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Xanthan Gum

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Xanthan gum is the most versatile elastic thickener and easy-to-use hydrocolloid. It can be used in hot or cold applications, is extremely powerful in small quantities, it provides a rich creamy mouth feel and works synergistically with many other ingredients. It doesn't need to be heated like most starches to be hydrated so it is ideal to make sauces with cold fruits and vegetables. Xanthan gum is very stable with temperature variations, it is effective in alkaline, acid and even salty solutions. Xanthan gum can also withstand freeze / thaw cycles and it is an excellent gluten replacement providing sponginess and firmness. In molecular gastronomy it is widely used for spherification, to suspend solids in liquids thanks to its elasticity, for thickening sauces without altering the mouth feel, for gas retention in liquids, to prevent weeping in gels, help stabilize emulsions and foams.

Xanthan Origin

Smoothie thickened with Xanthan GumXanthan gets its name from the bacterium responsible for its production: Xanthomonas campestris. The bacteria consumes sugars and ferments it into a naturally thick, mucus-like substance. That material is then processed into a cream-colored powder.

Xanthan gum was first developed in the 1950s at the Northern Regional Research Labs of the USDA. It was produced commercially starting in the mid-1960s and approved for food use in the United States in 1969.

The powerful thickener can be derived from a variety of sources. It was originally designed to use up excess lactose sugars that were created as a byproduct of cheese production, but can also be derived from corn, soy, or wheat. The specific strain of bacteria used in fermentation and the processing required vary by source.

Today, xanthan is found in a wide variety of foods. For example, a small quantity of the gum is often added to iced smoothie recipes to give the drinks a creamy texture and to help ice chunks stay dispersed.

Xanthan Function

By itself, xanthan drastically increases the viscosity (thickness) of any liquid it is added to in very low concentrations. In high concentrations, it will form a mucusy paste that looks like a gel but is not technically a gel. It does, however, form a gel when combined with locust bean gum.

Xanthan gum's real benefits come through its interactions with other ingredients. By increasing the viscosity of liquids, it helps to prevent syneresis (weeping) in gels, keep ice crystals from forming in frozen goods, and help stabilize emulsions and foams. Xanthan is a popular ingredient in gluten-free foods because it can impart some of the texture that gluten gives to baked goods.

Xanthan Applications

We've probably featured xanthan more than any other ingredient on this site.

Xanthan Gum has been used by molecular gastronomy Chef Ferran Adria to suspend solids in liquids thanks to its elasticity in his famous "Melon with Ham" dish introduced at elBulli in 2005. This dish consisted of a clear ham consomme with suspended melon caviar spheres.

Solid Cava by Joan Roca using Xanthan GumA year later, Joan Roca used Xanthan Gum to retain gas in a cava sauce in his "Oyster with Cava" dish introduced at El Celler de Can Roca in 2006. he modifies cava (Spanish sparkling wine) to create a carbonated cava sauce he calls solid cava. He does this at the winery by introducing Xanthan Gum after the first fermentation of Cava and then let it continue the process for nine months. This results in carbonated cava sauce which he uses in this oyster dish.

 

 

Spherical olives are a classic molecular gastronomy application by chef Ferran Adria and the el Bulli team. It's also one of the early examples of reverse spherification. In this application, xanthan gum is used to thicken the olive juice in encased in the spheres.

Spherical Olives thickened with Xanthan Gum

In this recipe for Dumplings, Broccoli Rabe, Garlic Powder, and Anchovies by Chef Cristina Bowerman of Glass Hosteria and Romeo in Rome, xanthan acts as a simple thickener for sauce made with nothing more than garlic and milk.

xanthan-dumplings-garlic thickened with Xanthan Gum

And finally, xanthan plays a stabilizing role in this recipe for Lychee Bubbles Filled with Sage Vapor on Oysters. This is one of our original recipes, based on flavor pairings found through the FoodPairing site. We combine xanthan gum with egg white powder to form long-lasting bubbles.

Xanthan Gum Lychee Bubbles

Xanthan Gum is also widely used to elaborate dishes for people with allergies and food intolerance. It is used in low calorie dishes to improve mouth feel and consistency. To make gluten-free flour for those with celiac disease adding sponginess and firmness to the final baked product. Xanthan Gum is also used in diets for people with dysphagia that have difficulty in swallowing. Thanks to the viscocity and elasticity of Xanthan Gum, it is perfect to make creams of fruits, vegetables, meats and fish that are easier to swallow.

View more recipes with Xanthan

Xanthan Properties

Temperature : Will hydrate at any temperature. Yes, it's that awesome.

Texture: In small quantities, xanthan will add slight body and viscosity to any liquid. Add too much, however, and a xanthan-thickened mixture runs the risk of becoming slimey, with a texture like mucus. For thicker applications such as stews or puddings, we would recommend using a different thickener. In very high concentrations, xanthan-thickened mixtures turn into sticky pastes.

Appearance: Clear, though since xanthan stabilizes emulsions, it's very easy to trap air bubbles into a thickened mixture that will never escape, which means that your mixture could become cloudy.

Flavor release: Good.

Mouthfeel: Rich, creamy, and smooth in small quantities. Mucus-like at higher concentrations.

