A guide to gluten free – what the heck is Xanthan Gum?

Updated: Oct 10, 2019

GLUTEN FREE PRODUCTS ARE EVERYWHERE and they are either freaking confusing, strange or.. drumroll…EXPENSIVE!!

Lets go back a couple of years, before I had to start living a gluten free life. If we had spoken about what was gluten free and what wasn’t, to be quite honest I wouldn’t have had a clue. Boy oh boy how that’s changed.

Lets talk about Xanthan Gum. One of those products that helps us gluten free kids out in the kitchen.

So, what is it?

In short, it’s a food additive that you can find in all sorts – it will even crop up in non-gluten free food.

It’s made from a bacterium. Glucose, sucrose or lactose is fermented and then some scientific stuff is added to it and ta da – it becomes the powder we know as Xanthan Gum.

For more info, head to Wikipedia.

What the heck does it do?

You know how food filled with delicious gluten has a certain texture? And stretch? How it binds in a certain way? For example, you’re rolling out dough and when it’s made from normal flour, it rolls, blends, and shapes really easily? Yeah, gluten free dough doesn’t do that. That’s where Xanthan Gum comes in.

ALSO – It helps hold moisture in whatever you are baking, as well as working a thickening agent in some cooking too.

What can I use it in?

Turns out, you can chuck it in a lot more than you’d think! I used to think it was just for baking and that’s predominantly what I use it in, but as I already mentioned you can also throw it into sauces as it works as a thickening agent (try not to use too much as you may end up with glue – it’s pretty strong stuff) I also hear it’s even used in things like ice-cream and I am definitely tempted to give this a go.

Where can I get it from?

I have yet to spot in in supermarkets, but I am as blind as a bat so don’t take my word for it. I have also searched Countdowns online shopping and couldn’t find anything. I get mine from Piko Wholefoods in Christchurch.

You can also get it from here and here.

Do I really need it? It’s expensive!?

No, you don’t. You can live without it, but you’ll notice in some baking and cooking that you won’t achieve the same result as you would if you added it. Keep in mind your baking might dry out WAYYYY faster without it, or it might be crumbly. Experiment, you’ll see what I mean.

Does it have any alternatives?

Why, I am glad you asked – yes, it does. I haven’t personally tried these alternatives, but apparently these are just as effective (and I am happy to trial them if you want me to.)

Are there any other weird/unusual/general items you want to know more info about? Let me know. I probably know something about them, or I know someone who does!