If you are a vegetarian, then chances are you have encountered agar agar at some point during your cooking, as the ingredient remains one of the most popular gelatin alternatives for people who prefer not to eat animal products.
Made from natural seaweed, agar agar can be used to make a selection of different dishes and can be purchased as either a powder or bar.
While the substance is primarily used as a thickening agent, agar agar also remains a nutritious substitute for animal-based products, with the component being dairy-free and suitable for vegan consumption.
Beyond this, agar agar is also tasteless and odorless, which means it can be combined with a range of sweet and savory ingredients to produce a delicious and healthy meal.
However, this does not mean that you will always have agar agar in your kitchen cupboard, as it will eventually run out like any other product. So if you find yourself without any agar agar, what can you use to substitute it?
Well, to answer this question, we have compiled a selection of the 6 best agar agar substitutes available on the market.
These substitutes are cheap, accessible and can be used to achieve similar results, although not all of them may be suitable for vegetarian cooking. So if you want to learn more about the products we have picked, take a look at our list and you will find everything you need to get started…
If you are in a rush and don’t have the time to read the entire article, then we have produced a condensed version of our list down below. So that you may determine which substitute is the best one for your needs:
- Pectin Powder
- Xanthan Gum
- Guar Gum
If you want a more detailed explanation of each product, then you will find everything you need in the following sections.
Each substitute comes with its own pros and cons, so you will need to make sure that you use the proper alternative when cooking your chosen recipe. It is also important to use the correct amount, as too much could result in less than stellar results.
6 Best Agar Agar Substitutes
While we can all agree that no ingredient is irreplaceable, you may want to change the recipe to meet your dietary needs or to alter the texture and composition of the final dish.
So if you find yourself in the kitchen with no agar agar in sight, here are some of the alternatives currently available on the market:
For the first substitute on our list, we have chosen a classic ingredient that can commonly be found in jello and other dessert products.
While gelatin is considered to be one of the best thickening agents in the world, it does come with the setback of being an animal-based product, which means it is unsuitable for vegetarians.
In a similar fashion to agar agar, gelatin is a tasteless and odorless substance, which means it won’t affect the flavor of your final dish.
In fact, gelatin is an easier substance to work with than agar agar and comes with the advantage of being available in most grocery stores across the country. While both products have similar characteristics, gelatin-based products will have to be kept in the refrigerator to maintain their shape and solidity.
When it comes to nutritional value, gelatin is known to be less nutritious than agar agar, as it is commonly made from fatty animal products. Beyond this, agar agar will commonly need to be boiled during the cooking process, whereas gelatin can be used as it is. If you want to use gelatin in your recipes, you will need to substitute the agar agar with a 3:1 ratio.
2. Pectin Powder
If you are a passionate vegetarian and need a plant-based substitute for agar agar, then you can use a product called pectin powder. Unlike agar agar, pectin is made from an assortment of berries and citrus fruits, which makes it the ideal ingredient when making homemade jellies and jams.
Not only can the substance be used in a similar way to agar agar, but it can also be used to develop the structure and composition of your preserves.
However, pectin powder does contain a high percentage of fiber and does not come with any nutritional benefits for the consumer. Beyond this, pectin powder also contains natural sugars, which limits it to the preparation of sweet dishes. So if you want to use your substitute for savory recipes, then pectin may not be the best choice.
Fortunately, it follows the same rule of thumb as agar agar, which means you will only need to use a 3:1 ratio when making your delicious treats.
3. Xanthan Gum
The next substitute on our list is a relative newcomer to the culinary world, which means it can be very difficult to find at your local store.
However, this does not mean that it should be overlooked, as it remains one of the best thickening agents currently available on the market. Made from fermented bacteria, xanthan gum can be used in a range of delicious dishes and comes with similar thickening properties as agar agar.
When using this substance, you will need to use a 1:1 ratio, as this will produce the best results for you and your finished product. The only downside to using xanthan gum is that it can be very expensive, although this can sometimes be worth it due to its accessible nature and long shelf life.
4. Guar Gum
Guar gum is a natural thickening agent that is commonly derived from guar beans, which makes it gluten-free and an ideal substitute for agar agar.
Because of its versatile nature, the product is primarily used as an alternative to wheat flour, although this does not mean it is limited to certain dishes, as it can be used in a variety of different bakes.
Beyond this, the product is considered a nutritious and healthy substance, which means it is suitable for health enthusiasts and dietary restrictions.
Guar gum can commonly be used when making pizza dough, cakes, muffins and other baked goods. However, when using guar gum, it is important to use the correct measurements, as too much of the ingredient could ruin the final product.
For the best results, we recommend only using half a tablespoon per cup, especially when using it as a substitute in complex recipes.
Another popular substitute for agar agar is carrageenan, which is another plant-based product. Unlike agar agar, carrageenan is a polysaccharide, which means it can commonly be found in desserts, beer, soy milk and a selection of processed meats.
However, carrageenan provides no nutritional value and comes with no discernible flavor, so it can be used as a thickening agent as well as a stabilizer. For this reason, you can use carrageenan as a substitute for agar agar without running into any problems.
For the final substitute on our list, we have chosen another classic ingredient found in kitchens across the world. Capable of being used in a variety of different dishes, cornstarch can be used as an effective alternative to agar agar, as the flavorless substance exhibits similar properties and is capable of thickening various mixtures.
These days, cornstarch is commonly used as an anti-cake agent, with the product also being found in cookies and an array of desserts. In most cases, cornstarch can be used to provide a tenderness to an otherwise unsatisfying dish, making it the perfect ingredient for home cooks.
When it comes to using cornstarch, we recommend that you substitute the agar agar with one tablespoon, which equals a ratio of 1:1.
If you are interested in using these substitutes in your cooking, then we recommend that you start by using a 1:1 or 2:1 ratio when combining your ingredients.
You will also have to make sure that the consistency of the mixture is correct, as adding too much substitute could have a profound impact on the final product.
If you notice that the consistency is lacking, then you will need to add more substitute until it reaches the desired texture. When baking with these products, it is always important to remember that you can always add more ingredient but not take it away.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is The Best Substitute For Gelatin and Agar Agar?
If you are unable to use gelatin or agar agar, then the best choice would be carrageenan, as this is a vegetable-based product that works perfectly with any agar agar recipes. Like agar agar, carrageenan is derived from seaweed and is able to produce similar if not identical results.
How Long Is The Shelf Life On Agar Agar?
In most cases, agar agar will last for up to eight months. However, it is recommended that you prepare for several days and count three days max for each one.
What Is Agar Agar Made From?
As we previously mentioned, agar agar is a natural product that has been derived for seaweed, in particular red algae gelidium and gracilaria.