Freeze / Thaw stable: N/A, though xanthan can be used to stabilize frozen applications.

Syneresis (weeping): N/A, though xanthan can be used to prevent syneresis in other gelling agents.

Shearing: Shear-thinning. That is, xanthan-thickened mixtures become less viscous when exposed to shear, such as blending. However, it will not produce a fluid gel as some shear-thinning gels will.

Hysteresis: N/A.

Interactions and Tolerance of Xanthan

PH Tolerance: Functions at all reasonable pH's (1-13).

Other Tolerances: Tolerates alcohol up to 60%, salts, and enzymes. Will not hydrate properly with sugar concentrations greater than 60%.

Synergies with other ingredients: Can be used in practically any modernist recipe to increase viscosity, which in turn can stabilize emulsions, strengthen gels, and fortify foams. Xanthan increases thickening power when used with guar gum and carraggeenan and will form a gel with locust bean gum or konjac.

How to use Xanthan

Concentration Range: 0.05-0.15% to slightly thicken smoothies, 0.25%-0.5% for thin sauces, up to 0.8% will create a syrupy texture. Higher concentrations may be used in baked goods and for other special applications.

Dispersion: Disperses at any temperature. May form clumps if using very cold water, though this will usually resolve itself over time and can be aided with oil, sugar, alcohol, or some mixing.

Hydration: Occurs at any temperature.

Setting: N/A

Special uses: many, everything from marshmallows to spherification.

top image: flickr user ginny

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Back to Modernist Cuisine Ingredients: Hydrocolloids, Starches & more

  • Ferraro41

    Great information….actually had a question re: Xanthan gum…I’m playing around with a cheesecake recipe, trying to make it low carb. I’ve found good replacements for the graham crackers (crushed almonds) and the sugar (Swerve), but the recipe I love calls for 1/4 cup of flour along with the cream cheese, eggs, etc.. Would Xanthan gum work as a replacement here, and if so, what might be a good estimate (1/4 tsp?) to replace the flour? I tried making it without the flour altogether, but while it tasted good, it didn’t set up right.

    • QuantumChef

      Thanks! To replace flour, usually 1/4 tsp xanthan gum per 1 cup flour works. Make sure the xanthan gets completely hydrated.
      Subject: Re: New comment posted on Xanthan Gum

  • Bulli Castelo

    Hi, was wondering if I can use Xanthan Gum and CMC in frozen cake and muffin batter, how much would you recommend for this combination to reach higher volume?

    Thanks in advance ;)

    • QuantumChef

      Yes, you can. Unfortunately we haven’t experimented with this application yet so I don’t have any recommendations in addition to what you read in this article. Sorry!

  • Isla Johnston

    Hi! Can xanthan gum be added to All-Purpose flour to make your own Bread Flour at home? (NOT Gluten Free)?

    • QuantumChef

      I wouldn’t say it is a replacement but it will add structure to the final product.

  • healthychef

    Is there a forum to discuss cocktail concoctions using xanthan gum? I was thinking of a drink within a drink with a suspended sphere cocktail floating inside a cocktail..

  • Charzie

    I was searching for konjac or glucomannan, and the search brought me here, but saw nothing relating. This is a fun, healthy, amazingly versatile ingredient with zero calories, used to make shirataki or “Miracle noodles” and so much more! I have been having a ball experimenting with it, but I would love to cut the expense a little and work within a pre-establisihed framework. Any info or references would be much appreciated!

  • Michael Termini

    having some challenges in the kitchen trying to foam maple syrup for a new menu, anyone else been successful and is this ingredient the answer?

    • Drew

      The article said it Will not hydrate properly with sugar concentrations greater than 60% and maple syrup is almost all sugar.

  • Sauce Man

    Hi. I am currently using Xanthan Gum to thicken sauces. I am encountering 2 problems when i add xanthan gum to the sauces: (1) The sauce looses its natural colour and becomes cloudy & (2) The sauce looses its consistency because alot of air bubbles get trapped in the sauce.

    I am using a blender. Any suggestions please??

    • QuantumChef

      Both issues are probably related. It is probably cloudy due to the air bubbles. Here are a few ways to eliminate the air bubbles:

      -Use less Xanthan Gum.

      -Let it rest: this is the most common method. Just let the saucerest in the fridge. Depending on the density of the liquid, this may take 1 to 24 hours.

      -Pass it through a fine sieve: let the liquid flow through it on its own without applying pressure. You may have to repeat this process a few times.

      -Use a vacuum chamber: these are expensive but if you have access to one, you can place the liquid in the vacuum chamber to eliminate the air bubbles. This is definitely the fastest method.

  • Samdqd Q Sam

    Any difference between xanthan gum and gellan gum??

  • Samdqd Q Sam

    I found some cheaper brand of xanthan gum than that Texturas one,are they the same quality?

    • QuantumChef

      There are many qualities of xanthan gum so hard to say. I can only tell you that ours is the best quality available in the market. It will be clear and have the right mouth feel.

  • bill fitzpatrick

    I use xanthan gum to thicken my AMAZING Blue Cheese dressing which I make in a blender. I have the blender on high making a whirlpool at the top. I dump the gum in all at once, the whirlpool goes away and voila, thick dressing. I get the gum at the local health food store.