Xanthan gum and gelatin are found in everything from ice cream to cosmetics and pharmaceutical drugs. They’re also popular in baking — especially gluten-free goods, which lack gluten’s thickening and binding capacities.
But is there any difference between xanthan gum and gelatin? And is xanthan gum a good substitute for gelatin? Let’s find out together.
What is Gelatin?
Gelatin is one of the most versatile compounds. It’s a pure protein derived from collagen present in hides, tendons, and bones of animals. By utilizing these nutrient-rich raw materials from meat or fish by-products, gelatin helps reduce waste in the food supply chain.
Gelatin has many culinary uses because it’s a jelly-like protein that helps firm up dishes.
What is Xanthan Gum?
Xanthan gum is a popular additive commonly added to foods as a thickener or stabilizer. It’s created when corn sugar is fermented by a type of bacteria called Xanthomonas campestris. When sugar is fermented, it creates a broth thats made into a solid xanthan gum powder by adding alcohol.
When xanthan gum powder is added to any liquid, it quickly creates a viscous and stable solution. This makes it a great thickening and stabilizing agent for many products.
Xanthan gum was first discovered by scientists in 1963. Since then, scientists have determined xanthan gum safe, and FDA has approved it as a food additive.
All About Xanthan Gum
Gelatin Powder vs. Xanthan Gum
Because gelatin isn’t vegan or vegetarian, many people look for gelatin substitutes such as xanthan gum for recipes.
This translucent, colorless, and flavorless food additive is commonly used as a gelling agent in food, vitamin capsules, pharmaceutical drugs, photography, and cosmetic manufacturing.
It is a water-soluble glutinous protein that acts as a sticky adhesive.
Compared to gelatin, xanthan gum is a natural by-product of the fermentation of corn sugar.
After purifying and drying, xanthan gum powder is formed. It is used as a thickener for fruit gelatins and puddings. You can also find xanthan gum in salad dressings, ice-creams, etc.
Unlike gelatin, xanthan gum has a gel-like consistency and is much weaker in its structure. It acts as a thickening and emulsifying agent.
Can you use xanthan gum instead of gelatin?
While gelatin and xanthan gum are similar, they’re not good one-for-one substitutes. You can’t use xanthan gum instead of gelatin instead for all purposes. Gelatin is a gelling agent, whereas xanthan is a thickening agent.
In specific use cases, you might be able to use xanthan gum and gelatin interchangeably, but it depends on how the recipe uses the ingredient. For example, Xanthan gum is commonly used in gluten-free baking. You can make a vegan cheesecake without gelatin. To achieve this, you can use xanthan gum instead of gelatin.
In another case, you can’t use xanthan gum instead of gelatin to make jello.
Gelatin doesn’t work the same way that xanthan gum works. Once the gelatin has set, it won’t have the ‘pouring quality’ that xanthan gum has. The solidified glutinous proteins that hold it together will break into chunkier pieces, so you won’t be able to pour it like xanthan gum. Gelatin can only help you create something like a marshmallow, but not marshmallow fluff.
To create marshmallow fluff, use a thickener like a xanthan gum.
How to Substitute Xanthan Gum for Gelatin
You’ll need two parts of gelatin for every part of xanthan gum. It’s a great choice for baked goods like bread and muffins.
Other Substitutes for Xanthan Gum
Chia Seeds and Water
Soaked chia seeds form a gel much like xanthan gum. These seeds can help thicken and bind baked goods. Plus, chia seeds pack lots of fiber and important nutrients.
While you can use chia seeds whole for added crunch and nutty flavor, you should grind them if you want a smoother texture.
You can replace xanthan gum with chia seeds in a 1:1 ratio.
Add 2 parts of water for every cup of chia seeds, and then stir until the mixture is viscous.
Ground Flax Seeds and Water
Flax seeds help create a thick paste when combined with water. Also, you can easily find flax seeds at supermarkets, and they’re fairly cheap.
But, whole seeds aren’t good at binding, so you should buy ground flax seeds or grind them. Mixing flax seeds with water activates its binding capacity.
Keep in mind that ground flax seeds may make the recipe slightly nuttier.
Use ground flax seeds instead of xanthan gum in a 1:1 ratio, mixed with two parts of hot water for every part of flax.
Is xanthan gum the same as gelatin?
No. gelatin and xanthan gum are similar but do not have different uses.
Are agar agar and xanthan gum the same?
Agar agar comes from red algae and acts like unflavored gelatin, thickening the dish and forming a jelly-like texture. It is plant-based and a great vegan substitute for gelatin.
It’s typically sold as sheets, flakes, or powder.
You can substitute xanthan gum with agar agar in a 1:1 ratio. But first, you’ll need to dissolve agar agar in room-temperature water. Use 4 tablespoons of water for every tablespoon of flakes or a teaspoonsof powder.
Next, heat agar agar over low heat for minutes or until dissolved. Bear in mind that agar agar may produce a slightly stiffer or denser texture than xanthan gum.