How to Make Substitutions for Xanthan Gum in Baking

how to substitutue xanthan gum in gluten free baking

For the majority of people within the gluten-free baking community, xanthan gum is the holy grail of baking. It’s easily the most popular binding agent and most gluten-free recipes feature it as a crucial ingredient.

However, recently, there has been some controversy surrounding xanthan gum as it appears to cause allergy-like symptoms in certain individuals. Add that to the fact that it’s highly processed, its use is being viewed as contradictory to the healthy and holistic approach that is sometimes embraced by gluten-free bakers.

So it leaves us with a problem or perhaps a challenge. Are there alternatives to xanthan and if so, how can you use them in your baking to perhaps avoid the negative health effects that using xanthan may bring? We’ll look at some alternatives in this article.

Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are an excellent binding agent and can absorb up to 12 times their own weight in water. They form a gel-like substance which improves the consistency of dough and locks in moisture when baking breads, pastries and cakes.

They can be ground, although this is not necessary for the binding effect to take place. Chia seeds are also extremely high in fiber and can have a laxative effect. They are popular replacements for xanthan gum because while they have a nutty flavor, it’s mild and tends not to interfere with the flavor of the baked goods they are added to.

Substituting xanthan for these is simple as you use a 1:1 ratio. Just use the same amount of chia (in weight) as you would xanthan and you’re all set!

Psyllium Husk

Psyllium husk or psyllium fibre is a relatively new binding agent which is typically used as a xanthan substitute in breads. It has been scientifically proven to improve the structure of gluten-free dough and improve the texture, volume and rising of gluten free baked bread.

It is typically found as a dietary fibre supplement in most health stores and is used by athletes to lower cholesterol. A 5% psyllium fibre flour mix is best for baking breads (1 part psyllium to 19 parts of flour).

Konjac Powder

Also known as Glucomannan powder, Konjac powder is ground up konjac root which has been used in Asia as a dietary fiber for several hundreds of years. Like Psyllium fiber, it is used as a supplementary source of fiber as well as a thickener.

Its high fiber content lends it numerous health benefits which include the reduction of blood cholesterol and a lower bowel cancer risk. It also helps control blood sugar levels but its binding properties are most relevant for our purposes.

When used in baking, you can use the same amount of Konjac powder as you would xanthan gum (1/2 teaspoon per cup of flour for cakes and breads). For other baked goods like flatbreads or tortillas, you can increase the amount of Konjac you use to ¾ teaspoon per cup of four to get the desired consistency.

Flax Seeds

Flaxseeds are extremely popular in baking and also as a health supplement (flaxseed oil). They are a great binding agent and are easily found (because of their popularity). On top of all this, they are cheap to buy!

In their natural form, flaxseeds are not very useful as a binding agent. They have to be ground first and then mixed with hot water. The water has to be boiled first and then mixed with the flax to form a gel like paste known as ‘slurry’ which is then added to gluten free flour for baking breads and cakes.

For substitution, use the same weight of ground flax as you would xanthan gum. Then mix it in twice the amount of water (2 tbsp of ground flax mixed with 4 tbsp of hot boiling water).

Agar Agar

Agar Agar is a seaweed derivative which acts as a stabilizer, thickener and binding agent. It, like the other above mentioned agents, forms a gel-like paste when mixed with water. It is a popular vegan alternative to gelatin (another binding agent derived from animals) with excellent moisture retention properties.

It makes dough stretchy and elastic while making breads chewier. It’s recommended that you exercise restraint when using agar agar as it can retain so much moisture that breads and cakes end up soggy.

It’s worth noting that agar agar can be fairly pricey and a little difficult to find locally, so the internet is usually the best place to go. That said, it works a treat in baking because it has no odor, color or taste.

Agar agar is 80% fiber so it CAN have a laxative effect if too much is used. To use agar, you need to dissolve it in water first. Once it’s dissolved, you need to boil it (1-5 minutes for powder and 10-15 minutes for flakes).

There are numerous other substitutes for xanthan gum but these we feel, are the most versatile.

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Chrissy Lane

Gluten free living doesn't mean you have to say goodbye to light and fluffy breads and rolls. My gluten free bread recipes, tips and techniques will result in delicious, mouthwatering baked goods every time!

8 thoughts on “How to Make Substitutions for Xanthan Gum in Baking

  1. Heidi says:

    I was just reading the information on substituting xanthan with ground flax seed. It says to use the same weight in flax seed as you would xanthan and make a slurry by mixing with twice the amount of hot boiled water. Two questions 1) most recipes don’t use measurements of weight so are we talking a 1:1 ratio? and 2) the example was 2TBS flax seed mixed with 5 TBS hot boiling water. Doubling 2 should be 4. What am I missing? Any help would be appreciated!!

  2. Chrissy Lane says:

    Hi Heidi,

    Thanks for the questions!

    Yes, that is a 1:1 ratio, so whatever the recipe calls for for xanthan gum, you could use flax seeds.

    And then for when you mix it with the boiling water, as a general rule, it is ‘doubling the boiling water’, so you’re right – need to correct that 5 Tbsp, to 4 Tbsp. A little extra water is not a big deal though.

    What is a big thing to keep in mind with these seeds is that they need to be ground very fine, to a powder, really, otherwise you risk having a seedy taste in your end result.

    Hope that answers your questions!

  3. Heidi says:

    Thank you so much for your response! It is a great help as I am new to gluten free cooking. It is challenging and I am finding that some of the ingredients are costly so it helps that I can use a less expensive substitute!

  4. Chrissy Lane says:

    Absolutely!

    Yeah, the cost of some of these ingredients can get pretty high. We’ll try to come up some tips for curbing the cost.

    Thank U for the questions!

  5. Sarah says:

    Thank you SO much for your posts on substitutes for xanthan and guar gum. I am the first in my family that is gluten free and we’ve been finding it rather difficult to find things for me to eat (I’ve had salad for dinner almost every night for the past week) and our budget is tight so we can’t afford some of the pricey ingredients. It’s super nice to know there is a cheaper alternative!

  6. Chrissy Lane says:

    Hi Sarah,

    Awesome!

    So glad you enjoyed it AND found it helpful!

    Thank u for the kind words!

  7. Patty says:

    I don’t have xanthan gum and I was going to use chia seeds that I do have. It says to use 1:1 ratio in weight. Chia seeds as you know are extremely light weight but I have no idea how heavy xanthan gum is so I have no way to determine how much chia seeds I need to equal 2 teaspoons of xanthan gum. I love these substitutes but they would be easier to exchange them if you gave the exchanges in ways other than weight. Also, since chia seeds double their size would you need more liquid?
    Thank you for your help.
    Patty

  8. Chrissy Lane says:

    Hi Patty,

    This does need some clarifying – so what you would do is take 1 tablespoon of your ground chia seeds and mix it with 2 tablespoons of boiling water. Let that mixture sit for 15 minutes or until it becomes gel-like.

    Then measure out how much you need to replace the xanthan gum on a 1:1 basis. So like 2 teaspoons of xanthan equals 2 teaspoons of chia mixture.

    Does that make sense?

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