Xanthan gum is a thickening substance derived from fermented sugar which is dried and crushed into a fine powder, making it one of the most effective thickeners around. You may not find xanthan powder very easily, hence in this article we will discuss about the other substitutes you can use instead of xanthan gum.
In this article:
What is Xanthan Gum?
Xanthan gum is a popular food additive that is added to foods as a thickener or stabilizer. It is created when sugar is fermented by a type of bacteria called Xanthomonas campestris. When sugar is fermented in this bacterium, it creates a broth or goo-like substance, which is made of solid by adding an alcohol; it is then dried and turned into a powder. Xanthan gum powder is added to liquids to disperse and create a viscous and stable solution. This is a great thickening, suspending and stabilizing agent used in many products, as well as cooking.
Xanthan gum is a soluble fiber, which your body cannot breakdown.
Since your body doesn’t digest xanthan gum, it does not provide any calories or nutrients.
Where is Xanthan Gum found?
Xanthan gum is commonly found in food, personal care products, industrial products, etc.
|Food||Personal care products||Industrial products|
|Salad dressings||Toothpaste||Fungicides, Herbicides, and Insecticides|
|Bakery products||Creams||Tile, grout, oven and toilet bowl cleaners|
|Ice-creams||Shampoo||Fluids used in oil drilling|
|Soups||Adhesives like wallpaper glue|
|Sauces and Gravies|
Health Benefits of Xanthan Gum
Though not many, there surely are some health benefits of xanthan gum, and they are as follows:
- Lowers cholesterol
- Lowers blood sugar
- Aids in weight loss
- Has cancer-fighting properties
- Improves digestion
Health Risks of Xanthan Gum
Xanthan gum does improve digestion, but if consumed more than needed, it may cause digestive issues. One study on animals has revealed that large doses of xanthan can increase the frequency of stools and also cause soft stools. And in humans, when 15 grams of xanthan gum is consumed in a day then they will have the following effects:
- Increased frequency of bowel movements
- Increased stool output
- Softer stools
- Increased gas
- Altered gut bacteria
11 Must Know Substitutes of Xanthan Gum
Sometimes you might not find xanthan gum powder when you need it, but do not worry, because there are many other ingredients you can use to thicken your gravy instantly. Here are 11 substitutes of xanthan gum:
One of the well-known cooking and baking thicken is flour. You can use flour instead of xanthan gum, in gravies, sauces, stews and apple pie. Using all-purpose flour is considered best since it contains more starch compared to other thickeners. Add flour to liquids to create a paste before whisking the mixture into a simmering sauce. Avoid adding flour directly to a hot liquid as it will cause the granules to clump rather than form a paste consistency.
For the people looking for pure starch, cornstarch is the best choice. It is a gluten free thickener which breaks down after cooking and stirring for a while. Cornstarch has a starchy flavor and translucent shimmer appearance. You can add cornstarch in puddings, sauces, gravies, and is most commonly used in Chinese dishes. Do not add it directly to hot liquids, since it will cause clumping. Also do not freeze the recipe which consist of cornstarch, since it will cause the recipe to thin out once thawed.
Tapioca starch comes in small granules or powder which helps to thicken recipes quickly. It is also gluten free like cornstarch and has a glossy appearance. Tapioca starch is most popularly used in fruit pies. Unlike cornstarch, you can freeze and thaw recipes with tapioca, but avoid using it in recipes that require a lot of boiling and stirring like pan sauces and custards. Add 3-6 tablespoons of tapioca for every 6 cups of juicy fruit when making pies. For recipes with little juice, use 1 ½ teaspoons for every cup of fruit.
Note: Many tapioca starches are made with GMOs, so make sure to look for a non-GMO version.
Potato starch helps to quickly thicken recipes, and is mostly used in European recipes. This is a gluten free and kosher starch which is the most popular choice for recipes that require thickening during Passover, as other options are not permitted. Potato starch has no pronounced flavor. You can use potato starch in soup, gravy recipes and fruit pies. Adding it to liquids that require boiling will lose its thickening ability; therefore use it in recipes which do not require boiling.
