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Xanthan Gum or Guar Gum?

If you’ve ever tried your hand at gluten-free baking, you know that a big problem is getting your baked goods to stick together!  In traditional wheat-based recipes, the gluten (which, coincidentally comes from the Latin word for “glue”) is responsible for this all-important job.  Of course, this presents a slight problem for all of us gluten-free bakers out there!  In some recipes you can get away with just adding eggs or milk, assuming those are allowed in your diet.  Unfortunately, that can also change the whole nature of the recipe you are trying to replicate!

Luckily, there are a couple solutions for this sticky situation.  Xanthan gum and guar gum are both useful in gluten-free cooking for emulsifying, binding, and thickening.  But how do you know which one to use?

Guar Xanthan

First of all, evaluate your other food sensitivities.  If you’re sensitive to corn, steer clear of xanthan gum—it is made by fermenting corn sugar.  If you can’t handle legumes, guar gum won’t work for you—it comes from a plant similar to a bean stalk, known as the Indian tree.  Guar gum is also quite high in soluble fiber, so may not be the best choice if you’re on a low-fiber diet plan.  Unfortunately, if you’re sensitive to both corn and legumes, you will have to resort to other binding methods, but that’s a topic for another post.

Now let’s talk logistics.  It would be totally awesome if we could just throw in some of our chosen gum and have it work exactly like wheat gluten.  But that would just be too easy, wouldn’t it!  Baking is no fun if there’s no challenge (and probably a little bit of frustration) involved.  Both types of gum are somewhat fickle and need to be measured exactly or you could end up with some undesired side effects.  For xanthan gum, this means gummy, thick, or even soggy baked goods. With guar, this means bulky and stringy goods.  So, no matter which you choose, remember the cardinal rule: measure, check, and triple-check!

Ok, so we’ve talked allergies and logistics, but what about cost?  While xanthan gum is generally easier to come by (it is available in the natural aisle in many supermarkets), it can cost upwards of three times as much as guar gum.  For occasional use this isn’t too big of a deal, but when you’re cooking for a family it’s definitely worth the effort to seek out a guar gum supplier.  You can even buy from amazon.com and have it delivered straight to your door!

Ultimately, there isn’t a cut-and-dried answer as to which gum is better for gluten-free baking.  We prefer guar gum, mostly because that it what we have the most experience working with.  Plus, the significantly lower cost doesn’t hurt either.  In the end, the decision is up to you based on other food sensitivities, availability, and cost.  If you’re using a recipe that has already been converted to gluten-free, try to use the same gum that is recommended in the recipe.  If you’re converting yourself, here is a quick list of pros and cons to help you make an informed decision:

 

Xanthan Gum

Guar Gum

Pros:
  • Easy to acquire in “regular” supermarkets
  •  Cheaper than xanthan gum
Cons:
  • Contains corn
  •  May need to order online
 
  • More expensive than guar gum
  •  Contains legumes

Basic Tips for Using Xanthan Gum and Guar Gum in Gluten-Free Baking

  • Bread-based recipes: Add 1 teaspoon gum per cup of gluten-free flour.
  • Cake and muffin recipes: Add 1/2 teaspoon gum per one cup of gluten-free flour.
  • Cookie and bar recipes: Add no more than 1/2 teaspoon gum per one cup of gluten-free flour.

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3 comments on “Xanthan Gum or Guar Gum?

  1. You continually amaze me with the amount of content you turn out without sacrificing quality!

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