Never heard of Xanthan Gum? Do you bake or even cook? Trust me, I have been into baking and cooking for years now, but I didn't learn about it until I needed to make a gluten-free cake.
Maybe some of you have some ideas about what it really is because Xanthan Gum was once the “talk of the town” for the baking and cooking world. For those curious minds like me, let's clear up all of 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 the discovery of yeast. It is all-natural and can be compared to yeast and vinegar.
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 a food additive.
Is Xanthan Gum harmless and are there any substitutes for it? If so, where do you buy them? Read more to find out!
Xanthan Gum is a very popular and useful ingredient when you are into gluten-free baking. But are you still comfortable using it when there are some doubts circulating about it, as to whether it is safe or not? Let us dig deeper into those claims, otherwise baking won’t be the same!
Alright, based on certain research, here are the health effects of Xanthan Gum that have caused the fear and controversy over its use:
It is an effective laxative so it can increase the frequency of your stool output and water content if you take more than the advisable dosage. So it is recommended that people vulnerable to digestive problems avoid it.
Colitis in Infants: There was once an article stating that infants had died after developing NEC after drinking milk (that was used to thicken the feed) that used the Xanthan Gum based product. Therefore, it is important that babies under 12 months avoid thickening products.
There you go, the conclusion is that Xanthan Gum is safe to be used and harmless to adults. It is gut friendly and beneficial to the metabolism.
After finding out about its health effects, it is really up to you whether you decide to use it or not. We all have our own choices to make.
Where Can We Find Xanthan Gum?
As it is widely used, Xanthan Gum is available everywhere. Check out the market, groceries or even online. It is very easy to buy.
Groceries / Supermarkets: It is usually located in the condiments aisle. You may find it packed in sealed plastic/paper bags (500g the most) or in spice jars with shakers. If not, go the baking section, where you will probably find it in the “gluten-free” category.
Public Markets: Try the area in the market where all of the spices are being sold. You may find it there unpacked, but you can also let vendors stuff it for you, according to how much you need to buy.
Online Stores: The easiest way to find it is online. Let your fingers do the walking guys! It is where you will find a variety of Xanthan Gum to choose from, including different packing, brands and places where it was made. I recommend Amazon.com!
Health Food Stores: If they advertise gluten-free ingredients, ask for Xanthan Gum. The good thing is, they can recommend alternatives if they has run out of it.
Is There A Substitute For Xanthan Gum?
Have you run out of Xanthan Gum? When you desperately need to bake and there is no Xanthan Gum around, a baker will use their initiative to start looking for a substitute.
In the world of gluten-free baking, we have our ups and downs. It all depends on the choices that we make and how far we are willing to experiment. In facing the challenges that it brings, let us explore the possibilities of the 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.
Is commonly used as a dietary fiber supplement. It is good at reducing cholesterol and digestive disorders, and is a great binding ingredient that gives high-quality baking products.
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
These are commonly mixed with ingredients for cakes and pastries to increase the nutritional value, and are proven in baking. The seeds can absorb water well and are high in fiber, so they make baking products maintain their moist texture. They are also richer in omega-3 fatty acids than flax seed.
4. Ground Flax Seeds
Similar to chia seeds, they are common in sports and bodybuilding. The seeds are also a support protein needed by health conscious groups. They are a little bit bigger in size, compared to chia.
To be more effective in baking, you need to grind them first to get the binding finish that’s needed. Add the ground flax to boiling water to form the paste and then mix it with gluten-free flour to prepare it.
This has numerous uses in the culinary world, including in desserts and drinks. When it is mixed in dough, it helps to retain moisture and gives it an elastic quality.
It is available in a variety of colors or flavors but the most sought after in baking is the unflavored kind.
This comes from animals, so vegans should take note of that.
Are you a vegan? Agar-agar comes from seaweed or algae and is the best substitute for gelatin. They both function the same and can be bought anywhere in the form of powder, sheets or flakes.
7. Egg White
A must in the kitchen. It not only acts as a binder in baking, but is also good as a riser. It depends on what you are making though, sometimes it is not enough, so you will need to pair it with other substitutes, like chia seeds or psyllium.
If agar-agar is a vegan substitute for gelatin, pectin is too. It functions the same.
Like agar-agar, it also comes from algae or seaweed and functions as a binder during baking. However, this is not common in many stores, so it could be harder to find.
This is also used as a thickener and is one of the natural substitutes for Xanthan Gum. It comes from the konjac gluco-mannan root plant.
You can choose any suggested substitute from the list above, but when you are baking or cooking, it is usually a process of trial and error. Use your instinct along with your knowledge, experience and a lot of common sense to come up with the desired result.
Each substitute differs in the temperature, amount used and even the smell or aftertaste, compared to Xanthan Gum. All the same, they do have one thing in common, they work the same as Xanthan Gum. You just have to change a little bit or add a little twist to your usual methods. Choose the one that works best for you. Good luck!
How can we ensure that we are buying gluten-free ingredients? There are brands that state on the label they are “gluten-free”. Look for this label to be really safe.
Avoid gluten-free cross-contamination by being observant and vigilant. There is a high risk of this, especially in public market, where the ingredients are in the open. Choose a store that is clean and organized.
You may wonder if Xanthan Gum has other names. There may be shown on the labels as bacterial polysaccharide, corn sugar gum or Xanthomonas campestris.
Is Xanthan Gum Really Vegetarian?
What does vegetarian mean? A vegetarian does not eat meat, poultry and seafood. 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 the fermentation of non-animal products. However, manufacturers can use different substrates. It could be lactose (milk derived) based or a corn-sugar/corn-starch substrate.
If you want to be sure it is vegan, check the label when you are buying it. There should be information on the label saying that it is vegan. If you want to look further, you can do more research and find out what substrate was used during the manufacturing process.
You should choose the substrate that is based on corn-sugar /corn-starch. Other substrates use soy to feed the bacteria that is responsible for fermentation.
Before we wrap up this article, I would like to elaborate a little bit on Xanthan Gum's importance in cooking or baking. As was mentioned previously, it is a good thickening agent and is is gluten-free.
It gives frozen products a smoother and creamier taste.
It is gluten-free but can replicate the characteristics of gluten when baked.
It adds more structure, keeping your cakes, pastries and other baking products looking fresh and firm.
There you are, does this article clear everything up? Have we covered all of your questions? By now, you should know what Xanthan Gum is, where it comes from, how it is being used, where you can buy it and how it can save the day when you are baking, as it keeps your cookies from crumbling through your hands!
So start your gluten-free baking with a little difference. Share your adventures with us, as well as your expertise in using Xanthan Gum.
If you have any more questions or additional information, feel free to comment here.