Have you ever thought what is making jellies, jams and chewable candies so special? Well, it is the gelatin that gives them the hearty color, flavor and consistency. Does that mean vegans have to bid farewell to jellies, jams and all kinds of foods that have gelatin as their key ingredient? No. Vegans can still enjoy all those foods but this time made with plant-based gelatin substitutes.
In this article, we discuss in detail about the popular plant-based substitutes for gelatin.
Why Isn’t Gelatin Vegan?
Gelatin is a non-vegan ingredient that is obtained from the skin, bones and ligaments of animals. It is a colorless, odorless and almost tasteless substance. Gelatin is generally used as a thickener, gelling agent and stabilizer in cooking and many food products like gummies, marshmallows, jelly beans, dessert products and jello come with gelatin.
What Are The Common Plant-Based Substitutes For Gelatin?
Here are some of the common plant-based substitutes for gelatin suitable for vegans.
Agar-agar, also known as agar is a mix of carbohydrates obtained from red sea algae, which is a type of seaweed. The substance comes in the form of bars, flakes and powder and has no characteristic flavor, color or odor.
As a rule of thumb, you can use agar-agar in place of gelatin in equal amounts. However, while using the agar flakes or bars, you cannot stick to the 1:1 ratio because the agar powder is more powerful than flakes or bars. As per the experts, one teaspoon of agar powder is as powerful as one tablespoon of agar flakes. If you want to make one cup of liquid, you can use one teaspoon agar powder, one tablespoon agar flakes or half an agar bar.
Heat is necessary for dissolving agar-agar. For best results, the agar has to be dissolved completely and blending would be required. On adding agar-agar to the recipe, it will take an hour or so to set without any refrigeration.
Vegetable gums like xanthan gum, locust bean gum and guar gum are commonly used in gluten-free baked foods and ice creams. Xanthan gum can also be used as a thickener in smoothies and different sauces. Some people may avoid it because it is derived from corn or some may have difficulty digesting the xanthan gum. Xanthan gum is made by fermenting the glucose, lactose or sucrose from corn or soybeans. Guar gum is easier to digest than xanthan gum.
You need to add only a small quantity of vegetable gum to recipes. You just need to add between 1/8 to 1 teaspoon xanthan or guar gum to the recipes and adding too much will cause the formation of clumps. Mix the gum with dry and not wet ingredients in the recipe.
You can also buy other vegetable gums from the market some of which may tell you to use about half quantity more than the amount of gelatin that you would use. Make sure to follow the instructions given on the package of the product carefully to make the perfect recipe.
Pectin is made using the skin and rinds of fruits. The fruit skin and rinds are boiled, filtered and dehydrated to form a soft gel. As pectin is obtained from fruit sources, they are commonly used as a thickener in jams, marmalades and jellies.
For it to gel properly, pectin requires sugar. About 5 cups of sugar are required per package if the pectin is in powdered form and if it is in liquid form, then 3-4 cups will do. It also needs some acid like that from lemon juice.
Carrageenan is a type of dried seaweed that is used in place of gelatin. It is also called Irish moss and is a flavorless substance that can set foods but it has lesser rigidity than gelatin. It is used in various foods including jellies, ice creams, puddings, soups and mousses. It is also a popular ingredient of many plant-based milks and cheeses. One ounce carrageenan can be used to set one cup of liquid.
There have been some controversies surrounding carrageenan because some people have reported that it causes gastrointestinal issues and other health issues. However, the FDA suggests that carrageenan is acceptable for consumption.
Arrowroot is a powder that is made of starches obtained from tropical tuber plants. It is a white, flavorless powder and is used as a thickener in a different types of sauces and soups. It cannot be used with acids or cooked at high temperatures.
It is gluten-free, has a neutral flavor and gives a glossy finish to foods. With the best plant-based gelatin substitutes, you can enjoy the foods like jellies, desserts, gummies, sauces and soups without any worries.