What Is Xanthan Gum?
Unfortunately, I have recently discovered that my body seems to be a lot happier when I consume less gluten—namely white flour. Therefore, I have been doing a lot of research on and experimenting with gluten-free cooking. The ingredient Xanthan gum seems to be common in most gluten-free recipes. Although I have heard of this ingredient before, I knew nothing about it. So, being the curious person that I am, I decided to get the bottom of this mystery. Here is what I discovered.
What is Xanthan gum made of?
Xanthan gum is a combination of fermented (often corn-based) sugars and a microbial called xanthomonas campestris—hence the name Xanthan gum. This combination creates a gummy, slimy substance which is then dried and ground into powder. This powder is then packaged and sold as what we know to be Xanthan gum.
What is its purpose?
Xanthan gum is used to add viscosity to liquid. This viscosity then acts as an emulsifier which keeps your ingredients from separating. This is similar to the function of gluten. It holds your dry and liquid ingredients together and adds elasticity to your dough. It can also be used as a thickening agent.
How do you use it?
Depending on what you are making there are specific ways to use Xanthan gum in your cooking and baking. It is important to remember that with Xanthan gum, a little goes a long way. If you don't believe me, rub a little in your hands with some water. You will likely spend the next 10 minutes trying to get it off. It is powerful, concentrated slime. Here are the general guidelines.
- For yeast breads/pizza dough, use 1 1/2 - 2 teaspoons of Xanthan gum per 1 cup of gluten-free flour
- For cakes, muffins, and quick breads, use 1/2 teaspoon of Xanthan gum per 1 cup of gluten-free flour.
- For cookie and bar recipes, use 1/2 teaspoon (or less) of Xanthan gum per 1 cup of gluten-free flour
- For sauces, soups, and dressings, use 1/4 teaspoon (or less) of Xanthan gum per batch. The easiest way to use Xanthan gum in this situation is to lightly sprinkle the surface of your liquid with Xanthan gum, stir it in and let the mixture sit for a minute. See if this is the consistency you want it. If it is still not thick enough, repeat the process until you reach the consistency you desire. Be careful not to add too much Xanthan gum as your final product will result in a mucous-like texture. Add no more than 1/8 teaspoon at a time.
Is it safe?
Studies show that the only known side-effect of Xanthan gum is a possible chance of intestinal discomfort as it can act as a natural laxative. Also, since the sugars are often derived from corn, soy, wheat, and dairy, you need to be cautious of certain food allergies, although Xanthan gum is still considered a gluten-free substance (even if its sugars are derived from wheat). There was also one study that indicated Xanthan gum is not safe for infants to consume.
However, this being said, it is important to be careful about which brand of Xanthan gum you purchase. Some companies do not disclose from what sources they derive their sugars from. Bob's Red Mill is well known for their Xanthan gum because they derive their sugars from natural sources containing no GMO's.
Monthly Newsletter Contributor since 2013
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