.
Is Soy Lecithin Bad for You?
Unless you have a severe soy allergy, this is a safe ingredient to use in recipes. Some people are concerned about it as an ingredient because most industrial soy has been genetically modified.
Others worry that eating soy may result in estrogenic effects on the body. However, the percentage of soy lecithin in most recipes is very small and not likely to have any effect on you.
Is Soy Lecithin Good for You?
You shouldn’t take a package of soy lecithin and try to use it as a medication. However, lecithin is an essential fat that is naturally a part of your body.
Lecithin from a variety of sources is used in medications. Research is ongoing to evaluate the effectiveness of lecithin in treating some liver diseases and some forms of dementia like Alzheimer’s.
Is Soy Lecithin Natural?
Yes and No. Soy lecithin comes from soybeans which are natural plants. However, the process for extracting soy lecithin uses commercial solvents. This process may be off-putting for some people.
If you are interested in exploring new avenues in cooking, you might want to consider keeping soy lecithin in your kitchen and using it in your recipes.
On the other hand, if you have a soy allergy, or you have concerns about using soy lecithin, you can certainly find some easy-to-use substitutes.
Sunflower lecithin in powdered and liquid forms is the best overall substitute. You can use it in almost any application.
For baking recipes, you will have the most success with egg yolk or xanthan gum. In emulsions, like salad dressings or aioli, try honey or egg yolk.
Dairy, guar gum, and gelatin can work as substitutes in sauces, soups, and creamy desserts like custards and ice creams. You can even make your own cosmetics with substitutions for soy lecithin.
Egg Yolk or Xanthan Gum
Another popular emulsion is aioli. It is a creamy garlic sauce made with oil, garlic, & salt.
You can also add a whole egg or egg yolk to help emulsify the aioli. Another option is to add a ⅛ teaspoon of xanthan gum as a stabilizer and emulsifier.
You can make your own aioli in a food processor, a high-speed blender, or with an immersion blender.
Set out your ingredients before you are ready to make it so that they all can come to room temperature so they blend together better.
- Mash 2 garlic cloves into a paste and place them in a bowl with 1 teaspoon of lemon juice or white wine vinegar and a pinch of salt. Let them sit until all the salt is dissolved.
- Pour the garlic mixture, one whole egg, and one egg yolk (for the lecithin) into the food processor.
- Measure ¾ cup of olive oil. For a more neutral flavor use ½ cup of olive oil and ¼ cup of neutral-flavored vegetable oil.
- Pulse the food processor until the egg mixture is smooth and frothy.
- With the food processor on, add the oil a few drops at a time. It is essential to add the oil slowly so that it will emulsify properly. If you dump it all in at once, it will just be an oily mess that won’t incorporate.
Store your aioli in the refrigerator. Serve it on freshly roasted vegetables, with fresh crab, or as a sandwich spread.
My name is Keren Tayler. I am a stay-at-home mama to three lovely girls, Sarah + Rachel + Hannah. Prior to becoming a mom, I had a successful career in the accounting field, steps away from becoming a CPA. I decided to give up on my career in order to raise my own kids (as opposed to letting a nanny do it, no judgment here :)) I learned a lot and I love sharing it with other moms. Along the way, I also became a Certified Food Handler.