When making a stew, soup, or sauce, you may want it to be thicker, which necessitates the use of a thickening agent. When baking or cooking a dessert, you may want to thicken the liquid or filling to improve the texture, where cornstarch and xanthan gum come in. Cornstarch is produced by finely grinding corn kernels. Meanwhile, xanthan gum is a food additive produced by fermenting various vegetables such as cabbage, corn, soy, and wheat with a bacteria known as Xanthomonas campestris.
The sugars in the vegetables begin to break down during the process, creating complex sugar molecules that turn into a liquid substance that is often gooey. When this has solidified, alcohol is added, and it is dried before being ground into a powder. Xanthan gum is an excellent emulsifier or gelling agent that works quickly. It’s commonly found in various store-bought ingredients, including salad dressings, juices, soups, ice cream, and others.
What Exactly is Xanthan Gum?
The actual scientific definition of xanthan gum may surprise or disgust you, but it is a powdered food thickener, and it is composed of bacteria that commonly infect plants.
When you open a jar of baking ingredients, you wouldn’t think plant-infecting bacteria made them, but they are! After fermentation, it is essentially a type of sugar produced by the Xanthomonas campestris bacteria.
Applications of Xanthan Gum
Xanthan gum is primarily used in processed foods and recipes in two ways:
Thickener: A substance that thickens liquids. It’s popular for thickening smoothies, puddings, and keto baking batters.
Emulsifiers: Emulsifiers bind ingredients together and keep them from separating. This is critical in low-carb and gluten-free baking and salad dressings.
This binding ingredient is used in many baking recipes for keto dieters. Gluten can be found in whole wheat or all-purpose flour and is what holds bread together.
When using almond or coconut flour in place of flour, it’s best to use xanthan gum (or a substitute) to keep the bread from crumbling.
What are the Other Alternatives for Cornstarch?
1. All-Purpose Flour
Another pantry staple that We can use in place of Cornstarch is plain all-purpose flour, and it’s especially effective as a thickening agent in sauces and roux.
All-purpose flour has roughly half the thickening power of Cornstarch, so use two tablespoons of flour for every one tablespoon of Cornstarch. Remember that flour will not provide the same glossy shine as Cornstarch; your finished product will have a more matte finish and may be more opaque. Using flour as a cornstarch substitute is also not the best option for baked goods: Adding more flour to a recipe will likely result in a denser, not lighter, final product.
2. Potato Starch
In terms of performance, potato starch is one of the best cornstarch substitutes. This fine white powder has a neutral flavor and works well as a thickener. The best part is that it can usually be substituted with a 1:1 ratio, eliminating the need for mental math. Potato starch also works well in baked goods like shortbread, so many people think it is a good all-around substitute for Cornstarch.
3. Rice Flour
Another cornstarch substitute is rice flour, which is not confused with rice starch, and it is gluten-free and made from finely milled rice.
We can also use it to thicken soups, sauces, and gravies, but you’ll need twice as much rice flour as Cornstarch.
If you don’t have rice flour on hand, you can make your own by grinding rice in a food processor or spice mill. We can make rice flour from either white or brown rice; make sure to grind it into a fine powder for the best results in cooking or baking.
4. Tapioca Starch
Tapioca starch (also known as tapioca flour), a neutral-flavored powder made from the cassava root, is another expert-approved substitute for Cornstarch. It works best in baking recipes (like to thicken the filling of a fruit pie).
Another significant advantage of tapioca is that it freezes well, preserving the perfect consistency of your baked goods. However, you should avoid using tapioca starch in any recipe that calls for boiling because the high heat will cause your sauce to become stringy.
5. Arrowroot Powder
The thickening properties of arrowroot powder are very similar to those of Cornstarch. You can use the same amount of arrowroot as you would Cornstarch to make a beautifully shiny sauce.
When cooking with arrowroot powder, a few things to keep in mind. For starters, it’s fairly expensive—a 16-ounce jar on Amazon costs around $10—so it’s probably not the best substitute when you need a large amount. It should be dissolved in cold water before adding it to a recipe for the best results. Arrowroot powder has a low thickening power and does not reheat well. For these reasons, it’s best used in meals that will be served right away.
6. Psyllium Husk
Psyllium husk, a type of soluble fiber, can be used in place of Cornstarch—many people prefer this ingredient because it is low in carbohydrates. When this powder comes into contact with liquid, it quickly forms a gel-like consistency and works well in soups and stews. Typically, only a small amount of psyllium husk is required: Begin with 12 teaspoons in your recipe and gradually increase to achieve the desired texture.
So, is Xanthum Gum a Good Cornstarch Substitute?
Xanthan gum is not always a good substitute for Cornstarch because it contains almost no nutrients other than sodium and potassium. It is, however, an excellent thickener, emulsifier, and gelling agent. Because xanthan gum is so potent, a small amount can go a long way.
When Baking, Should you Use Cornstarch or Xanthan Gum?
Both of these thickening agents can be useful in baking and have a place, depending on your goals for your baked goods. Xanthan gum is frequently used in gluten-free baking to improve emulsification and add structure and moisture. Xanthan gum helps to keep bread, cookies, muffins, cakes, and other baked goods from crumbling. Gluten contains proteins that help bind ingredients together, and xanthan gum works well in their absence.
