You might have heard about xanthan gum and its various uses. A common use of this product is as a food thickening agent, which is mainly used in gluten-free items. It is a polysaccharide that is derived by fermentation of corn sugar with bacteria (called xanthomonas campestris). Once the fermentation is completed, the polysaccharide is precipitated and treated before selling it as xanthan gum. In fact, its name is derived from the name of the bacteria used for fermentation of corn sugar. Xanthan gum is now commonly available in health and bakery stores, in powder form. It is widely used as a thickener, emulsifier as well as stabilizer. It is often used in ice creams, so as to prevent formation of ice crystals in it. It is used in various recipes, especially the gluten-free ones.
Xanthan Gum Uses
It has numerous culinary, cosmetic as well as industrial uses. It is certified as a safe food additive and can be found as an ingredient in various food items. It is found in commercial salad dressings, sauces and various other products, wherein a thickening agent is required. It is almost like gelatin, but, is purely a vegan option that can be tried, when you need a thickening agent, stabilizer or emulsifier. Xanthan gum is perfect for some of the gluten-free recipes, where the ingredients need to be bound together. It is used in various culinary purposes, including baking. Apart from its culinary uses, this product is also found as an ingredient in various cosmetic products.
Industrial uses of xanthan gum includes its role in binding the ingredients of toothpaste. As mentioned above, it is a common ingredient in numerous commercial food products like frozen foods, sauces, ice creams, beverages, salad dressings and many other such products. It is also used in the oil and gas industry, where it is used to thicken the drilling mud. Xanthan gum also plays the role of a lubricant in oil pumps. It is also used as a laxative. It has been suggested that it has the potential to reduce high cholesterol levels and high blood sugar. As far as the common man is concerned, use of xanthan gum is mostly associated with culinary purposes.
How to Use Xanthan Gum as a Thickener
Its use as a thickener may vary slightly with the type of recipe. For recipes with liquid ingredients, you have to mix it in the liquid. It will be better to use a blender for such mixing as xanthan gum may form clumps as soon as it comes into contact with liquid. For every cup of liquid ingredient, you need 1/8 tablespoon of xanthan gum. All you have to do is to get it dissolved in a small amount of liquid that has to be combined with the remaining liquids. In case of sauces and other such recipes, you have to mix it in oil, before adding ingredients like soy milk. Some people directly sprinkle it in soups, while whisking. You may also mix it with a small amount of liquid that has to be added to the soup.
Using Xanthan Gum for Baking
As far as baking is concerned, you have to mix it directly with the flour. Take the dry ingredients in a bowl and combine them with xanthan gum, before adding the wet ingredients. Usually, one teaspoon of xanthan gum is sufficient for every cup of flour, which is used for making cakes and cookies. But, if you intend to make bread, then double the quantity. In other words, two teaspoons will be required per cup of flour meant for making bread and pizza base. In order to increase its effectiveness in baked goods, you have to use a combination of different gluten-free flours.
Apart from the above said tips, you must also go through the manufacturer's instructions as well as the method specified in the recipe. You must also know what to use instead of xanthan gum. This will help you when you run out of this ingredient. In such cases, you may opt for xanthan gum substitutes like guar gum, gum arabic, locust bean gum or gum tragacanth. Even though, it is considered safe, xanthan gum may cause side effects like allergies in some people. Symptoms of such allergies include respiratory problems, skin rash etc. This is mostly seen in people who are allergic to its source, which is corn (sometimes, soy or other plant materials may be used as a source).
In general, it is said that use of more than 15 grams (daily) of xanthan gum should be avoided. It is also not recommended for pregnant and nursing women and those with intestinal problems like appendicitis. So, use it sparingly and moderately. Otherwise too, large amounts of xanthan gum added to a recipe can make the dish slimy or sticky.