Home Nutrition 7 Alternatives to Xanthan Gum and Guar Gum

7 Alternatives to Xanthan Gum and Guar Gum

Written by Jenoye Campbell, LPN

Contrary to what its name suggests, xanthan gum (not xantham gum) is not actually a gum. It’s a powder!

This pretty commonly used thickening agent is a staple in the kitchen of many commercial producers and may even be found in some homes.

We bet that you have consumed or used xanthan gum in most of the gluten-free products you like or make.

That’s right!

Xanthan gum is useful and popular and found even in salad dressings. In fact, it is even used in industrial environments, such as to make wallpaper.

Recently, some reports have surfaced that xanthan gum can contribute to the development of certain respiratory conditions.

Since then, many have continued to use this additive because it does in fact have several health benefits and others have decided to look for xanthan gum substitutes, primarily for their gluten-free baking.

In this post, we will look at seven great products to replace xanthan gum, its history, how it is made, and so much more.

What is Xanthan Gum?

Xanthan gum is a commonly used food additive that comes in a powdered form.

It is a common ingredient in gluten-free foods, as it has been cleared by the FDA to be used as a consumable additive.

It is used to thicken and stabilize foods that would otherwise be thin and fall apart during or after the production process.

Xanthan Gum Substitutes: Here’s Everything You Need To Know

Xanthan Gum

For whatever reason, you may not have access to xanthan gum or may not want to use it, you will need to replace xanthan gum with another thickener.

Not to worry, there are numerous items you can use to substitute xanthan gum, some of which may already be in your cupboards.

Here are the seven that we recommend…

1) Psyllium Husk Powder

You can find psyllium husk in many health stores since it is a common staple for many health fanatics and bodybuilders; however, it is also used for baking purposes.

The husks of Plantago ovata seeds are used to make psyllium husk.

Experts have stated that psyllium husk acts in a similar manner to xanthan gum in the digestive system, and as such, it comes highly recommended as a way to replace xanthan gum.

It is also a soluble fiber, which your digestive tract can’t break down and therefore slows the absorption process in the gut.

How to substitute psyllium husk for xanthan gum

To use psyllium husk for xanthan gum in baking, use a 1:2 ratio. That is 1 part of xanthan gum with 2 parts of psyllium husk.

Benefits of psyllium husk

  • can be used as a dietary fiber supplement
  • may help to maintain digestive health
  • can aid with cholesterol reduction

2) Chia Seeds

We get chia seeds from the desert plant Salvia hispanica and they are small black or white seeds.

These plants fall in the mint family so you may get a bit of mint flavor when you crack open a few of these seeds with your teeth.

Chia seeds can be used in baked goods as another great alternative for xanthan gum. These are especially good if you are looking for a nutty flavor with a bit of texture.

If you prefer to omit the grainy texture, then try grinding your chia seeds as best as you can to make it quite fine.

It is important to note that the nutty taste will not greatly affect the taste of the recipe. They also make a great vegan alternative.

Chia seeds are great at absorbing excess moisture and when they are soaked, these seeds make a gel that is very similar to the consistency of that which xanthan gum would make.

Try not to use too much water for your gluten-free baked goods when you use chia seeds as this will certainly require a longer baking time.

How to substitute chia seeds for xanthan gum

To use chia seeds as a form of great binding agent, you need to use a 2:1 ratio. That means using 2 parts of water for 1 part of chia seeds.

To get it into a thick consistency, soak the chia seeds for a while (about fifteen minutes) before attempting to ground chia seeds.

You can also boil, cool, then grind the seeds.

Benefits of chia seeds

  • quite common and can be found in almost every grocery store
  • they are plant-based and are great for a vegan diet
  • chia seeds are full of nutrients
  • they are very high in soluble fiber which is why chia seeds form a gooey thickener

3) Egg Whites

Well, maybe you saw this one coming since egg whites are so versatile are can practically be used in almost all baking recipes, particularly, gluten-free bread recipes.

So, it is no surprise that egg whites would be an ideal xanthan gum substitute to help make your dishes rise and become firm.

Egg whites are ideal for their binding and leavening properties, making them a great substitute for xanthan gum in gluten-free breads and cakes.

Egg whites are quite light, and as such, in some cases, they may not be enough for thickening your dish during the baking process.

If this is the case, you can always use one of the other binding agents as well, like psyllium husk.

Additionally, it makes for a great low-carb alternative for most recipes and adds a pinch of protein.

Also, you must be mindful that the whites of eggs will make your products lighter and fluffier, so to avoid making them too light or fluffy, pay keen attention to the number of egg whites that you use to replace xanthan gum.

