If you are looking for xanthan gum substitutes to use in your gluten-free baking, read this guide! You’ll learn why it’s important to include in some of your favorite baking recipes and what kind of substitutions you can use.
I use xanthan gum a lot when I bake. No, it’s not chewing gum, it’s actually a powder – and it has a very specific role in gluten-free baking.
Ok, but what happens if you don’t have any? Thankfully, there are lots of options to use in place of xanthan gum and they all do the same thing.
Frequently Asked Questions About Xanthan Gum
Keep on reading and I’ll introduce to the world of xanthan gum – why it’s so important, substitutes for it, and how to use it. But, before I do, I wanted to answer a few questions I normally get when I include xanthan gum in my list of ingredients.
What Is Xanthan Gum?
Simply put, xanthan gum is a food additive that is used as a thickener or stabilizer.
Xanthan gum is created when a bacteria called Xanthomonas campestris ferments sugar. This created a broth or goo-like substance. After they add some alcohol, it becomes solid – which they can then dry out and turn into a powder.
Then, when you and I add xanthan gum powder to liquid recipes, it creates a vicious and stable solution.
This food additive is entirely created in a lab and the FDA has approved it as safe. It is a soluble fiber, which means that it is a carb your body cannot break down. It absorbs water and actually slows down digestion. Since your body can’t digest it, it has no calories and no nutrients.
Why Is Xanthan Gum Important In Keto and Gluten-Free Baking?
Since there are so many carbs in recipes that use flour (gluten), lots of low-carb and keto recipes use other types of flour such as almond flour. That’s why pretty much all keto-friendly recipes are gluten-free.
But, because you are using flours that have zero gluten in them, you need some kind of a binder to really hold your baked goods together- and that’s where xanthan gum comes in. It mimics gluten when you bake. Xanthan gum holds all the ingredients together and makes the dough gummy and sticky.
If you try to bake without it (or another xanthan gum substitute), your recipe is just going to fall apart.
Is Xanthan Gum Vegan?
Since xanthan gum is quite literally man-made, it is considered vegan. It is produced with bacterial fermentation and doesn’t use any animal products.
Is Xanthan Gum Gluten-Free?
Xanthan gum is completely gluten-free, too! There is no gluten used in the creation of xanthan gum. That’s why so many people use it in gluten-free baking.
Uses For Xanthan Gum In Low Carb Baking
Before moving onto the different kinds of substitutions, let’s look at the different ways you can use xanthan gum in baking and cooking.
There are 4 main things it does:
1. Makes Sauces Thicker
Have you ever made a gravy with a roux made of flour and butter? Well, without that roux, you’ll end up with soup, not gravy!
When you are eating gluten-free or low-carb, you need another option, and that’s where xanthan gum comes in. It will thicken gravies and even sugar-free syrups.
We use it in several thickened sauce based recipes on the site, like our super popular lemon tart recipe.
2. Replaces Gluten In Baking
Xanthan gum acts as a binding agent to the dough in gluten-free baking. Instead of just falling apart, when you add xanthan gum, it helps the dough stick together and makes it stretchy.
You can see how perfect the layers of this vanilla layer cake hold together.
3. Stabilizes Salad Dressings
If you have tried to mix oil and vinegar, you know they’ll separate easily. Even though xanthan gum is not an emulsifier, it can help to prevent oil from separating. It also keeps the spices and seasonings suspended so they are easier to mix into your salad!
4. Makes Ice Cream Smoother
This is a really surprising benefit of xanthan gum that not a lot of people know!
Since it interacts with liquids and changes the texture of it, it can make ice cream smoother. It actually prevents ice crystals from forming inside the ice cream and it only takes a really small amount for it to work.
If you have ever tried to make homemade ice cream out of non-dairy milk like soy, almond, or coconut, then you know the struggle to obtain that creamy consistency. Try adding a little bit of xanthan gum and see how it elevates it!
