Xanthan gum is an ingredient used in many gluten-free recipes that works in the place of gluten protein in breads, cakes, and cookies. However, this ingredient can be very expensive, and baked goods made with it can have a gummy texture and slight aftertaste that may not appeal to some people. Others may have a sensitivity or allergy to the product that can leave them feeling ill. There are substitutes you can use in place of this ingredient that work just as well.
Finding the Right Substitute
To replace xanthan gum in recipes, first you have to understand its purpose. This powder is a natural, gluten-free compound that adds viscosity to recipes that eliminate gluten. When mixed with water, it forms a gel that binds ingredients together and provides a decent elastic texture for breads and cakes. It also forms air pockets that give bread and cakes their characteristic crumb texture.
When used in liquid recipes, such as salad dressings, it helps keep the mixture blended and emulsified. While you can find a number of good substitutes, it will take practice to determine the right proportions so that your baked goods turn out the way you want them.
Agar agar is derived from algae or seaweed found in South East Asia. This vegetarian gelatin can be purchased at your local health food store and online as a powder, flakes or in sheets. In gluten-free recipes it works as a binder and thickener for batter and dough. Use twice the amount of agar agar as xanthan gum in your recipes.
Guar gum is another natural gluten-free alternative to xanthan gum. It is a white powdery substance similar in consistency to cornstarch. It is derived from a legume plant found in East India. Guar gum functions as a binder that works well in creamy dishes and sauces. However, it can have laxative properties in some people. Use 3 parts guar gum for every 2 parts xanthan gum called for in a recipe.
Chia is a flowering plant in the mint family. Its seeds are extremely high in omega 3s fatty acids and fiber. When mixed with water, the ground seeds become a thick gel similar to egg whites that can be used in gluten-free baking to help give structure to breads and pastries. Use a mixture of one tablespoon of chia seeds to three tablespoons of water to replace one tablespoon of xanthan gum. Increase your baking time by 15 minutes if you use this substitute.
Egg whites are both a binder and a leavening agent, which means that not only can they be used to help bind foods together, they can also help them rise. Egg whites make an excellent substitution for xanthan gum in cakes and quick and batter breads. They do not work as well in kneaded breads. Use one egg white for every tablespoon of xanthan gum in a recipe. Keep in mind that your finished product will be very light and airy and may need a larger pan.
Ground Flax Seed
Along with the above substitutes, you can add ground flax seeds to bread recipes. Flax seeds come in a golden color or dark brown. The golden variety contains more oil. Remember that the dark flax seeds can turn your baked goods green! Whole flax seed should be ground before it is added to the dough or batter. Use the same amount of flax seed as xanthan gum called for in the recipe, but mix it with two times the water. If a recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of xanthan gum, use 1 tablespoon of ground flax seed plus 2 tablespoons water.
This ingredient improves the texture of gluten-free bread. It is usually sold as a dietary fiber supplement. It gives breads great structure and can also help keep baked goods moist. Use twice the amount of psyllium husk powder as xanthan gum in your recipes.
Find the Right Substitute for You
No matter which substitute you try, at first use the same amount of the replacement. For example, if you have a recipe that calls for two teaspoons of xanthan gum, substitute two teaspoons of your preferred replacement. Finding the right substitute for xanthan gum will take a little patience and practice, but the end result will be well-textured foods that taste delicious and are good for you.