Best Substitutes for Xanthan Gum

Xanthan gum

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Food manufacturers in the United States have been using xanthan gum to thicken sauces and salad dressings for more than 40 years. More recently, xanthan gum has become popular among home bakers following a gluten-free diet. 

This food additive thickens and stabilizes sauces and dressings, and strengthens gluten-free doughs and batters. Because xanthan gum is not a common ingredient, you may not have it in your pantry you may be wondering if there are any substitutes for this unique product. Fortunately, if you need a good substitute for xanthan gum, you have a lot of options. 

About Xanthan Gum

Xanthan gum is a food substitute made through the fermentation of carbohydrates, usually glucose or sucrose. During fermentation, a bacteria breaks down the carbohydrates creating a high-molecular-weight polysaccharide that has the ability to disperse itself in water — a substance known as a hydrocolloid — to thicken and stabilize sauces, dressings, and ice cream. 

In addition to thickening liquids, food manufacturers use xanthan gum in baked goods as a substitute for eggs. Xanthan gum improves the texture of these goods and extends shelf-life. 

When the gluten-free diet became the go-to diet for weight loss, brain fog, joint pain, and a number of other maladies, the demand for gluten-free items increased dramatically. Food manufacturers started using xanthan gum to create gluten-free baked goods like bread, pizza dough, and cake. 

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley that keeps doughs stable and elastic. Xanthan gum has a similar effect and is a popular substitute for creating the right texture in baked goods without gluten. 

Though people with celiac disease and gluten-sensitivity need to cut all gluten-containing foods from their diet, the gluten-free diet isn’t right for everyone.

Xanthan Gum Nutrition Facts

Nutrition information for 1 tablespoon (9 grams) of xanthan gum comes from the USDA.

  • Calories: 30
  • Fat: 0
  • Sodium: 350mg
  • Carbohydrates: 7g
  • Fiber: 0
  • Sugars: 0
  • Protein: 0.999g
  • Calcium: 5.04mg
  • Potassium: 29mg


Xanthan gum is most often manufactured as a sodium, calcium, or potassium salt, which is why it contains these minerals. Although the food additive is not a significant source of calcium or potassium, it meets 15% of the daily value for sodium. 

Who Needs a Xanthan Gum Substitute?

There are many suitable reasons why you might need a xanthan gum substitute. Maybe you are in the middle of baking a gluten-free cake and forgot to restock your xanthan gum. Or, perhaps your grocery store is out of stock.

You may also be searching for a xanthan gum substitute if you have concerns about allergies or intolerances to the food additive. Though generally recognized as safe (GRAS), xanthan gum may cause gastrointestinal symptoms like gas, bloating, or diarrhea.

Though you can develop an allergy to anything, xanthan gum isn’t a common food allergy. You may also need a xanthan gum substitute if you’re following a keto diet. With 7 grams of carbs per tablespoon, the food additive may up the carbs in your baked goods and kick you out of ketosis. 

Best Substitutes for Xanthan Gum

For gluten-free baking, xanthan gum is almost a necessity. But there are other options you can use in place of xanthan gum if you’re all out or you’re unable to use the food additive because of an intolerance or special diet.

Cornstarch

You may not have xanthan gum in your kitchen cupboard, but you might have cornstarch. Like xanthan gum, cornstarch makes a great thickening agent for sauces, gravies, and stews. Nutritionally, compared to xanthan gum, cornstarch has about the same amount of calories and carbs, but no sodium.

Not all brands of cornstarch are gluten-free, so be sure to check the label if you are following a gluten-free diet. Additionally, while you can replace the same amount of cornstarch for xanthan gum in your gravy and stew, it is not a good substitute for your baked goods. 

Guar Gum

Guar gum is a natural substance made from the guar plant. Manufacturers use guar gum to thicken and stabilize foods, including baked goods, dairy products, and sauces. It is also a popular ingredient in gluten-free baking and makes a good substitute for xanthan gum.

Guar gum has about the same amount of calories as xanthan gum but is higher in carbohydrates. However, all the carbs in this food additive come from fiber. 

Like cornstarch, guar gum works best for thickening sauces, as well as jellies. However, this food additive also works when making gluten-free goodies. 

The amount of guar gum you need depends on what you are baking. Generally, the amount of guar gum you need ranges from 1/4 to 1 teaspoon of guar gum per 1 cup of gluten-free flour. 

Egg Whites

If you are out of xanthan gum, you may use egg whites in place of the food additive. Egg whites help bind your ingredients together, creating stability.

Eggs also are gluten-free but are not a suitable substitute if you have an allergy to eggs. They do, however, work well with a keto diet. Use one egg white for every 1 tablespoon of xanthan gum.

Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are all-natural, gluten-free, and high in fiber. When combined with water, chia seeds create a type of gel, similar to how xanthan gum gels in a liquid.

For your xanthan gum substitute, soak 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 2 tablespoons of hot water for 10 to 15 minutes. Then use the same amount of soaked chia seeds as the xanthan gum in your baked goods. If your recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of xanthan gum, add 1 tablespoon of your chia seed gel. 

You can expect a crunchier texture and nuttier flavor when using chia seeds in place of xanthan gum. But the nutrient-rich chia seed works well with many special diets, including the gluten-free and keto diet.

A Word From Verywell

As more and more people go gluten-free, the popularity of xanthan gum has increased. For this reason, it is important to know how to find substitutes when you run out or when your local grocery store does not have it in stock.

Fortunately, there are a number of nutritious alternatives to xanthan gum including chia seeds and egg whites. Plus, guar gum and cornstarch make suitable replacements as well. Just keep in mind that some substitutes may not work well in baked goods. You may have to experiment somewhat with different substitutes to come up with just the right combination for your recipe.

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9 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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