Xanthan gum is a widely-used food additive found in a wide range of food and beverage products. This thickening, stabilizing, emulsion, and suspension agent is produced by fermenting simple sugars with the bacterium strain, Xanthomonas campestris.
In order to make gluten-free baked goods taste, look, and feel like their traditional counterparts, you often need to add a binding agent to the dough. In traditional flours, gluten is a natural binder that allows dough to stretch, roll, bend, and be shaped.
When used in gluten-free baking, xanthan gum provides elasticity and stickiness to doughs and batters. Without the use of xanthan gum as a binder, your cakes, breads, and crusts can crumble.
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Xanthan gum increases a liquid’s viscosity, meaning it is a “thickener.” It’s a great choice for thickening liquids to make them into flavorful sauces. You can use xanthan gum for everything from the minor thickening of gravy to creating very thick syrups. Sauces thickened this way take on a texture similar to reduced liquid or fatty sauces. It increases flavor and clinginess, which helps the liquids to stick to food.
Gelatin is a food derived from collagen and is a common gelling agent used in food. It can also be used as a stabilizer, thickener, and texturizer. Anyone following a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle might wish to avoid gelatin and gelatin-containing products. In many instances, xanthan gum can replace gelatin to stabilize and thicken recipes.
Stable Salad Dressing
While xanthan gum is not an emulsifier, it does help to prevent oil separation by stabilizing emulsions. It’s a common ingredient in salad dressings for this reason. While under normal circumstances oil and vinegar would naturally separate, xanthan gum prevents this separation. It also helps keep the spices and seasonings remain suspended.
Smoother Ice Cream
Small amounts of xanthan gum can be used in ice cream to produce a smoother, creamier texture by preventing the formation of ice crystals. This helps the ice cream taste richer and high in fat without the use of heavy cream. This makes xanthan gum a great addition to ice creams made from non-dairy milk, including soy, almond, or coconut milk. Xanthan gum helps make the consistency of vegan ice cream more like its traditional counterpart.