Most cooks are familiar with gelatin- the stuff that makes Jello gel. You can find it in virtually every market, usually as Knox brand gelatin.
Gelatin is sometimes used in gluten-free recipes to bind and thicken batters and dough. Used in gluten-free pizza crust recipes gelatin makes the dough more pliable and easier to shape without cracking.
Gelatin is processed from animal bone, hooves and connective tissue. It’s not suitable for vegan diets.
Agar agar is a flavorless vegan alternative to gelatin. It is used in processed foods to gel, thicken, texturize and stabilize confectioneries, dairy products, baked goods, sauces and dressings, meat products and even beverages.
Agar agar is processed from red algae into sheets, flakes and powder. The powder and flake forms are easy to work with and are high in proteins and fiber.
Use 1 tablespoon agar flakes to thicken 1 cup of liquid. Use 1 teaspoon agar powder to thicken 1 cup of liquid. Follow directions on product packaging for use.
Tips for Cooking with Gelatin and Agar Agar
- Add to dry ingredients and whisk to combine.
- If you are a vegan, use agar agar when a recipe calls for gelatin.
- Gelatin and agar agar can make gluten-free breads soggy. Be sure to measure carefully when using these gelling agents and don’t use more than a recipe calls for.
Author Information: Teri Gruss, MS
About.com Guide to Gluten-Free Cooking
Teri was diagnosed with gluten intolerance after decades of symptoms that culminated in malabsorption syndrome. Teri has written numerous health and nutrition articles for the popular website naturalnews.com and was a founding member and moderator of nutritioncircle.org, a nutrition forum for healthcare professionals and students. She is a member of the American Dietetic Association and supports the non-profit organization Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) of North America as a member.
Email Teri Gruss, MS here.