Xanthan gum is a great food additive commonly used as a substitute for gluten in lots of products.
It is marketed as a natural emulsifier and is preferred by people on strict diets.
Although it's keto approved, you may be looking to replace it for whatever reason.
We believe that although keto might sound like a quite restrictive diet, you should still be able to cook delicious foods without high-carb ingredients.
That's why we will check into some of the downsides of Xanthan gum, how binding ingredients work and I will show my best substitutes for Xanthan gum.
Let's bake in.
The Background of the Binding Ingredients
Binding ingredients, also called 'binders' and ‘binding agents’, are additives for food that add flavor, volume, firmness, and texture to any recipe (1). Without binding ingredients, the foods would not taste and look the same as it does. The binders are also utmost important when having a limited choice of foods you can eat.
They are the secret ingredients to every food formula. Here are some of their characteristics:
- Binding - When combined with other ingredients, these additives keep the mixture thick, smooth, and viscous.
- Structure - The binders keep the shape of any recipe while it bakes.
- Elasticity - These ingredients allow the dough to be shaped and stretched; therefore, it can be maintained while it is baking.
- Retains moisture - Binding ingredients keep the baked goods fresh for a longer time, and prevent a crumbly texture.
- Adds taste - Lack of binding agents negatively affects the look and the taste of any food.
Is Xanthan Gum Safe Anyway?
The simplest answer would be - Yes.
- Xanthan gum is created when sugar is fermented by a bacteria called Xanthomonas campestris. Add alcohol to this substance, and you get a powder suitable for multiple uses in the food industry.
- In the scientific community, it is generally agreed upon that consuming up to 15 grams of Xanthan gum a day is safe (2). When used in the recommended doses, this ingredient can be quite advantageous.
Xanthan gum provides many health benefits such as treating diabetes, controlling hunger, treating dry mouth, treating Osteoarthritis, activating antibodies, alleviates constipation, and more.
Xanthan gum is also a perfect alternative for people who suffer from celiac disease and have to avoid gluten consumption (3). Gluten is a protein many people replace for multiple different reasons.
Xanthan gum has the same effect as gluten, as keeping the texture of the foods, yet does not initiate any problems for such groups of people.
The Problem with Xanthan Gum
Even though Xantham gum is contained in products we use on a daily basis, it might not be everyone's cup of tea. Due to a matter of preference, personal choice, or health issues, some people actually avoid this additive.
- If consumed in larger doses than recommended, Xanthan gum can cause some digestive discomfort, including bloating, excess flatulence, and laxative effects (4). It can also cause throat irritation, so be cautious when handling the powder form of Xanthan gum.
- Another important thing to know is that the bacteria the Xanthan gum is made of is fed with sugar derived from soy, corn, sugar cane, and wheat. Thus, if you are intolerant or have allergies of any of these ingredients, you might want to consider replacing the Xanthan gum substitutes better for your health (5).
- Last but not least - the taste. If you simply do not like how it tastes, seek alternatives because there are plenty of them.
How to Find the Right Substitute?
To replace Xanthan gum in recipes, you first need to understand the purpose of this ingredient (6). It is a natural, gluten-free powder that adds viscosity and texture to recipes.
When the compound is mixed with water, it forms a gel that is used as a binder to keep the ingredients together. When Xanthan gum is used in liquid recipes like salad dressings, it keeps the blend emulsified and blended.
Even though you can find a good number of substitutes for Xanthan gum, you have to make sure it matches exactly what you need it for.
Finding just the right alternative might take you a little practice and patience, but you will get there.
Therefore, our biggest suggestion is to look for a binding ingredient, that will add taste, elasticity, and structure to every recipe and absorb the moisture. Seek an ingredient you can afford to use regularly to make well-textured delicious foods.
Best Xanthan Gum Alternatives
1. NOW Foods Psyllium Husk Powder
The Psyllium Husk powder manufactured by NOW Foods is a dietary supplement and an excellent source of soluble fiber.
Due to its composition, can be used in many recipes as a binding agent. As a part of a diet low in cholesterol and saturated fat, this powder can reduce the risk of heart disease.
It's 100% free of sugar, salt, starch, yeast, wheat, gluten, corn, soy, milk, egg, shellfish or preservatives.
It works as a great binding agent to spice up your keto diet, because it's low in carbs and high in fiber, which your body will lack anyway during the keto diet.
