Xanthan gum is a very popular ingredient that is used as a binding agent, a thickening agent, and an emulsifier.
It is made when the bacteria Xanthomonas campestris ferments sugar. Once the sugar ferments, manufacturers add alcohol to it and then dry it to form a fine powder.
Xanthan gum does not have any calories or nutrients. It is a soluble fiber. Therefore, your body cannot break it down.
Research has shown that xanthan gum tends to slow down digestion and absorb water. The good news is that it is safe to use since it is FDA approved.
I am sure you have come across several gluten-free recipes that call for xanthan gum. Xanthan gum comes in very handy in baking. If you are vegan, you need to use flour that does not contain any gluten.
Therefore, you need to use an ingredient that will act as a binding agent. This way, your baked goods will not fall apart. Using xanthan gum in your gluten-free baking is essential because it mimics gluten.
The xanthan gums make your dough sticky and hold all your baking ingredients together.
More Xanthan gum uses
Xanthan gum also has several other uses apart from baking. Here are a few that I know.
- As a stabilizer in salad dressings
Vinegar and oil have the tendency to separate when you mix them while making your salad dressing. To counter this, just add a little bit of xanthan gum.
It will ensure that the oil and vinegar do not separate. Additionally, the xanthan gum ensures that the seasoning you use remains suspended making it easier for you to mix into your salad.
- To thicken sauces
Xanthan gum is also used as a thickening agent.
It works just as well as a roux of flour and butter. Xanthan gum works well in sugar free syrups as well as gravies.
In case you want to use a gluten free ingredient in place of flour, xanthan gum is your best bet.
- Smoothening ice cream
A lot of people don’t know this, but xanthan gum can be used to smoothen ice cream.
Additionally, it prevents the formation of crystals inside the ice cream when you store it in your freezer.
Xanthan gum is mostly used as an ingredient in homemade non-dairy ice cream to help it achieve its creamy consistency.
- In cosmetics
I am quite sure you have seen xanthan gum listed as an ingredient in your liquid make up and lotions.
Most cosmetic companies use it as a thickening agent.
Where to buy xanthan gum
Xanthan gum is readily available. You can buy it at a grocery store. Distributors usually place it together with other baking products because it is commonly used in baking.
If you do not feel like going to the store to buy some, you can just buy it online.
The xanthan gum substitutes
Although xanthan gum is an amazing ingredient, you may not always have it in stock.
Luckily, there are several ingredients that you can use as substitutes for xanthan gum.
Chia seeds mixed with water, psyllium husk, cornstarch, ground flax seeds mixed with water, agar agar, unflavored gelatin, guar gum, egg whites, and konjac powder are all suitable substitutes for xanthan gum.
Without wasting any more time, let us discuss these substitutes and how to use them in various dishes
- Chia seeds mixed with water
This substitute actually works quite well. Simply soak some chia seeds in water for a few minutes.
Add 1 cup of hot water for every ½ cup of chia seeds and let them soak. Mix the two ingredients together until the mixture becomes viscous. The seeds will form a gel that works well as a xanthan gum substitute.
You can add whole chia seeds to your recipe as well. However, you should know that your dish would have that extra crunch.
If you do not want the crunchy texture just grind the chia seeds before adding them to your dish.
Substitute xanthan gum with chia seeds mixed with water in the ratio 1:1. For instance, if you are required to use one tablespoon of xanthan gum, just use one tablespoon of the mixture instead.
- Psyllium husk
Psyllium husk is also a good substitute for xanthan gum. It is mostly used in baking.
Psyllium husk is manufactured by grinding the husks of Plantago ovata seeds. Research has shown that it plays a major role in lowering blood sugar.
Psyllium gum has several similarities with xanthan gum. For starters, it is also soluble fiber. When mixed with water, it also forms a gel-like mixture.
Substitute xanthan gum with psyllium husk in the ratio 1:2. If a recipe requires you to use one tablespoon of xanthan gum, use two tablespoons of psyllium husk instead.
Cornstarch is a very common ingredient that is mostly used as a thickening agent. It is a gluten-free substitute and is the perfect substitute when you are making stews or gravies. Your dish will turn out just fine.
When using cornstarch as a substitute for xanthan gum, you can just add it directly to your dish. Cornstarch is highly absorbent so it will co0mbine well with any dish it is added to.
Substitute xanthan gum with gelatin in the ratio 1:1. If a recipe requires you to use one tablespoon of xanthan gum, use one tablespoon of cornstarch in its place.
- Ground flax seeds mixed with water
Ground flax seeds mixed with water basically works the same as when you mix chia seeds with water.
I love using flax seeds as a xanthan gum substitute because they are highly nutritious and have several health benefits as well.
You can grind flax seeds at home before using them but if you are not up to it, just buy the already ground flax seeds. They are readily available at the grocery store.
Mix 1 cup of ground flax seeds with two cups of hot water and stir for a few minutes or until the mixture becomes viscous.
Substitute xanthan gum with ground flax seeds mixed with water in the ratio 1:1. If a recipe calls for a tablespoon of xanthan gum use one tablespoon of ground flax seeds mixed with water.
- Agar agar
Agar agar is another good substitute for xanthan gum. It is in fact very similar to unflavored gelatin. Agar agar is made from red algae. It works best when used as a thickening agent.
Agar agar is plant based. Therefore, it is a suitable substitute for anyone that is on a vegan diet.
You cannot add agar agar directly to your dish. You first have to dissolve it in water. To do this, mix a tablespoon of agar agar flakes with 4 tablespoons of water at room temperature.
Heat the mixture for 4-6 minutes or until the agar agar is completely dissolved then add it to your dish.
Substitute xanthan gum with dissolved agar agar in the ratio 1:1. If a recipe calls for a tablespoon of xanthan gum use one tablespoon of agar agar.
- Unflavored gelatin
If you are not keen on maintaining a vegan diet, unflavored gelatin will work just fine.
It is made from animal collagen and it works best in baking. I recommend using unflavored gelatin as an ingredient when baking bread or muffins.
Substitute xanthan gum with unflavored gelatin in the ratio 1:2. If a recipe requires you to use one tablespoon of xanthan gum, use two tablespoons of unflavored gelatin.
- Guar gum
Guar gum is also known as Guran. It can be used as an alternative to xanthan gum. Guar gum is made from guar beans.
Although you can use it as a substitute for xanthan gum, you should know that it is not as powerful.
Therefore, you will have to use more than what your recipe calls for in order to get desirable results.
- Egg whites
Yes, egg whites can be used in place of xanthan gum. I do not know about you but I always have eggs in the fridge. Egg whites are one of my favorite substitutes because I always have them on hand.
To substitute xanthan gum with egg whites, use one egg white for every tablespoon of xanthan gum that your recipe requires.
I recommend using egg whites as a xanthan gum substitute when baking bread or cakes.
Keep in mind that egg whites are not a vegan-friendly substitute because they come from an animal product. If you are vegan, choose one of the other substitutes.
- Konjac powder
Konjac powder is another good substitute for xanthan gum. It is a very common ingredient in Asian cuisine.
Konjac powder has a high fiber content which plays a major role in thickening the dishes that it is added to.
I suggest using Konjac powder in gravies and stews for the best results. You can also use konjac powder in baking cakes as well as bread.
Substitute xanthan gum with konjac powder in the ratio 1:1. If a recipe calls for a tablespoon of xanthan gum use one tablespoon of konjac powder.