How to substitute egg whites for xanthan gum

Use one egg white to replace every tablespoon (4.5 grams) of xanthan gum and it is recommended that you whip and add the egg white at the end of the combination process.

Also, remember not to use too many whites if you don’t want an overly fluffy end product.

Benefits of egg whites

  • egg whites are quite nutritious
  • they give your homemade bread a light and fluffy texture
  • widely available at every local grocery store
  • they are low carb

4) Cornstarch

Cornstarch is one of the most common gluten-free kitchen ingredients, mainly because it can be used in a number of dishes.

You can use cornstarch to add body to (thicken) your sauces, gravy, frostings, soups, and more.

If you need to add a light coating to your fried foods, you can also dip them into a bit of cornstarch for a golden brown shine.

Although this popular kitchen staple has an almost endless list of potential uses.

Cornstarch is a by-product derived from corn grains and is used primarily for cooking but can also be used for industrial purposes, and simple scientific experiments.

This carbohydrate-high alternative is sometimes called cornflour and is a white powdery substance.

Also, cornstarch is regarded as a highly processed food item.

Cornstarch is used particularly in Asia and the US; however, it is incorporated into many cuisines across the world.

To make cornstarch, the bran, germ, and endosperm of corn kernels are all separated. Using a process known as wet milling, the starch is then taken from the endosperm of the corn kernels. It is then dried, packaged, and sold as cornstarch.

How to substitute cornstarch for xanthan gum

This one is actually the simplest to use, just use a 1:1 ratio, which means 1 part cornstarch for 1 part xanthan gum.

Beware, cornstarch is quite absorbent, therefore, if you use too much, then your recipe can become too dry for baked recipes or too thick for liquid recipes.

Benefits of cornstarch

  • cornstarch can be added directly to other dry ingredients and does not need to be combined with water prior to use
  • cornstarch has a 1:1 ratio

5) Guar Gum

Guar gum is made from guar bean and is also called guaran.

It also comes in a white powdered format similar to that of xanthan gum.

Guar gum is commonly used in processed foods as an additive because of its propensity to absorb water then tune into a gel that can thicken and bind products efficiently.

Guar gum is made of soluble fiber and contains a bit of protein. It is also low in calories, so it won’t contribute much to your daily caloric intake.

Therefore, it is one of the most preferred options to replace xanthan gum and complement gluten-free flour (gf flour).

In fact, one study published by the National Library of Medicine found that guar gum could have the highest lectin content compared to the other binding gums.

Unfortunately, guar gum does not do so well with acidic solutions and in heat.

Unlike xanthan gum, guar gum is not fermented and this is one of the primary differences between guar and xanthan gum.

As such, it is ideal to use guar gum in place of xanthan gum if you are baking for persons with allergies since guar gum does not need corn, soy, or wheat sugar-based substrates.

Many believe that this alternative is the most suitable xanthan gum substitute, especially in gluten-free baking recipes.

How to substitute guar gum for xanthan gum

As an alternative to xanthan gum, you can use a 3:1 ratio.

So, that means you need to substitute three tablespoons of guar gum for every one tablespoon of xanthan gum that the recipe calls for.

Benefits of guar gum

  • the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers guar gum to be generally safe for consumption
  • guar gum is low in calories
  • great for people with certain food allergies

6) Ground Flax Seeds (Flax Meal)

Flax seeds can also be used to create a thick paste similar to unflavored gelatin when it gets ground into a paste. It also comes with a nutty taste and a grainy quality.

Ground flaxseed is great for gluten-free baking as an alternative to xanthan gum.

Flax seeds are well received by vegans and vegetarians because of their natural form and versatility so they can be used in bread, cakes, cookies, and goes perfectly with gluten-free flour.

This makes flax seeds an ideal vegan alternative to gelatin.

Keto dieters love flaxseed as it is quite low in carbohydrates, each tablespoon of ground flaxseed contains only 0.1 net carbohydrates.

As a bonus, flaxseed comes with several health benefits, such as reducing the risk of inflammation and diabetes, enhancing blood clotting, controlling blood pressure, blood and lipid levels.

Flax seed’s ability to bind ingredients and add moisture to baked products is why it is an excellent replacement for xanthan gum in baked goods.

How to substitute ground flax seed for xanthan gum

If you intend on using ground flaxseed, a ratio of 1:1 is recommended.

So again, this means 1 part of flaxseed for every 1 part of xanthan gum that was supposed to be used. After that, a 2:1 ratio is necessary.

That means, if you are using one teaspoon of flaxseed, add two teaspoons of water.

