Agar Agar is the mainstay for certain Asian recipes and is much in demand as a vegan gelatin replacement. Keeping up with its unique properties can be difficult when you want or need an agar agar substitute.
The options listed here should make that job a little easier.
Derived from seaweed or similar plants, agar is usually sold in powder or flake form. And though it’s useful for many recipes, it’s still a niche product that may not be available easily. At some places, it may be available at a huge premium beyond its price.
If you are in a situation like that, try the following options to see if a substitute fits!
Top Agar Agar Substitutes And Cooking Options
Agar powder finds use in many recipes as a replacement for the animal-sourced gelatin. If you don’t have qualms about using gelatin, you’ll find that it’s an amazing option. Compared to agar agar, gelatin is easier to source and mix. It’s also colorless and odorless, so it won’t have any adverse effects on the recipe.
Replacement will require using more gelatin. For most recipes, use three parts gelatin to replace one part agar agar.
2. Xanthan Gum
Xanthan Gum is perhaps the most viable vegan alternative to agar powder. This gluten-free product is generally used as a thickener or stabilizer for recipes. In most recipes, it won’t harden and bind the food as agar does. However, it will get thicker and hold things together, thus providing fairly decent results.
Its manufacture involves the bacterial fermentation of sugar. Xanthan gum is a relatively newer product and tends to be sparsely available and somewhat expensive. But don’t let that discourage you – this is a pretty good choice for your food!
While not the most impressive substitute, cornstarch will come in handy in a pinch. Much like agar, it adds thickness to a mix, so it can provide some decent results. It doesn’t have much of a taste or flavor, but it can add texture to your recipe. So, use it with some caution.
When using cornstarch, make a paste with cold water as using warm liquids can cause clumping. Use twice the water as the amount of cornstarch for making the paste.
To substitute for agar powder, add an equal amount of cornstarch.
4. Pectin Powder
Sourced from berries and citrus fruits, pectin powder is an excellent vegan alternative to agar agar. Pectin is a fiber that makes cell walls in these fruits. It’s often considered an excellent thickener for jams and jellies. Pectin provides structure and adds to the texture.
Pectin doesn’t offer much by way of nutrition, though it has some sugar content. For most recipes, this won’t be a problem as the little extra sugar content won’t matter much. However, this property makes Pectin unsuitable for use in savory recipes. You could still give it a try, but adjustments will be necessary to mask or control the sugar content.
When using it as a substitute, use thrice the amount of pectin as compared to agar powder.
5. Guar Gum
The nutritious and healthy guar gum can work as a decent alternative to agar agar. This gum is extracted from guar beans and it is gluten-free. It’s a decent option for several recipes.
What throws a wrench into the plans of using this seemingly good substitute is its taste. Guar gum is odorless, but it has a slightly bitter taste. Use it only in recipes that call for a small amount.
Here’s another plant-based replacement for agar powder. Carrageenan is tasteless, odorless, and flavorless. It’s also without any notable nutrition. It works well as a thickening agent and a stabilizer. In most recipes, it can substitute agar agar without any problems.
7. Tapioca Flour
Tapioca flour, also called tapioca starch, is an acceptable substitute for agar powder or flakes. It works in the same way as cornstarch. That is, it’s a good thickening agent and will hold the food together well enough. It’s best suited for gravies and baked recipes.
8. Arrowroot Powder
Arrowroot powder is a gluten-free and grain-free starch. Extracted from the arrowroot plant, this starch works pretty much the same as the other starch-based options listed above. You can use it the same way you would use cornstarch or tapioca flour.
9. Cassava Flour
Cassava is a recent addition on the road to popularity and it’s traveling that road fast! There are plenty of uses for cassava, including as an agar substitute. It works pretty much the same as arrowroot, tapioca, and cornstarch. It’s an excellent thickening agent and doesn’t mess much with the overall flavor and taste of a recipe.
Replace agar agar with cassava flour in equal amounts. For example, if your recipe calls for a spoon of agar powder, use a spoon of cassava for replacement.
What Is Agar Agar Made Of?
Agar is generally made from seaweeds. More specifically, it comes from the red algae Gelidium and Gracilaria (division Rhodophyta). Upon extraction, agar is translucent and amorphous. When sold to the customer, agar is usually available in the form of powder or flakes. Translucent bricks made from agar agar are also available, though they are somewhat rarer.
Do You Need To Boil Agar Agar?
Yes, it is important to boil agar agar before use. You’ll need to keep it around the boiling temperature of water 185-195 °F (85-90°C). Stir it constantly, so that it doesn’t stick at the bottom of the pan. Once it dissolves, prepare to stop heating. Boiling agar for too long after this can affect its gelling ability.
Is Gulaman Agar Agar?
In a way yes, though it’s not always true. Gulaman is the Filipino culinary use of agar. In culinary use, this can actually mean agar powder, though in some cases it may also refer to carrageenan extracted from other seaweeds or plants. In most cases, you won’t be wrong in considering gulaman the same as agar agar.
Is Agar Easy To Substitute?
Finding an agar agar substitute can be tougher than it sounds. Many of the suitable substitutes for agar powder or agar flakes aren’t as easily available. For example, xanthan gum or carrageenan can be fairly tough to find.
Gelatin is easily available and an excellent replacement for agar, it too poses challenges. Gelatin is derived from meat while agar is derived from plants. This makes gelatin an unfavorable option for those looking for vegan-friendly ingredients.