Xanthan gum is a common ingredient in gluten-free baking and sauce recipes. It works as a binder and a thickening agent, and can be used to transform family recipe favorites into gluten-free versions that closely resemble the original.
What Is Xanthan Gum?
Xanthan gum is considered a natural product. It is derived from bacteria creates a polysaccharide (xanthan) during the fermentation of sugars. The xanthan is then produced, dried and ground into a powder, which can easily be added to your recipes as a substitute for the gluten found in traditional flour.
Using Xanthan Gum
In general, when xanthan gum is used to replace gluten in gluten-free recipes, the rule of thumb is one teaspoon added to each cup of gluten-free flour. This should provide the viscosity you're looking for in your baked goods.
However, when you're learning to substitute xanthan gum for gluten, it isn't quite so cut and dry. When trying different flours or flour blends, the ratio of the other ingredients may also have to be adjusted. For example, some flours may require extra oil or other liquid. For this reason, it's a good idea to try recipes created to use xanthan gum first, as to see how it works before you try to convert your own recipe.
If you plan to convert a favorite family recipe to a gluten-free version, it is best to make the dish a few times to perfect the recipe before you plan to serve it for a special occasion. Gluten-free baking is often a process of trial and error, with minor adjustments necessary to get the final product to turn out well.
Where to Buy
While the use of xanthan gum has grown in popularity, it is not easy to find in local grocery stores. Most health food stores carry it because it is a "natural" binding agent, or it can be purchased online from sources like Bob's Red Mill, Nuts.com and Amazon.
One drawback to buying xanthan gum is that it is most often sold in large quantities and can be quite costly as an up-front expense. However, due to increased use, you can find it sold in quantities as small as three ounces. Even if you have to purchase it in larger quantities, as long as it agrees with you, xanthan gum is a worthwhile investment for your culinary efforts because it lasts for years.