What is Xanthan Gum?

What is Xanthan Gum?  What exactly is this très-faux sounding ingredient that we see on lots of labels?  Especially gluten-free and vegan products?

In the most simplest words: it is a thickening agent commonly used as a replacement for gluten in many gluten free recipes.  It is a carbohydrate ( microbial polysaccharide ) created through fermentation.  It’s derived from the bacterium Xanthomonas campestris, where it gets its name. The bacteria is added to a sugar (from a soy, wheat, dairy or corn source) to create a gum, which works as a tasteless, colorless thickener, stabilizer and emulsifier in foods such as salad dressings, ice creams, toothpastes, medicines and cosmetics.

It is widely used for cooking and baking for people with food allergies and restrictions….esp for those who are omitting gluten, dairy, eggs or soy from their diet.  For baking, the gum is used to replace gluten for that “gluten-y” quality.

It’s an alternate way to thicken and stabilize non-dairy sauces, soups, smoothies and ice creams, used in lieu of cornstarch or guar gum.

I bought a bag of Bob’s Red Mill at WF a while back because one of my vegan, gluten-free baking books, Babycakes, uses it in just about every recipe.  One 8oz bag will last a long, long time,  as you need *very* little of it. I picked this because it was dairy free, also certified Gluten-free, and made from a combination of non-GMO (very important to me) corn and soy sugars.

While I have not made anything from Babycakes yet, I did use it for this non-oil salad dressing which I adapted from Donna Gates’ Body Ecology.  She has it listed as an “italian dressing”, but the first time I made this I didnt have any parsley – only had cilantro –so decided to roll w/ that and sub a few of the add-ins….was amazingly delicious, so I stuck with it!  Believe me – you won’t miss the oil. xo

no-oil salad dressing
1/4 cup organic apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup water
1 tbsp garlic
1 tbsp chopped onion
1 tbsp chopped red pepper
1 tbsp mustard w/ apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
1 tsp sea salt
fresh ground black pepper
3/4 tsp coriandar
1/2 tsp xanthan gum

Blend all ingredients except xanthan gum in blender.  Add the xanthan gum, blend and refrigerate over night.



4 thoughts on “What is Xanthan Gum?

  1. Thanks for the explanation (and the yummy sounding recipe!) – I bought Xanthum Gum a few weeks ago for another recipe and honestly hadn’t looked up what it was. Now that I know, it will make it easier to use up that jar I have sitting in the pantry!

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