Benefits of flax seeds

  • they are a rich source of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids
  • flaxseed is low-carb
  • they are a great vegetarian anti-inflammatory alternative
  • they are quite low in lectins

7) AGAR-AGAR

According to britannica.com, agar, also called agar-agar, is a gelatin-like product made primarily from the red algae Gelidium and Gracilaria (division Rhodophyta).

Agar-agar is a highly used product, especially in Japanese treats, as it provides the base for an infinite variety of highly colored, shiny, curiously flavored cubes, twists, and strips.

Agar-agar replaces gluten with its gummy texture.

As it comes from a plant, agar-agar is a great option for vegans looking to replace the stabilizing or thickening functionality of xanthan without using gelatin.

However, it is not very good for those who are on a keto diet since it is high-carb.

Additionally, agar-agar acts like unflavored gelatin.

How to substitute agar-agar for xanthan gum

For agar-agar you must dissolve it in room-temperature water then, you can use it in a ratio of 1:1 to replace xanthan gum.

To dissolve agar-agar, use four tablespoons of water for every one tablespoon of flakes or powder.

Then, place it over low heat for about five minutes until it is dissolved.

Benefits of agar-agar

  • it is vegan-friendly
  • agar-agar is great for getting moist cakes
  • pretty common and can be found in many health food stores and regular grocery stores.

How is Xanthan Gum made?

Xanthan gum is formulated from fermented sugar. This sugar must be specially fermented Xanthomonas campestris, which is a type of bacteria.

It is this gooey sugar that is mixed with alcohol and dried to create the powdered xanthan gum additive.

Xanthan gum is a soluble fiber made in a lab and remains a carb that the body cannot break down.

Therefore, xanthan gum will turn into a gel-like substance in your digestive system once it absorbs water.

The fermentation process for xanthan gum involves the use of the bacterium Xanthomonas campestris, which is a microorganism that can be found naturally on cabbages.

How to use Xanthan Gum

Each recipe that calls for xanthan gum will give specific directives on how to use it.

However, in its general use, you will add xanthan gum powder to any liquid, it becomes a thickened version of what it previously was.

But the solution remains in a stable condition.

The standard amount of xanthan gum each recipe usually calls for is about 1/8 teaspoon per cup of liquid.

You can use an immersion blender in order to avoid messy gum.

Ensure that you mix constantly to avoid the formation of clumps and lumps.

History of Xanthan Gum

Xanthan gum was discovered by scientists in 1963 but it wasn’t such a simple process. Let’s look at how his miracle powder came to be.

During the Great Depression, farmers in the US were desperate for a good market for their produce, as most of their farms were foreclosed on.

Consequently, to aid with utilization and providing a new market for the crops, the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938 started four research labs.

It was in one of these labs that xanthan gum was discovered by a chemist named Allene Rosalind Jeanes.

Since then, xanthan gum has been well researched and determined safe.

Final Thoughts

Xanthan gum is one of the best thickeners on the market, especially for those who want to go low carb.

But if you don’t have xanthan gum or can’t use it, you can find multiple alternatives in your local grocery store.

From psyllium husk powder for cornstarch, there is something for everyone.

If you are a vegan, you can try flaxseed or another plant-based substitute in order to avoid gelatin, which is made from pigskin.

These numerous substitutes can offer more than just binding and thickening benefits.

Each alternative holds a few health benefits like reducing blood sugar and is quite nutritious.

Ensure that you do your research to find out if each substitute can be used in the recipe you need to make.

For example, some are better for bread, while others may be better for cakes and other sweet treats.

We hope this article has helped you with your gluten-free cooking and baking.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can I Substitute Baking Powder for Xanthan Gum?

The simple answer is no. Do not try to use baking powder as a replacement for xanthan gum. Baking powder is quite acidic and therefore reacts in liquid. When baking powder begins to react with the liquid, carbon dioxide bubbles are produced.

When these bubbles are produced, whatever you are baking will rise while xanthan gum binds and thickens, it does not have leavening properties. Therefore, they both act in very different ways, and as such can complement but not replace each other.

Can I use Flour Instead of Xanthan Gum for Gluten-free Baking?

Flour can be used as a thickener in a roux, gravies, sauces, and more. Quite often though xanthan gum is used to replace flour to make recipes gluten-free. However, flour is not a good substitute for xanthan gum, particularly for sweet recipes as it will alter the taste and coloring.

Can I Omit Xanthan Gum from a Recipe?

The answer is yes, you can omit using xanthan gum in a recipe. However, you will need to substitute something for the xanthan gum.

It is an essential component in most gluten-free recipes to ensure there is no separation of the ingredients, so more than likely, the product you are preparing will need another form of thickener, especially for gluten-free baking.

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