Substitutes For Xanthan Gum: What Are They?
Xanthan gum is a natural polymer derived from starch. It’s used mainly in processed foods such as soups, sauces, dressings, breading meat products and many other food items. It provides texture and elasticity to baked goods, but it doesn’t provide much nutritional value. That’s why most people don’t use it in their everyday life. However, some people like using it in their baking because they believe that it helps them achieve a better taste.
There are several types of xanthan gum available today. There are two main kinds which are polyethylene glycol (PEG) and polyglycerol propionate (PGPR). PEG is preferred over PGPR due to its lower cost and its ability to withstand high temperatures.
The main difference between these two kinds of xanthan gum is the way they’re manufactured. PEG is made by fermenting starch with bacteria or yeast, while PGPR is produced through a chemical reaction. Both types have similar properties when it comes to binding the ingredients into dough, however, there are certain factors which make one type superior to another.
For example, PEG is more readily available and less costly than PGPR. There have been some reports of allergic reactions with the use of PGPR, but it’s not very common.
Still, it’s a good practice to be conscious of these types of things so you can make the most informed choice for your family. There are several other types of xanthan gum that are available on the market. Let’s take a look at some of them.
Gum is an effective substitute for xanthan gum in most dishes. It can be used for thickening soups and stews as well as for adding structure to sauces and salad dressings. When choosing a gum, opt for the Arabic or “gum acacia”.
It’s the purest form of gum and most effective for cooking.
2. Guar Gum
Guar is similar to xanthan in that it’s a kind of thickener and stabilizer. It’s made from the guar bean, hence the name. It has very similar properties to xanthan, but it’s not quite as strong.
3. Carob Bean Gum
Carob bean is another alternative that you can try. It’s not as strong as the previous two gums, but it does help with adding a bit of elasticity to your dishes. Carob bean doesn’t have much of a taste, which makes it preferable over other gums for some people.
There are other alternatives that you can try if you’d like, but these three are definitely the most common and readily available.
If you’re looking for something that will help with the consistency of your dishes but doesn’t really do much in terms of thickening, then arrowroot powder is an option you can try. It’s a starch that comes from a plant similar to corn. It’s particularly good at thickening liquids without making them grainy or clumpy.
You can easily find this at most any grocery store or health food store.
Tapioca is another starch that works in a similar manner to arrowroot. It’s made from the root of the cassava plant and it’s especially good at thickening puddings, pie fillings and other desserts. It works well in stews and soups too.
It gives a very creamy texture to your dishes. You can find tapioca at most grocery or health food stores as well.
Gelatin is a very interesting and helpful ingredient to have in your pantry. It’s made from the hooves, skin, bones and other parts of animals, including cows, hogs and fish. It’s flavorless and odorless, so it won’t impact the taste of your dishes at all.
It does wonders for keeping dishes like cheese spreads, dips and jams smooth and creamy. You can easily find it at most grocery or health food stores.
Pectin is a natural substance that’s commonly found in fruits. It’s what makes jams and jellies thick and jelly-like. You can find pectin at most grocery or health food stores.
It comes in the form of powder or little strips that you can add to your dishes for thickness.
8. Corn Starch
Corn starch is probably one of the more common thickeners out there. It’s made from…you guessed it, corn.
You can find corn starch at most grocery or health food stores. It’s not quite as strong as the other thickeners I’ve mentioned, but it does a good job of thickening gravies and sauces without imparting a strong corn taste.
You can also use it as a binder to hold your dishes together. For example, if you need to bulk up a meatloaf with something other than bread crumbs, you can use corn starch instead. Just add a bit of water and you’ll have yourself a nice “dough” that you can work into your meat.
Then, just shape it into a loaf and bake it off.
9. Using Flour
Finally, if you just need something to thicken a liquid without imparting any flavor at all, then plain old all-purpose flour is an option for you. When adding flour to your dishes, always make sure to add a bit of acid, like lemon juice, vinegar or wine. This will prevent the flour from ruining the texture of your dish and making it taste terrible.
Using a Roux
If you’re looking to thicken something like a soup or stew, then a roux is the way to go. A roux is made by mixing flour with melted butter (or another type of cooking fat) and cooking it until it’s golden brown. The longer you cook it, the darker the color and the richer the flavor.
Now, this might not seem that important, but it is.
The type of fat that you use to make the roux will completely change the flavor of your dishes. So, for example, if you’re making a shrimp dish and you want to thicken it with a roux, you’ll get a completely different result if you use butter than if you use lard. Lard will give your dish a richer, more “comfort food” kind of taste.
Butter will give your dish a lighter flavor.
Thickeners in Action
Now that you know everything there is to know about the various types of thickeners out there, it’s time to put them into practice. Here are a few dishes that you can make to help you get a feel for using thickeners in your cooking.
Did you know that most creamy sauces, like alfredo and mornay, are just thin variations of béchamel sauce?
Making a béchamel is easy. Just take one tablespoon of butter and melt it in a sauce pan over medium heat. Then, add your choice of aromatics, like onion, carrot or garlic, and cook until they’re soft.
After that, whisk in four tablespoons of flour to create a roux. Cook and whisk the mixture until it’s golden brown. This will give the dish a darker flavor.
Finally, slowly whisk in your milk until it’s all incorporated. Then, season with salt, black pepper and whatever other herbs you want to add. Continue to cook the sauce until it’s thick and creamy.
Cream of Anything Soup
This is probably one the easiest dishes in the world to make.
Sources & references used in this article:
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