Best For: Drinks, Bread, Biscuits, Pizza Crusts, Pancakes
Serving size: 9g
Calories: 30 Total fat: 0 Net carbs: 1g Fiber: 7g Protein: 0g
2. NOW Foods Guar Gum Powder
The NOW Guar Gum Powder is a natural thickening agent made from the not so known guar bean. As a binder, it is extensively used in the commercial food industry; therefore, it perfectly matches many different recipes.
At the consumer level, this pure powder is commonly used when baking, especially whole grain flours. Due to the lack of gluten, these flours do not rise typically.
The Guar Gum Powder can also be used as an excellent addition to salad dressings and sauces.
Using this dietary supplement is extremely easy as the serving size is 1/2 tablespoon, which is a 1.4 grams. Mix it with the rest of the ingredients until you get the desired thickness and smoothness.
Best For: Bread, Smoothies, Salad dressings, Sauces, Soaps, Lotions, Creams
Serving size: 1/2 tsp (1.4g)
Calories: 5 Total fat: 0 Net carbs: 0g Fiber: 1g Protein: 0g
3. Nutiva Organic Chia Seed
The organic chia seed manufactured by Nutiva is a raw, non-GMO black chia seed packed with Omega-3, protein, fiber, and antioxidants.
As an excellent source of protein and essential omega-3 fatty acids, the chia seeds, in general, find common usage in daily meals.
It can be consumed raw in salads or sprinkled on top of any meal, or it can be baked, mixed, and made into a pudding.
The Nutiva Organic Chia Seeds can be also added to sauces and dressings as a binding ingredient.
The seed itself is perfect for vegetarians and vegans since they are the ones who mostly lack this protein and omega-3 acids. Further, the chia seeds are compatible for people who follow ketogenic, paleo, and gluten-free diets as well.
Best For: Smoothies, Chia pudding, Chia seed protein bars, Muffins, Pancakes, Brownies, Fruit salad, Dressings
Serving size: 12g
Calories: 60 Total fat: 3g Net carbs: 0g Fiber: 5g Protein: 3g
4. NOW Foods Agar Powder
The Agar Powder manufactured by NOW Real Foods, is a vegetarian/vegan substitute for gelatin, used in many different recipes that include gelatine typically.
As a naturally gelatinous powder, Agar is derived from marine red algae. It is the perfect substitute for gelatine that can be implemented in ice creams, jellies, soups, and more.
The NOW Foods Agar Powder is perfect for people who follow paleo or ketogenic diets. The powder contains no gluten, sugar, or any other ingredients, commonly forbidden in such diets.
Best For: Jelly / Jam, Cakes, Salads, Panna Cotta
Serving size: 1.5g
Calories: 5 Total fat: 0g Net carbs: 0g Fiber: 1g Protein: 0g
5. Great Lakes Gelatin
The Great Lakes Gelatin is made of one simple ingredient, and it is rich in protein and beneficial amino acids.
This product is perfect for everyone who wants to improve the overall health of their body, hair, and nails. The gelatin is also good for the joints, bones, and the digestive system.
It's manufactured by Great Lakes is colorless, and it is digested easily. It makes a perfect addition to any hot or cold beverages and recipes.
The product is bio-active, good for metabolism and everyday use.
The recommended use of this dietary supplement is two tablespoons of the Great Lakes Gelatin poured slowly into your chosen beverage or recipe. You will have to stir the mixture until it is completely dissolved. Keep in mind, colder beverages and recipes might take longer for the compound to dissolve. That is it!
Best For: Oatmeal, Smoothies, Coffee / Tea / Orange juice, Soups, Water (+ lemon slice)
Serving size: 12g
Calories: 43 Total fat: 0g Net carbs: 0g Fiber: 0g Protein: 11g
Based on the facts presented, all of the Xanthan gum alternatives may work for some people and not work for others. Due to personal judgment, the best substitute for Xanthan gum, therefore the winner of this roundup is Now Foods Psyllium Husk Powder.
This dietary supplement effectively replaces Xanthan gum, and it can be used in various and numerous recipes.
The product is an excellent source of soluble fiber, and it is very easy to make. When consuming, you should be cautious about the recommended usage, because otherwise, you might come across difficulties.
Besides that, this powder is an amazing non-GMO, allergen-free product perfect for vegetarians, vegans, and all those who follow Paleo and ketogenic diets. The powder will serve as an amazing binding agent in all of your recipes and will add structure, elasticity, and thickness.
Can you really ask for more?
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Alex is editor in chief of Bodyketosis, an author, low-carb enthusiast and a recovering chubby guy who reclaimed his health using the ketogenic lifestyle. The need for the keto life began after his aunt and cousin were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and he was next in line. Through personal experience and extensive scientific research, Alex offers insightful tips for everything keto.