Sauces, dough, and certain soups need to be thick. That's part of why we enjoy them and include them in our meals or recipes.
One of the most efficient ingredients we use for this purpose is xanthan gum. However, xanthan gum may also cause several side effects, especially with digestion.
So, what if you need a thickening agent and want to stick to a low-carb diet, but xanthan gum is just too harsh?
This is an excellent opportunity to switch to a xantham gum substitute. You don't know one? How about 11 alternatives?
Xanthan Gum Basics
To effectively replace xanthan gum in a recipe, we must understand how it works and its role in our dishes.
Ergo, here are the basic things you need to know about the ingredient.
What It Is and What It Isn't
Xanthan gum mainly comes from glucose derived from soy, dairy, wheat, or corn. But its most important ingredient is... (drum roll, please) bacteria?
Yes, you read that right. Xanthan gum contains Xanthomonas campestris bacteria. The main purpose of this is to ferment the glucose.
Fun Fact: A lot of people mistake xanthan gum for guar gum and use these interchangeably. They're very similar, but also very different.
Guar gum does not include bacterial fermentation. It comes from the guar plant's ground seeds, which are native to Asian countries.
Where Do We Use Xanthan Gum?
It may sound odd but believe it or not, fermenting sugars is a widely-known process in the food industry.
You might even be consuming food products that undergo this process without knowing it, especially if you regularly drink alcoholic beverages.
It's also a popular emulsifier for gluten-free baking, as it prevents raw ingredients from separating.
Because it's such an excellent thickener, emulsifier, and binder, we use xanthan gum for sauces, soups, gravies, stews, and baking recipes.
However, what if you discovered you have no xanthan gum left in your kitchen? Or what if you want to use a different thickening agent? Are there any options available?
Thankfully, several substitutes for xanthan gum are just as efficient.
10 Best Xanthan Gum Substitutes
Replacing xanthan gum in your recipe is relatively easy if you have any of the following substitutes.
1. Corn Starch
Corn starch is one of the most commonly used thickening agents in the kitchen. It's even more popular than xanthan gum.
It's a great substitute because you probably already have this on your shelves, and if you don't, it's widely accessible. Your local grocery store might have dozens of these in stock!
If you're trying to stick to a completely gluten-free diet, you will find countless brands offering gluten-free corn starch.
That's also why some gluten-free recipes replace wheat or all-purpose flour with corn starch. It's just as efficient as xanthan gum in emulsifying and thickening any type of food.
You can use this as a substitute in a 1:1 ratio.
Pro-Tip: Make corn starch sludge by adding a small amount of water to make your soups and sauces smoother.
Best for gravies, sauces, soups, stews, and certain confectioneries.
Try it on this Banana Pancakes recipe.
2. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds come from the plant Salvia hispanica. Its most popular use is for making chia pets. However, they also have undeniable practical applications in baking and cooking.
To use it as a xanthan gum substitute, you must make chia gel from the seeds. Simply grind the seeds and add two parts water for every one part seeds. (1 cup chia seeds = 2 cups water)
Let the ground seeds sit in water for about 15 minutes until they form a gel-like substance. If you use this substitute in cooking, you may skip grinding the seeds.
It is an excellent binding agent that prevents your ingredients from separating during cooking or baking. Ergo, you can also use this as an egg substitute.
One of the best benefits of using chia seeds is that they're rich in nutrients and fiber. However, they might add a mild nutty flavor to your final product.
You may use the chia gel as a substitute for xanthan gum in a 1:1 ratio.
Best for baked goods.
3. Ground Flax Seeds
Flax seeds are the most versatile plant-based ingredient. It's a common substitute for eggs in countless recipes.
Like chia seeds, ground flax seeds are superfoods packed with nutrients and vitamins.
You also need to use the same method to prepare them as a substitute for xanthan gum; grind (turns into flax meal), mix with water, and let it sit for several minutes.
This will provide you with something called a "flax egg." However, flax seeds have a stronger nutty flavor than chia seeds and will noticeably alter the flavor of your recipe.
You can use this as a xanthan gum substitute in a 1:1 ratio.
Best for baked goods, sauces, or stews.
Try it on this Easy Carrot Cake recipe.
4. Egg Whites
Here's a substitute we're sure you have at home: eggs, or more specifically, egg whites. Egg white is an excellent xanthan gum gluten-free substitute and is also perfect if you have soy allergies.
Moreover, egg whites are all-natural, so they're the best alternative for keto recipes if you're trying to limit your processed food intake.
You just need the egg white (the clear liquid surrounding the yolk). One egg white is equivalent to 1 tablespoon of xanthan gum.
Best for airy and light baked goods.
5. Psyllium Husk
Psyllium husk is often used for relieving symptoms of diarrhea and constipation. However, they also work well as a binding agent because they are a soluble fiber.
Psyllium husk comes from Plantago ovata seeds, making it an excellent choice if you're trying to stick to a vegan diet.
However, this xanthan gum vegan substitute has a mild earthy flavor and may cause similar side effects as the real thing.
Ergo, I encourage you to look for another substitute if you have a sensitive gut or are suffering from digestive issues.
Nonetheless, its texture makes it a good substitute for baked goods. Use two parts psyllium husk per one part xanthan gum.
Best for baked goods.
Try it on this Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting recipe.
6. Unflavored Gelatin
Flavorless gelatin also works well as a substitute for xanthan gum for one particular reason; it's already a gel-like substance.
