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The 11 Best Substitutes for Gum Arabic (and How To Use Them)

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The best gum arabic substitutes blend the different elements of a solution together and increase its viscosity without altering any other properties of the solution, such as its taste or color. Ideally, they’ll also be cheap and have excellent solubility and biocompatibility. 

Let’s look at 11 of the best alternatives to gum arabic, consider how they compare to each other, and investigate how to use them.

Gum Arabic Substitutes Compared 

Here’s a quick look at the pros and cons of the 11 best substitutes for gum arabic and the most common uses for each:

SubstituteProsConsCommon Uses
CornstarchCheap
Readily available
Easy to use
Plant-based
High in calories
Low nutritional value
Soups
Sauces
Gravies
GelatinCheap
Readily available
Easy to use
Animal-based
Low nutritional value
Desserts
Souffles
EggsCheap
Readily available
Hard to use
Animal-based
Can affect taste
Desserts
Baked goods
Xanthan GumHighly viscous
Potent
Plant-based
Harder to findIce creams
Salad dressings
Guar GumPotent
Works as an emulsifier
Plant-based
Harder to findIce creams
Salad dressings
Locust Bean GumPlant-based
High in dietary fiber
Good for digestion
Lowers blood pressure
Harder to find
Can affect taste
Desserts
Ice creams
Salads
Soups
Gum TragacanthPlant-based
Odorless and tasteless
Highly viscous
Long shelf-life
High heat and acid tolerance
Slow processSauces
Soups
Relishes
PicklesBroths
Agar-AgarPlant-based
No refrigeration required
Harder to findPuddings
Souffles
Jellies
Gummy candies
CarrageenanPlant-basedLow nutritional value
Potential health hazard
Dairy products
Pudding
Infant formulas
Non-dairy milks
Psyllium HuskPlant-based
Good for digestion
Lowers blood pressure
Longer shelf-life
Not suitable for liquidsVegan breads
Chia SeedsPlant-based
Packed with nutrients
Needs to be blended
Extends cooking time
Vegan breads

1. Cornstarch

A flour made from dried and ground corn kernels, cornstarch is one of the cheapest thickening agents available. Because it’s highly absorbent, cornstarch is commonly used in soups, sauces, custard, and gravy. 

However, cornstarch doesn’t offer much nutritional value. It has very little protein, vitamins, and fiber and is high in calories and carbs. If you prioritize health over economy, other options may serve you better.

How To Use

Cornstarch should be mixed into a small quantity of liquid to make a smooth paste before being added to a cooking pot, or else it’ll form clumps and ruin the texture of the dish. A little goes a long way, as just 1-2 tablespoons of cornstarch is enough to thicken a pot of soup sufficiently. 

2. Gelatin 

Gelatin is a cheap and widely available thickening and gelling agent made from processed animal bones and tissues. It’s commonly used in desserts and souffles but can also be used in bread and other baked goods.

Unlike cornstarch, gelatin is low in calories. However, it doesn’t include any essential nutrients like vitamins and minerals or any fiber. Because it’s made from unverified animal products, people who are vegan, vegetarian, or adherents of halal or kosher diets prefer not to use animal-based gelatins. 

How To Use

Gelatin needs to be mixed with boiling liquid and then cooled by refrigeration to work effectively. 2% of gelatin in a solution is enough to make it set. Ideally, you should use flavorless gelatin to preserve the taste of your dish. 

3. Eggs

Another everyday product that replicates some of the properties of gum arabic is the humble chicken’s egg. Eggs are commonly used as thickeners and leavening agents in ice creams, desserts, and baked goods.

While eggs have significant nutritional value, like animal-based gelatins, they aren’t suitable for vegans and vegetarians. Eggs can also affect the taste of a dish, making them less desirable to work with.

How To Use

Egg yolk is a very efficient thickener commonly used to produce velvety smooth textures. Meanwhile, egg white is used as a binding and leavening agent. It helps dishes rise and firm up. Keep in mind, eggs are also harder to work with because they can only be used in a small window of temperature.

4. Xanthan Gum

Xanthan gum is produced by a fermentation of corn sugar using the bacteria Xanthomonas campestris. It’s cheap to produce and widely used as a thickener, binder, and emulsifying agent in everything from cosmetics to salad dressing. Adding just 0.5-1% of it to a solution significantly increases its viscosity.

While it’s not an emulsifier, strictly speaking, Xanthan gum helps hold solid particles suspended in a solution and, thus, stabilizes emulsions. Along with guar and locust bean gum, it’s often used to give frozen foods, such as ice creams, a creamy texture.  

