What is Xanthan Gum/Guar Gum?

Xanthan gum is the result of the mixing of corn sugar and a bacteria called Xanthomonas Campestris. It is used in many recipes as a thickening agent and as a replacement for gluten in many gluten/wheat free recipes. Xanthan gum is preferred over Guar gum as the chemical make up of Xanthan gum is simpler and easier to digest.

Guar gum is much like Xanthan gum except that it is actually an extract from the Guar plant. The usage is very nearly the same as well. Guar gum has the effect of combining with water molecules and forming a gel like substance. Until 1990, it was used as one of the main ingredients in many non-prescription diet pills for the fullness effect it would give to the takers. It was claimed to have caused many digestive issues in the large amounts and was banned from use in non-prescription diet pills by the FDA in 1990. Guar gum’s high fiber content has been known to cause digestive issues in large amounts, which is another reason that Xanthan gum is preferred.

Both can be used in replacing gluten in your wheat/gluten free diet. In the amounts that will be needed for this use, there is nearly no chance of any adverse affects. In fact, you most likely will feel better because of the good effects of removing the gluten from your diet.

How Much Xanthan or Guar Gum?

Different recipes will call for different amounts, but if you’re converting a wheat flour recipe, a good starting place is as follows:

  • Cakes: 1/4 to 1/2 tsp to each cup of gluten/wheat free flour
  • Breads: 1/2 to 1 tsp to each cup of gluten/wheat free flour
  • Cookies: 0 to 1/4 tsp to each cup of gluten/wheat free flour

An important note, here, is that using Xanthan or Guar gum to replace the missing gluten isn’t exact. You may have to adjust the quantities of the gums to your location as well. If you live in a more humid location, you may find that you need more gum to achieve the results you’re looking for. A more arid location will likely require less. The key to successful gluten free baking is to experiment until you get a recipe that gives you the desired result. Start with a smaller amount than you think you need, and move your way up based on the results.

There are several other alternatives besides Xanthan Gum and Guar Gum that you could try as well. Whey Protein powder, MaxiGel, and even unflavored gelatin can be used in some circumstances. Experimenting with your recipes can be somewhat expensive, but it’s necessary, and the result you get when you’ve found the right recipe is worth far more than you’ll spend.

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