Agar Agar. What is it? Widely used in Asia and in Japan for over 450 years, it is the vegetarian, natural sea vegetable version of gelatin. Flavorless, calorie-free and odorless, it has been known as “the medicine to smoothen stomach conditions” and aid in digestion. It is sold in the form of blocks, powder, flakes or brittle strands. Available at Asian markets, natural food stores and Whole Foods. It can be substituted for gelatin but has stronger setting properties (about 5x more)….so less of it is required. Unlike gelatin, Agar will set at room temp.
It contains no sugar, no fat and no carbohydrates. It is high in dietary fiber, protein and also contains an array of minerals and is rich in iodine from seaweed. It has mildly laxative properties. It is used as a thickening agent for custards, puddings, soups and sauces.
Some ingredients do not set with it, depending on the acidic / alkaline state of the add-in: Pineapple, figs, papaya, mango, peaches contain enzymes which break down the gelling ability.
How do you use Agar? First soak it in liquid for 5-10 minutes. I use 2 tbsp of Agar flakes to 3 cups of liquid: (half/almond milk or coconut milk with half water). It then needs to be brought to boil and simmered for a minute. I pour it into a bowl and let it set at room temp without refrigeration. If you want it firmer, you can add more agar; less firm, add more liquid.
For a virtually calorie-free, quite filling and super-delicious chocolate pudding, I add 2 tbsp of Cacao Powder, a few shakes of Cinnamon, Stevia and a sprinkle of fleur de sel. Give that a whirl in the Vitamix and you have a super delicious, almost-calorie-free (remember, agar has no calories, so the only calories in this are from the cacao, cinnamon, , almond milk) chocolate pudding:
Swear. And in the blink of an eye, that full cup of deliciousness turns into this…
You can easily use many different add-ins here for puddings or thick shakes:
- pumpkin, pumpkin spice
- sub coffee for some of the almond milk to make it a “mocha”
- strawberries, blueberries, raspberries
- pureed fruit or jar of baby food for a pie filling
oatmeal or millet
coconut or any nut butters
Have fun with it! Here are some other great uses for this fun sea vegetable:
Basic Agar Pudding tutorial by Katie at Chocolate-Covered-Katie
Sweet Cinnamon Panna Cotta by Jennifer & Jaclyn at Sketch-Free Vegan Eating
Dairy-Free Red Quinoa and Broccoli Quiche by Heather at Yum Universe