Gluten-Free Baking: What Is There To Know About Xanthan Gum?

Gluten-Free Baking: What Is There To Know About Xanthan Gum?

Never heard of it? Do you bake? Or even cook? Trust me, I have been into baking and cooking for years now but not until I need to make a gluten-free cake did I have learned about it.

Maybe some of you have some ideas on what it really is because it was once a “talk of the town” for the baking and cooking world. For those curious minds out there like me, let us clear out all the “why’s” and “what’s” and boost our knowledge power!

Xanthan Gum is one of the most useful breakthroughs in terms of food science after discovering yeast. All natural, Xanthan Gum can be compared to yeast and vinegar.

What is Xanthan Gum?

Being fermented from a type of bacteria called Xanthomonas campestris, it was named from the bacteria itself. Used worldwide, Xanthan Gum is very popular and beneficial as food additive.

Is Xanthan Gum harmless? What is the substitute? And where to buy them? Read more to know!

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What Is The Controversy Behind Xanthan Gum?

Xanthan Gum is very popular and useful ingredient when you are into Gluten-Free Baking. Yet, used to it as it is, are you still comfortable using it when there have been doubts circulating behind if it is safe or not to take? Let us dig deeper on those claims, otherwise baking won’t be the same!

What Is The Controversy Behind Xanthan Gum? Is it healthy?

Image Credit to King Arthur Flour

Alright, based on certain research, here are health effects of Xanthan Gum that caused the fear and controversy of its use:

  • It is an effective laxative so it can increase frequency of stool output and water content if taken too much of the advisable dosage. So people who are vulnerable in terms of digestive problems are recommended to avoid intake.
  • Colitis in Infants: There was once an article stating the death of infants who have developed NEC after drinking milk (used to thicken the feed) that have used Xanthan Gum based product. Therefore, it was implemented that it is important to babies under 12 months old must avoid thickening products.

There you go, the conclusion is Xanthan Gum is safe to be used and is harmless to adults. It is even more, gut friendly and is beneficial in metabolism.

After knowing about its health effects, it is really up to you if you opt to use it or not. We have our own choices.

Where Can We Find Xanthan Gum?

Being widely used, Xanthan Gum is available everywhere. Check the market, groceries or even online. It is totally easy for you to buy it.

Where to buy Xanthan Gum?

Image Credit to Mad Art Lab

Here is a quick guide where to find it:

  • Groceries / Supermarkets:
    This is usually located in the condiments aisle. You may find it as packed in sealed plastic/paper bags (500 g the most) or in spice jars with shakers. If not, go the baking section, there you will find it probably in the “gluten-free” category.
  • Public Markets:
    Most familiar sight would be the area in the market where all the spices are being sold. You may find it there unpacked, but you can let vendors stuff it for you according to how much you need to buy.
  • Online Stores:
    The easiest way to find it is through online. Let the fingers do the walking guys! It is where you will find a variety of Xanthan Gum to choose from, different packing, brands and where it was made. I recommend Amazon.com!
  • Health Food Stores:
    They advertise gluten-free ingredients, ask for Xanthan Gum. Good thing is, if they ran out of it, they can recommend alternatives.

Is There A Substitute For Xanthan Gum?

Have you run out of Xanthan Gum? When you desperately need to bake and unfortunately there is no Xanthan Gum around, it is a bakers’ initiative to start looking for substitute.

Xanthan gum substitute

In the world of gluten-free baking, we have ups and downs. It all depend on the choices we make and how far we are willing to experiment. In facing the challenges that it brings, let us explore the possibilities of alternatives.

Recommended Xanthan Gum substitutes:

1. Guar Gum

It comes from a seed of a legume plant called Guar mostly found in India. It is a gluten-free ingredient and functions the same as Xanthan Gum.

Xanthan Gum Substitute - Guar Gum

Image Credit to Daily Forage

2. Psyllium Fiber

Is commonly used as a dietary fiber supplement. It is good in reducing cholesterol and digestive dis-orders. It is a great binding ingredient giving high-quality baking products.

Xanthan Gum Substitute - Psyllium Fiber

Gluten-free submarine sandwich bread (Left made with Psyllium husk powder & Right made with Xanthan gum) - Image credit to Gluten-Free Baking & More

3. Chia Seeds

Is proven in baking. It is commonly mixed to ingredients for cakes and pastries to increase nutritional value. It can absorb water well and high in fiber so it would make baking products maintain its moist texture. It is rich in omega-3 fatty acids more than the flax seed.

Xanthan Gum Substitute - Chia Seeds

4. Ground Flax Seeds

Similar to chia seeds this is common in sports and bodybuilding provided that it also support protein needs to health conscious group. It is a little bit bigger in size compared to chia.

Xanthan Gum Substitute - Ground Flax Seeds

To be more effective in baking, you need to grind it first to be able to get the needed binding finish. Add the ground flax to boiling water to form paste then mix it with gluten-free flour to prepare it.

5. Gelatin

Has numerous use in the world of culinary. You will not miss it when it comes to desserts and drinks. When mixed in doughs, it would help retain moisture and give it the elastic quality.