Options For Xanthan Gum Substitutes
You’ve probably wondered, “What can you use instead of xanthan gum in gluten-free baking?”. I know how it feels. You are so excited about baking only to realize that you don’t have any xanthan gum!
Well, don’t fret. There are actually eight different ingredients that work in a similar way to Xanthan gum.
Every recipe is different – and not all substitutions will work 100%, but this is a list of suggestions of ingredients that you can test if you do not have xanthan gum on hand.
1. Psyllium Husk
You can use psyllium husk in a 2:1 ratio to replace xanthan gum. Psyllium husk is made from the husks of Plantago ovataseeds. Just like xanthan gum, it is a soluble fiber that also forms a gel-like substance when mixed with liquids. To replace xanthan gum, use twice as much psyllium husk.
Cornstarch is one of the options on this list that is gluten-free but is not keto-friendly. It’s a highly absorbent thickener and you can use it as a direct 1:1 substitute for xanthan gum. It does have lots of carbs in it, however, so it’s not a good choice for low-carb baking.
3. Unflavored Gelatin
Unflavored gelatin is made from animal collagen. It is an excellent choice if you are baking things like bread or muffins. To use it as a xanthan gum substitute, you’ll need 2 parts of gelatin for every 1 part xanthan gum.
Keep in mind that gelatin isn’t vegan or vegetarian since most of it is made from pigskin.
4. Guar Gum
Another name for guar gum is Guran and it is made from guar beans. It isn’t as effective as xanthan gum, so you’ll need 3 parts of guar gum for every one part of xanthan gum.
5. Chia Seeds And Water
Chia seeds are an excellent replacement for xanthan because they are plant-based and full of nutrients too (which xanthan gum does not). The only downside is that you have to use water and add a bit more time to your baking time.
Soak chia seeds in 2 parts water for 1 part chia seeds. Stir until the mixture becomes viscous (gooey).
Agar-Agar is made from red algae and behaves just like unflavored gelatin. It thickens dishes and holds things together. Since it is plant-based, this is a vegan alternative to gelatin.
You can use it as a 1:1 replacement for xanthan gum. Before you do, you’ll have to dissolve it in room-temperature water.
To do this:
- Use 4 tablespoons of water for every 1 tablespoon of flakes or powder.
- Then, heat it over low heat for about 5 minutes until it is dissolved.
7. Ground Flax Seeds And Water
Flax seeds behave a lot like chia seeds when you soak them in water. They will add essential nutrients to your recipe too – which is a fantastic side benefit.
You’ll need to grind them up before you use them (or just buy them already ground). Use them in place of xanthan gum in a 1:1 ratio and mix with 2 parts of hot water for 1 part flax seeds.
8. Egg Whites
Egg whites are a really nutritious substitute for xanthan gum and almost everyone has some eggs in the refrigerator!
Use 1 egg white to replace every tablespoon of xanthan gum.
Xanthan gum is a lab-created food additive that replaces gluten in baking and cooking. If you don’t have any on hand, you can try one of the suggestions above.
Xanthan gum is a thickening agent made from fermenting sugars with the Xanthomonas campestris bacteria. When added to liquids it binds together, acting as a binding agent in many recipes, even in small amounts.
Agar agar is a thickening agent made from red algae and behaves just like unflavored gelatin. It thickens dishes and holds things together.
Xanthan gum is a common ingredient in low carb and gluten-free recipes, because gluten-free flours do not have a binding agent that would give baked goods a fluffy texture. Use xanthan gum for best results when making things like gluten-free cake.
No, xanthan gum is not an animal product, making it a great option for vegan recipes.
Xanthan gum is becoming more popular, and can often be found in the grocery store baking section.
A great substitute for xanthan gum if you can find it is agar agar, which can be used as a 1:1 substitute. Another good substitute is egg whites, mostly because of their universal availability.
Editorial note: This post was originally published on September 4, 2020, and was updated on February 6, 2022.
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