Its ability to bind and thicken foods makes it a prime alternative regardless if you're baking or cooking.
Furthermore, gelatin is widely accessible, and you can definitely find one in your local grocery store. However, ensure you grab the unflavored variant to not affect the recipe's taste profile.
Additionally, gelatin comes from animal collagen. Ergo, while it is gluten-free, it's not a vegan alternative.
Since unflavored gelatin is less thicker than xanthan gum, you must use twice the amount your recipe calls for. That's two parts gelatin for every one part xanthan gum.
Best for sauces and baked goods.
7. Arrowroot Flour
If you're unfamiliar with arrowroot flour, it just means you're not yet invested in gluten-free baking and paleo diets.
Instead of wheat, arrowroot flour comes from the root of different tropical plants like the Maranta arundinacea and tapioca.
After grinding and processing the roots of these plants, we get a fine powder with a similar texture to cornstarch.
Having said that, arrowroot flour is also one of the most popular substitutes for cornstarch. The best part is that it doesn't have a strong flavor, so your recipe's flavor stays the same.
Best for soups and sauces as a thickener or for baked goods as an emulsifier.
Try it on this Banana Bundt Cake recipe.
8. Guar Gum
We often mistake xanthan gum for guar gum, so who's to say you can't use the latter as a substitute?
Guar gum comes from processed guar beans. This white powder looks just like xanthan gum and provides the same benefits but with fewer or no allergens.
However, unlike some options above, guar gum isn't readily available in anyone's kitchen.
You might have to run to the grocery store to get one, and even then, we're not sure every store has it.
Additionally, guar gum is less efficient than xanthan gum, so you'd have to use it in a 3:2 ratio (3 parts guar gum for every 2 parts of xanthan gum).
Best for anything where you'll need xanthan gum and salad dressings.
Have you ever eaten algae? Now that I've learned about agar-agar, I can't say I haven't with 100% certainty.
Agar-agar comes from red algae, and it's the number one substitute for gelatin in vegan recipes. So, who knows? If you have vegan friends, you might have consumed it in the past.
While it's an excellent substitute for xanthan gum and gelatin, it's not very efficient as an emulsifier and causes baked goods to be a little dense.
Another downside is that it's quite difficult to prepare. You must heat it in a pan while continuously stirring until the agar-agar dissolves.
Use it as a xanthan gum substitute in a 1:1 ratio.
Pro-Tip: Use a blender to soften the finished product if it gets too thick for your recipe.
Best for vegan desserts.
Try it on this Apple Walnut Pie recipe.
Xanthan Gum Replacement Tips
Xanthan gum is a versatile ingredient used in countless recipes, but when you have none, you must find a good replacement.
While any of the options above will do the job, you must consider how it'll affect your recipe. Ergo, here are some tips when finding a xanthan gum substitute.
Thickener, Binder, or Emulsifier?
We use xanthan gum for three particular reasons; it can thicken your mixture, bind ingredients, and emulsify the final product.
Consider the purpose of xanthan gum in your recipe and choose a substitute that works better in that specific field.
Remember: Some substitutes will work efficiently as thickeners but not as emulsifiers or binders.
I highly suggest you go for substitutes that do not add flavor to your dish. But if you're out of options, just pick one with a flavor that blends well with your recipe.
For instance, chia seeds and flax seeds have nutty flavors. They might be prime choices if you're baking nut-flavored cakes, but not so much for certain stews.
Consider the availability of the substitute as well. If they're harder to find than xanthan gum, you might be better off looking for the latter instead.
If you're in a pinch, choosing a substitute that's easily accessible or readily available would be great. It's best to stock up on more versatile substitutes so you can also use them in other recipes.
Xanthan Gum Substitute FAQs
Xanthan gum helps keep the moisture and structure of your baked goods. Ergo, if you don't use it, you'll end up with a dry and crumbly cupcake.
Yes, but moderately. Xanthan gum is significantly more efficient than corn starch as a thickening agent for sauces.
If you use it as a substitute for corn starch in a 1:1 ratio, you'll end up with an overly thick sauce that's difficult to mix.
No. While xanthan gum can function as an emulsifier, it works better as a thickener (it only aids in the emulsification process by preventing the particles from clumping).
It's best to still use baking soda or powder so your baked goods remain fluffy.
Using the Best Substitute for Xanthan Gum
When choosing a xanthan gum alternative, consider its purpose in your recipe and how it affects the final product.
Thankfully, we have several substitutes for different purposes. Feel free to try any of the options above, and let me know which one you think is best.
If you need more cooking tips, hacks, and alternatives, visit Also The Crumbs, Please. Let's keep your food deliciously healthy!
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Best Xanthan Gum Substitutes
Option 1 (Cornstarch)
- Use in a 1:1 ratio, according to the recipe. (1 tablespoon of xanthan gum = 1 tablespoon of cornstarch)
Option 2 (Flax/Chia Seeds)
- Use a blender to grind the seeds into powder.
- Mix the ground seeds with water in a 1:2 ratio. (1 tablespoon of ground seeds = 2 tablespoons of water)
- Let the ground seeds sit in the water for 15 minutes.
- Use the mixture as a substitute in a 1:1 ratio, according to the recipe. (1 tablespoon of xanthan gum = 1 tablespoon of ground seed mixture)
Option 3 (Egg White)
- Separate the egg white from the yolk and transfer it to a container.
- Use the egg white in a 1:1 ratio, according to the recipe. (1 tablespoon of xanthan gum = 1 egg white)
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