Note: similar to tapioca starch, many potato starches are made with GMOs, so be sure to look for a non-GMO version.
Read More:Why Potato for Babies?
Arrowroot starch comes from a plant grown in west India. This is an easily digestible, gluten free, neutral flavored ingredient which adds a shiny gloss to recipes. When mixing, whisk equal parts of arrowroot starch and cold water; this will create slurry, and then whisk the mixture into hot liquid for roughly 30 seconds. It reaches to maximum thickening at a lower temperature compared to other recipe thickeners. You can use it in fruit pie fillings, puddings, dessert sauces, vegetable sauces, stir-fry sauces and more. Avoid it in gravy and other dairy-based sauces, as it may create a slimy texture.
This strong thickener is made by grinding the seeds from guar beans, which are mostly grown in India. It is much stronger than other thickeners like arrowroot and cornstarch and should be used in small amounts. One cup of liquid only needs ¼ to ½ teaspoon of guar gum in order to achieve the required consistency. Use this gluten free thickener in dressings and ice cream. Be careful while you use it, adding it in large amounts can over thicken your recipe and waste your entire process.
Read More:11 Benefits of Ketchup for Your Kids
Gelatin is a protein derived typically from animals, nevertheless, vegetarian and kosher options are also available. About 1 ½ teaspoons per 16 ounces of liquid for a solid consistency or 32 ounces of liquid for a semi-solid consistency can be used. Gelatin is popularly used in making jelly, but its uses extent to many. You can also add it in pies, cheesecakes, custards and other desserts. Some fresh fruits like pineapple, mango, kiwi, mango and papaya, can break down gelatin due to their enzymes, so make sure to cook them before adding to the gelatin custard. An interesting fact is that airtight sealed gelatin which is stored in a cool, dry place has no expiration date.
Psyllium husk is a great option if you are looking to thicken a recipe as well as add more fiber to your diet. This is a plant-based fiber source which comes with many additional benefits like being low calorie, low carb, gluten-free and suitable for vegans. One half teaspoon of psyllium husk per serving is more than enough to thicken your smoothies, sauces, soups, stews, dressing or any drink. Add it to any of your favorite recipe which you think needs added fiber.
Popular among vegans and gluten free bakers, coconut flour is low on carbs and fat, it is packed with protein and fiber. This flour has a subtle cake-like flavor, and is recommended for people who are looking for a low carb thickener. You can use coconut flour as a baking flour or thickener in bars, cookies, pies, cakes, cupcakes, puddings, smoothies, soups and stews. It gives a texture similar to that of biscuit batter.
Also known as vegetarian gelatin agar is a fantastic recipe thickener. It comes in bars, flakes and powders and is suitable for vegans. Sushi fans know this as an ingredient in seaweed salads. This is tasteless and thickens five times stronger than gelatin. Only a little amount is required when cooking and baking with it. Unlike gelatin, agar stays solid at room temperature after gelling, and it won’t melt when exposed to heat. Agar can be used in dessert recipes, sauces, custards and puddings. Avoid using it in recipes that feature vinegar or foods high in oxalic acid, including chocolate, rhubarb and spinach.
Also known as garbanzo bean flour, chickpea flour is made by drying chickpeas and grinding them until they reach a flour consistency. This is also a gluten free ingredient which can also be used by vegans. This is mostly used in Indian dishes, and can be used to replace wheat flour one-to-one. It adds a subtle buttery flavor to recipes. You can use chickpea flour in pancakes, omelets, sauces, soups and stews.
Apart from these you can also use chia seeds, flax seeds, kudzu kuzu root starch, konjac glucomannan, almond flour, rice flour, etc in your dishes to thicken them. But understand the consistency and add only the required amount to your recipe. Also every substitute may not be suitable for all the recipes, so check with the recipe list on which ingredients will work best. You can thicken your recipe by simmering it a bit longer at low flame. You can also add pureed vegetables, to thicken soups and gravies. Sour cream and curd will also make great substitutes to gravy dishes.