Xanthan Gum Substitute - Gelatin

It is available in a variety of colors or flavors but the most sought for in baking needs is the unflavored.

This comes from animals so vegans should take note of that.

6. Agar-Agar

Are you a vegan person? Agar-agar comes from seaweeds or algae and is the best substitute of gelatin. They function the same and can be bought anywhere in the form of powder, sheets or flakes.

Xanthan Gum Substitute - Agar-Agar

7. Egg Whites

A must in the kitchen, it does not only act as a binder in baking but it is also good as a riser. It depends on what you are making though, sometimes it is not enough so you need to pair it with other substitutes like the chia seeds or psyllium.

Xanthan Gum Substitute - Egg Whites

8. Pectin

If agar-agar is a vegan substitute for gelatin, Pectin is, too. It functions the same.

Xanthan Gum Substitute - Pectin

9. Carrageenan

Like agar-agar it also comes from algae or seaweeds and functions as binder during baking. However, this is not common to many stores so it could be harder to find.

Xanthan Gum Substitute - Carrageenan

Image Credit to MacForms

Just a little note, it has an unpleasant smell that seems to be stubborn it would really stay but it does not affect the taste.

10. Gum Arabic

Also known as acacia gum, this is made out of toughened sap. This is popular in making candies and chocolates. Could also be an alternative for nougat.

Xanthan Gum Substitute - Gum Arabic

11. Cornstarch

A common item in the kitchen, this is best use for cooking/baking and functions as thickening. Gluten-free and does not give smell or aftertaste to the food.

Xanthan Gum Substitute - Cornstarch

12. Arrowroot

Very much the same as cornstarch and functions the same. You need to be watchful in the process since this tends to thicken in lower temperature compared to cornstarch.

Xanthan Gum Substitute - Arrowroot

13. Locust Bean Gum

A vegan gum it comes from the seeds of Carob Tree. It is also used as a thickening agent. It is far more cheap then Xanthan Gum.

Xanthan Gum Substitute - Locust Bean Gum

Image Credit to Yamei Aspartame

14. Konjac Root Powder

Also used as a thickener and one of the natural options in substituting Xanthan Gum. It comes from konjac gluco-mannan root plant.

Xanthan Gum Substitute - Konjac Root Powder

You can choose any suggested substitute from the above list but when baking or cooking, it usually is a process of trial and error. One should use its instinct along with the knowledge of experience and a lot of common sense to be able to come up with the desired result.

Each substitute when used differ in temperature, amount and even in smell or aftertaste compared to Xanthan Gum. All the same, they have one thing in common, they work the same as Xanthan Gum but you just have to change a little bit or add a little twist in your usual methods. Choose the one that best works for you. Good luck!

Tips:

  • How to ensure that we are buying the gluten-free ingredient? There are brands that specifically state in the label “gluten-free”. Look for it to be really safe.
  • Avoid gluten-free cross-contamination: Be observant and vigilant. There is high risk especially in public market where ingredients are in the open. Choose a store that is clean and organized.
  • You may wonder if Xanthan Gum have other names? It may show in labels as bacterial polysaccharide, corn sugar gum Xanthomonas campestris.

Is Xanthan Gum Really Vegetarian?

  • What does vegetarian mean? A vegetarian does not include meat, poultry and seafood in the food choices that they take. So considering that we use Xanthan Gum in our food, is it really vegetarian?
  • The answer is, YES and NO.

Xanthan gum is made from fermentation of non-animal products. However, manufacturers use may use different substrates. It could be lactose (milk derived) base or corn-sugar/corn-starch substrate.

  • If you want to be sure it is vegan, check the labels when buying. There should be information saying that it is vegan. If you want to go further, you can research more and find out what substrate was used during manufacturing.
  • You should choose the substrate based on corn-sugar /corn-starch. Others use soy to feed the bacteria who is responsible in fermentation.

Before we wrap up, I would like to emphasize and elaborate a little bit on the importance of Xanthan in cooking or baking. We have mentioned a lot earlier that it is a good ingredient for thickening add is gluten-free.

What Magic Does It Do?

What Magic Does Xanthan Gum Do?
  • It thickens sauces and other dressings that you want to make.
  • It gives frozen products more smooth and creamier to taste.
  • It is gluten-free but it can replicate the characteristics what gluten does when baking.
  • It adds more structure and keeps your cakes, pastries and other baking products looking fresh and firm.

There you are, does it clear all things up? Have we covered all your questions? By now, you should know what Xanthan Gum is, where it comes from, how it is being used, where you can buy them and how it can save your day when baking. It keeps your cookies from crumbling right through your hands!

Start your gluten-free baking now and make a little difference. Share your adventures with us and your expertise in using Xanthan Gum. If you have more questions or additional info, feel free to comment in here.

Gluten-Free Baking: What Is There To Know About Xanthan Gum?
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About the Author Rose

There’s nothing in this world that excites me more other than cooking. From appetizers to desserts, since then, I’ve always been passionate on making foods.

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