How To Use

Xanthan gum should be used in tiny quantities. When baking cakes, just half a teaspoon is required per cup of flour. You can also combine it with other binders and emulsifiers to create your recipe’s specific texture.

If you’re in the market for some Xanthan gum, I highly recommend It’s Just – Xanthan Gum (available on Amazon.com). It’s a premium food-grade product with no fillers or additives.

5. Guar Gum

Guar gum is made from seeds of cluster beans. Like xanthan gum, its thickening potency makes guar gum an economical substitute to gum arabic. Just 1-1.5% of guar gum is required to make a sufficiently viscous solution.

How To Use

Guar gum is commonly used as a binding, and emulsifying agent and can be combined with other gums. For example, it can be used with xanthan gum to give ice cream a thick and creamy-smooth texture.

Generally, it’s best to blend the guar gum with your oils before adding them to the remaining ingredients.

6. Locust Bean Gum

Locust bean gum is made from seeds of the carob bean. Although its name might suggest otherwise, locust bean gum is completely plant-based. It’s considered a vegan product and is excellent for vegan recipes.

Locust bean gum also has several health benefits. It’s high in dietary fiber, slows down digestion, and lowers blood pressure. 

How To Use

Like xanthan gum, locust bean gum is widely used as a thickener and stabilizing agent in ice creams and salad dressings. When used in home cooking, it works best in soups, desserts, and sauces. While it does have a slight chocolate-like taste, it doesn’t alter taste when used in small quantities.

7. Gum Tragacanth

Gum tragacanth is made from the sap of the Astragalus plant, which is widely used as a thickener and emulsifier in the food and drug industries. Odorless and tasteless, it can be used to produce highly viscous solutions. 

Because of its stability in the face of heat and acidity, gum tragacanth is commonly used to make the following:

  • Sauces
  • Relishes
  • Soups
  • Pickles
  • Broths

Because of its long shelf-life, it’s also regularly used in making salad dressings and creamy desserts.

How To Use

About 0.4-0.8% gum tragacanth is needed to thicken a solution adequately. To achieve maximum viscosity, use as much as 2.4% of the solution. Gum tragacanth will also take longer to reach its maximum viscosity, as much as 24 hours.

8. Agar Agar

Agar-agar is a plant-based thickening and gelling agent derived from red algae. It’s also known as china glass, china grass, or Japanese gelatin. Agar-agar is commonly used as an alternative to animal gelatins in puddings, jellies, souffles, and gummy candies.

How To Use

Agar-agar needs to be mixed with boiling water before it is incorporated into a recipe. Unlike gelatin, it doesn’t require refrigeration to work as a thickener. Agar-agar also sets firmer than gelatin, making for a more solid, less creamy texture. 

9. Carrageenan

Carrageenan is another popular plant-based alternative to animal gelatins made from a red seaweed known as Irish moss. 

However, carrageenan has been surrounded by controversy in recent years. Some researchers have claimed it’s responsible for a host of digestion-related health problems, including irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, and even bowel cancer. 

Although these findings aren’t conclusive and carrageenan continues to be widely used, you may wish to consider them in making your choice. Fortunately, carrageenan doesn’t have significant nutritional value, so you won’t be missing out if you drop it from your diet. 

How To Use

Carrageenan is commonly used as a thickening and gelling agent in dairy products, puddings, and infant formulas, as well as in non-dairy milks and related products. Typically, it comes in powdered form and must be added to a liquid and brought to a boil before being added to recipes. 

10. Psyllium Husk

Psyllium husk is derived from seeds of Plantago ovata. It’s a soluble fiber that forms a gel-like substance inside the digestive tract, slowing down absorption and lowering blood pressure. 

Because it retains moisture better and for longer, it has a more extended shelf-life than either xanthan gum or guar gum. 

How To Use

Generally, 1-2% psyllium husk will adequately thicken a solution. Psyllium husk works particularly well in vegan bread recipes. Unfortunately, it won’t produce a smooth texture when used in liquid preparations. 

11. Chia Seeds

Chia seeds come from a Central American plant of the mint family, Salvia hispanica. Soaked in water, they become gel-like. Chia seeds are also packed with nutrients, making them a healthy substitute for gum arabic.

How To Use

Like xanthan gum, chia seeds need only make up 0.5-1% of a solution to thicken it. If you want a smooth texture, blend the chia seeds and water before adding them to the remaining ingredients. 

Be sure to add two parts warm water for each portion of chia seeds that your recipe calls for. You’ll also need to add ten minutes to your cooking time when using chia seeds.

For more, don’t miss The 14 Best Substitutes For Milk In Frosting.

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