Meanwhile, incorporating Cornstarch into your delectable baked goods can help keep moisture while also having a lighter texture. Combining a starch like cornstarch with other flours can help soften the rigid proteins of the flour, resulting in a light and chewy dessert. Check the consistency of the batter to see if there’s enough Cornstarch; if so, there’s no need to add any more; if it’s still too runny, sprinkle a bit more until it’s just right for your taste.
Is Xantham Gum Healthier than Cornstarch?
When consumed in large quantities, xanthan gum is thought to be beneficial, but this is difficult to achieve and is likely to cause digestive problems. However, some claim that xanthan gum contains no nutrients. Cornstarch is also not considered to be particularly healthy due to its high carbohydrate and calorie content and a lack of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. The key to using Cornstarch in your food is to use it sparingly and as part of a well-balanced diet.
You should also pay close attention to food labels because many pre-made and processed foods, such as salad dressing, contain Cornstarch, and you may be eating more of it than you realize. So, if you’re looking for a better option, eating these two thickening agents in moderation is your best bet.
Is Xanthan Gum Free of Gluten?
Yes, it is entirely gluten-free. Because it is fermented sugar, it does not contain gluten. Xanthan gum is frequently used as an emulsifier in gluten-free recipes!
What is the Cornstarch-to-Xanthan Gum Ratio?
Although you can often use these two thickening agents interchangeably depending on what you’re making, one is sometimes a better or best choice when used for a specific purpose. The good news is that the ratio for these thickeners is the same — one to one. Even though the amount is the same as for Cornstarch, it is critical to add xanthan gum slowly because a little goes a long way.
More importantly, xanthan gum can quickly turn the liquid gooey, which you probably don’t want. And once that happens, you may not be able to undo the gooey mess, forcing you to start over or deal with an undesirable texture. So, remember to add it gradually to ensure that whatever you’re cooking has the desired consistency.
Xanthan Gum Or Cornstarch, Which is More Expensive?
There is a clear winner when it comes to the price of each of these thickeners. That is, one is unquestionably more costly than the other. Xanthan gum is significantly more expensive than Cornstarch, and not only do you have to spend more money, but the packet or box size is also smaller. As a result, you’ll essentially be paying more for less.
An 18-ounce bag of Cornstarch costs $3.19 on average, while an 8-ounce bag of xanthan gum costs $12.99. If you’re going to make a lot of gels or bake many gluten-free items, it might be worth it to invest in the food additive and thickener xanthan gum. However, if you need a general thickening agent for sauces, custards, pie fillings, or to add chewiness to cookies and brownies, Cornstarch is the way to go.
Is Xanthan Gum Safe to Consume?
While the origin of xanthan gum is impressive, we understand. There are numerous food additives to be aware of, and it can be difficult to remember which ones are beneficial and which are detrimental. According to Healthline, xanthan gum is relatively safe and may even have health benefits. Because xanthan gum is a soluble fiber, studies show that it may help lower blood sugar. It can also increase feelings of fullness and lower cholesterol levels in higher doses.
On the other hand, some people report digestive issues after consuming large amounts of xanthan gum. According to Self Hacked, these symptoms include laxative effects, bloating, and flatulence. According to The Spruce Eats, those who are allergic to corn should avoid xanthan gum. Overall, xanthan gum appears to be safe when consumed in products. According to LifeSavvy, there’s no reason to seek out or avoid xanthan gum unless you’re allergic to or otherwise avoid an ingredient typically made with corn, soy, or wheat.
Is Xanthan Gum Healthy?
There are always new studies on the potential health benefits of eating this ingredient. For the time being, the small amounts you eat when baking with it are unlikely to make a significant difference in your health.
It’s still fascinating to hear about the studies and what scientists are discovering.
For example, a 1987 study discovered that men who consumed xanthan gum for three weeks had a 10% drop in cholesterol.
Another study found that it has laxative properties, which can be beneficial if you are constipated.
The most significant health benefit is that it binds ingredients together and creates delicious recipes that help you avoid processed sugar.
It’s wonderful to be able to eat donuts while on a keto diet!
Is Xanthan Gum Suitable for your Keto Recipe?
That’s a lot of information to digest! I hope you understand the significance of xanthan gum. Despite being created in a lab, it is entirely natural and made from bacteria.
This ingredient is essential for creating recipes that feel and look identical to gluten-free counterparts. This ingredient has many substitutes, but none work exactly like it.
It’s so simple to use and produces delectable recipes!
How do I Thicken a Sauce with Xanthan Gum?
To thicken a liquid with xanthan gum, blend the xanthan gum into the liquid to be thickened. The liquid will quickly thicken. To improve the flow of thicker sauces sitting, stir or whisk them briefly.
So, this is how you can use Xanthum Gum instead of Cornstarch. Also, If you don’t have Cornstarch on hand, all-purpose flour will suffice. Use twice the amount of flour as Cornstarch. Potato starch is another good thickening and baking substitute because it produces similar results to Cornstarch and requires the same amount.
Rice flour, tapioca starch, xanthan gum, and psyllium husk can all be used in place of Cornstarch. Some people use glucomannan, ground flaxseeds, or guar gum instead of Cornstarch; these substitutes don’t have the same texture and may impart unwanted flavors.