Xanthan gum is a popular additive in the food industry that can be used to stabilize, bind, thicken and emulsify ingredients. Because it’s not a pantry staple, we’ve rounded up 10 xanthan gum substitutes to use in a pinch!
Whether you’re in need of a xanthan gum substitute for dietary reasons or simply because it’s not in your cupboards, we’re sure one of these alternatives can replace the versatile ingredient!
Xanthan gum is a polysaccharide derived from the fermentation of simple sugars. It’s a food additive widely used as a thickening agent and stabilizer. Homecooks will often come across the ingredient in gluten-free baking recipes.
Choosing a xanthan gum substitute
To choose a xanthan gum substitute, you first need to decide which characteristics you’re trying to replicate. Here are the most frequently sought-after properties of xanthan gum related to cooking and baking:
- Stabilizing: Because it mimics the elasticity of gluten, xanthan gum is often used as a stabilizer in gluten-free baking to improve overall texture and structure.
- Binding: Xanthan gum helps ingredients stick together, preventing the crumbling often associated with gluten-free recipes.
- Thickening: Much like cornstarch or flour, xanthan gum can be used as a thickener in soups, stews, sauces, relishes, gravies and smoothies.
- Emulsifying: Xanthan gum ensures that oil and water-based ingredients blend seamlessly, making it perfect for dressings, vinaigrettes, sauces and condiments.
Xanthan gum substitutes
1. Guar gum
Guar gum is typically less expensive than xanthan gum, making it a great budget friendly substitute. Guar gum works well as a xanthan gum substitute in gluten-free baking, sauces, stews, dressings and ice creams.
Substitution notes: Start with a small amount, as too much guar gum can result in a gummy texture in baked goods.
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum = 1/4 teaspoon guar gum.
2. Psyllium husk powder
Psyllium husk, also called Ispaghula or Isabgol, is the seed husk of the Plantago ovata plant. It’s coated in mucilage, which forms a gel-like substance when exposed to water. Fun fact? It’s a key component of Metamucil!
Psyllium husk powder has a higher viscosity than xanthan gum, meaning it is very effective at binding ingredients. This makes it a great xanthan gum substitute in gluten-free doughs and batters.
Substitution notes: Psyllium husk absorbs a significant amount of water, so you may need to increase the liquid content in your recipe. It also adds a slight whole wheat flavor, which works well in bread, but may not pair well with other baked goods.
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum = 1/2 teaspoon psyllium husk powder.
You’ll almost always find cornstarch among suggestions for a xanthan gum replacement, but you need to be careful here.
While cornstarch is commonly used in gluten-free baking, it serves a different purpose than xanthan gum. Xanthan gum provides elasticity and structure in gluten-free baking. Cornstarch, on the other hand, contributes to a tender texture and is primarily a thickening agent, but doesn’t have the same binding properties as xanthan gum.
The bottom line? Cornstarch isn’t a direct xanthan gum substitute in baking, but can be used in soups, stews, sauces and gravies.
Substitution notes: Mix the cornstarch with a small amount of cold liquid to form a slurry. Then, gradually stir it into hot liquid, simmering until the desired thickness is achieved.
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum = 1-2 teaspoons cornstarch (add more as needed).
4. Egg whites
Egg whites are known for their protein content, which contributes to structure and stability in baked goods. When whipped, egg whites create a foamy texture that can help provide lift and structure similar to xanthan gum.
Egg whites can contribute to a light and fluffy texture in baking, making them an excellent xanthan gum substitute for cakes, quick breads and muffins.
Substitution notes: Egg whites can introduce some additional moisture to your recipe, so you may need to adjust the overall liquid content accordingly.
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum = 2 tablespoons whipped egg whites.
5. Ground flaxseed (flaxseed meal)
A flax egg can be a suitable xanthan gum substitute in recipes where a binding agent and moisture are essential, such as in muffins, pancakes, or other baked goods where you would be okay with a slightly denser texture.
Substitution notes: Ground flaxseed needs to be mixed with water before adding to your recipe.
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum = 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed mixed with 2.5 tablespoons water.
6. Chia seeds
When soaked in water, chia seeds develop a gel-like texture, making them an excellent binder in recipes.
You can use ground or whole chia seeds, but keep in mind that using whole seeds will affect the texture of your recipe. As with flaxseed, chia seeds can be a good xanthan gum substitute when you need to add moisture or bind ingredients in a recipe, but you may get a denser texture.
Substitution notes: Combine 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of water and let the mixture sit for a few minutes until it forms a gel-like consistency.
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum = 1 tablespoon chia seeds mixed with 3 tablespoons water.
7. Arrowroot powder
Derived from the roots of several tropical plants, arrowroot powder (also called arrowroot flour) acts as a thickening agent in various dishes. While it won’t provide the same level of structure as xanthan gum, it’s suitable for soups, sauces and some desserts.
Substitution notes: When using arrowroot as a thickener, make a slurry. Mix the arrowroot powder with a small quantity of cold water and then incorporate it into your recipe.
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum = 1 teaspoon arrowroot powder.
Gelatin is a non-vegan xanthan gum substitute that can serve as a binding and thickening agent. It is commonly used in desserts, jellies and some baked goods.
Gelatin can be used to bind and thicken batters and doughs. It can make dough more pliable and easier to work with and shape.
Substitution notes: This xanthan gum substitute may require adjustments in quantities and methods, as gelatin sets when cooled, whereas xanthan gum remains stable across various temperatures. Also make sure you’re using unflavored gelatin!
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum = 1 teaspoon gelatin powder (more as necessary).
9. Agar agar
Derived from red algae (or seaweed), agar agar is a plant-based xanthan gum substitute that functions similar to gelatin.
Agar agar sets quickly and has strong binding properties, making it suitable for gelling and thickening in both sweet and savory dishes, such as jellies, puddings and pie fillings.
Substitution notes: Agar agar needs to be boiled to activate its gelling properties. It works well when a firmer texture is desired.
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum = 1/4 teaspoon agar agar powder (more as necessary).
10. Konjac powder
Konjac powder is quite strong, so start with less than you think you’ll need and add more as necessary to avoid an unpleasant texture.
Substitution notes: Use konjac powder in a 1:1 ratio to replace xanthan gum in recipes calling for thickening or gelling.
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum = 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon konjac powder.
In gluten-free baking, guar gum and psyllium husk powder typically provide the most similar result in terms of consistency and texture.
Yes, xanthan gum is typically derived from plant-based sugars, making it vegan-friendly.
Xanthan gum is incredibly strong and most recipes only require 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon — any more and you can end up with a gummy or slimy texture.
Leaving xanthan gum out of a recipe may result in a dry and crumbly final product. We recommend using one of the options listed above as a substitute.
All of the substitutes listed are vegan, except gelatin and egg whites.
If these xanthan gum substitute options were a great fit, here are a few more substitute posts for your cooking adventures:
- Achiote Paste Substitutes
- Hoisin Sauce Substitutes
- Sambal Oelek Substitutes
- Grains Of Paradise Substitutes
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