Understand The Role Of Eggs When Making Meatballs

Eggs are an important ingredient in any bowl of meatballs. They serve as a binder, which is like the glue that holds the actual ball and all of its ingredients together, and they provide moisture to the final product. Eggs are made of mostly protein and water, with the majority of the protein contained in the egg white. As the egg cooks, the proteins coagulate and set. This provides structure and sturdiness to the meatball. The egg yolk also helps lock in moisture and provides consistency in texture, resulting in tender meatballs with a pleasant mouthfeel as opposed to crumbly ones. 

Including eggs in the recipe is especially important if you are using very lean meat such as ground chicken or turkey breast as they add some fat from the yolk. You won't need more than an egg or two per every one to two pounds of meat. If you use too many eggs, you'll wind up with soggy, heavy meatballs. Yet with too little egg, the meatball won't hold its shape and will be on the dry side.

Substitute binders you can use instead of an egg

Being that mayonnaise is made of eggs, it also does a great job binding the meatballs as well as adding a creaminess to the texture. But if you're all out of fresh eggs or simply don't eat them, you and your meatballs are not out of luck. There are a handful of substitutes for eggs that function similarly in their capacity to bind and hold all of the ingredients together as well as impart moisture.

Yogurt contains protein and will help other ingredients stick together and keep the meat juicy. Mashed potato can also function as an adhesive. You can either bake or steam and mash one up, or use any leftovers you have on hand. Bread crumbs mixed with buttermilk are known to be a great stand-in for eggs, as is unsweetened applesauce, which will add a hint of natural sweetness as well. And ricotta cheese will keep your meatballs together and juicy, along with added cheesy flavor. Note that any kind of binder is important for presentation, however, if you have nothing on hand but still want your meatballs, they will survive and taste just fine without it.