Carrageenans, depending on the type, produce a wide range of gelling and thickening effects. Kappa and iota carrageenans will form thermally-reversible gels with potassium and calcium salts, respectively. Proteins, such as milk, soy and others will also affect the gel structure. Kappa and iota carrageenans are not cold soluble and require heat to completely hydrate. Kappa carrageenans are synergistic with a variety of other gums such as locust bean and tara and combinations of these gums form stronger gels with less syneresis. Kappa-2 carrageenans are predominantly used for milk gelling and thickening and require heat for complete solubility. Lambda carrageenans are soluble in cold water and are generally non-gelling.
Carrageenan in milk systems provides gelation (flans and puddings), thickening and suspension (chocolate milk and other flavored milks), and emulsion stability (evaporated milk and infant formulas). Carrageenans provide suspension and body to soy-based beverages. They are also effective in preventing mix separation in frozen desserts.
In processed meat and poultry applications, carrageenan provides water binding and texture enhancement. Major applications include deli meats, rotisserie chicken, fajita strips and whole smoked turkeys.