What are the alternatives to xanthan gum or guar gum?

Xanthan gum and guar gum are used as elasticisers/binding agents in wheat free & gluten free baking. However, not everyone wishes to use these, or cannot tolerate them, so what alternatives exist?

Agar agar

Derived from a sea vegetable, agar is tasteless and odourless. It comes in bars, flakes, powder or threads. Agar provides a firmer set than gelatine, which makes it perfect for things like fruit aspics and jello. We also have a food fact page on Agar.


Carrageenan is derived from edible seaweed. It has been used in foods for hundreds of years, and can replace gelatine in most recipes.

Chia seeds

Chia has been cultivated for hundreds of years and is regarded as a "superfood". Add liquid to chia seeds, leave to stand for a few minutes, and you will have a chia gel. It is highly prized for its energy boosting properties, most notably among the Native American Tarahumara of Mexico, who are renowned ultra-runners. Can be used to set jams and jellies, as well as adding to pretty much any other recipes, or eaten raw.


Expandex® is a modified tapioca starch that enhances the texture and appearance of baking. It enhances the texture and appearance of baked products with its gluten-like action similar to wheat.

Flax seeds

Flax seeds can be ground up, mixed with water, then left to stand to make a flax gel, which also doubles as a very successful egg replacer. It doesn't impart the sort of elaticiser properties that other elasticiser alternatives do, therefore it's more useful in replacing eggs in a recipe. You can also make a homemade hair gel from it.


Gelatine is derived from animal by-products. It can be found in foods, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals. Available as sheets, granules or powder it requires soaking before use. Used in foods as a gelling agent or clarifier.

Gum arabic

Gum arabic, also known as acacia gum, is a natural edible gum from the acacia tree. Used in the food industry as a stabilser it can be used for thickening and setting recipes, including gelato, candy and syrups.

Konjac root powder

Comes from a plant grown in Asia and is normally processed into powder/flour or jelly. It can be used as a thickener or substitute for gelatine. A very high fibre product it is also used in weightloss products, as an appetite suppressant, or for constipation relief. However, because it can pose a choking risk, due to it's very firm, non-melting nature, it should always be used with caution.

Locust bean gum

Is also known as carob bean gum, and is a vegetable derived gum from seeds of the carob tree (not locusts!). It works as an edible thickening agent in foods, as well as in cosmetics. Soluble in hot water.

Psyllium fibre

Mainly used for relieving bowel related issues such as constipation, psyllium fibre can also be used in gluten free baking to bind moisture into the recipe to make it less crumbly. For baking uses whole husks or powder can be mixed with water or other fluid. Note that using too much can have not neccessarily desirable laxative effects.

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Last updated: 05/30/2014