You never know when you get a no-bake cheesecake craving or the desire to make coconut milk pudding. It’s best to keep your pantry well-stocked with agar powder or a good agar agar substitute. Here are a few of them.
Agar agar powder is a gluten-free, plant-based thickening or stabilizing agent from red algae seaweed.
Aside from agar agar powder, you can get agar flakes, strands, sheets, or bars.
If you’ve never heard of agar powder, it’s one of the most common substitutes for vegan gelatin because it’s flavorless and has a chewy texture.
It has an opaque color, and it’s versatile in hot and cold dishes.
Although it’s in powder form, you mix it with water, boil it, and cool it. The result will produce a gel that stabilizes, thickens, and texturizes sauces, beverages, dressings, meat products, dairy products, baked goods, and more.
You can buy agar agar powder at many stores in the baking aisle, Asian supermarkets, health food stores, or any online grocery selling vegan or Asian food ingredients.
Agar agar is typically used in making jellies and any dessert that requires setting, such as mousses, puddings, cheesecakes, and ice creams.
Others use it to make icing, glaze, and various types of confectionaries.
It’s also a thickening agent in jams and other processed products like pre-packed soups, custard, and bakery fillings.
You can also use agar agar to make savory recipes that usually require soup dumplings.
Agar agar powder is common in making gluten-free bread, cakes, gravies, sauces, and soups.
In Japan, agar agar is an essential ingredient in making anmitsu, a dessert made of small agar jelly cubes, fruits, and mochi, a Japanese ice cream.
You won’t always have a full pantry or the time to go to the grocery.
Sometimes, you’ll cook for people who are allergic to certain ingredients or who can’t eat anything that’s not gluten-free or vegan-friendly.
You’ll need to be creative and think fast on your feet. When you’re right in the middle of cooking, the best thing you can do is look for a suitable substitute.
The great thing about ingredients in a recipe is that there are plenty of substitutes if you ever run out or if agar agar can’t be part of your diet.
Just remember to find the best replacement so your dish won’t significantly change in taste, appearance, and smell.
Moreover, get the accurate substituting ratio so you don’t use too little or too much and compromise your dish.
If you need an excellent agar agar substitute, here are some you can choose from that will still make a unique and tasty dish.
Apart from being a cornstarch substitute, arrowroot powder makes an excellent agar agar substitute because of its stabilizer and thickener properties.
You can find arrowroot powder at any Asian grocery or health food store.
It’s also known as arrowroot flour or starch, so you can try looking for that instead.
Use this agar agar substitute for gluten and grain-free, vegan, or paleo-friendly recipes. Try it on desserts or pan-fried chicken, pork, beef, seafood, and eggs.
Arrowroot powder is the best agar substitute if the recipe needs to achieve a particular color or shine. That’s because it doesn’t cloud or change the color of the dish.
In addition, it’s an excellent thickener for fruit fillings and jellies because you can mix it with acidic ingredients.
You can directly add arrowroot powder to your recipe. But add it last, just before the dish is cooked. Keep the heat at low temperatures as well.
Use two tablespoons of arrowroot powder for one tablespoon of agar agar powder.
Although arrowroot powder works well as an ice cream ingredient, avoid using it with dairy products as it can make it slimy.
If you don’t have agar powder and don’t necessarily need a vegan gelatin substitute, try unflavored gelatin made from animal collagen.
It’s one of the most accessible agar agar substitutes in powder form.
Moreover, unflavored gelatin powder has no flavor or color, so it won’t affect dishes that need a stabilizer, binder, or thickener, such as sauces, soups, and desserts.
You may have to use more unflavored gelatin as an agar powder substitute, depending on what the recipe calls for.
Use a 3:1 ratio, or check the packaging for how much you should use.
Let the unflavored gelatin powder mixture cool before adding it to your dish, but not too cool that it sets completely.
Before heading to the store to buy agar powder, check if you have cornstarch, a good substitute for agar agar powder.
Because it’s very starchy, this white powder quickly thickens gravies, sauces, marinades, and glazes and is also suitable for casseroles, pies, soups, and desserts.
It’s also gluten-free because cornstarch comes from corn grains.
If you opt for this agar agar substitute, mix it in some liquid first and then add it to your recipe’s wet ingredients.
Use two tablespoons of cornstarch to substitute a tablespoon of agar flakes.
You can use a 1:1 ratio if substituting agar powder.
Pectin powder is another vegetarian substitute for agar agar.
It comes from citrus peel and apple pomace that’s left after you make fruit juice.
It goes through a drying process and is put in hot water to dissolve the pectin. After another round of filtering and drying, it’s ground into powder.
Pectin powder is a gelling or thickening agent for foods like gummy candies and fruit preserves. Hence, it can provide a jelly consistency and firmer texture like agar agar powder.
It’s rich in fiber and low in calories. However, it contains sugar, making it a more suitable agar substitute for sweet food preparations. So, if you are preparing savory dishes, try to use other substitutes for agar.
When using pectin powder, add it directly to your cooking or mix it with sugar to distribute it more evenly.
You may need three times more pectin powder if substituting agar powder.
If you’ve tried tapioca pudding, its key ingredient is tapioca powder (tapioca starch or tapioca flour), one of the best substitutes for agar powder.
Although it won’t achieve a gelatin consistency, it will have the same thick consistency.
Remember to use tapioca powder with dairy.
Use it as an agar substitute for cold desserts, baked goods, and thick soups and sauces.
Avoid mixing it with citrus or other types of acidic ingredients.
Using it as an agar substitute will vary depending on the recipe.
Typically, you use one and ½ tablespoons of tapioca flour to substitute one tablespoon of agar powder.
When baking, mix the tapioca powder with dry ingredients first and then with wet ingredients.
To use it in soups or sauces, dissolve it in liquid first to make a slurry.
Carrageenan is a flavorless additive that acts as a thickener and stabilizer in different foods and drinks.
Like agar agar, it’s a seaweed extract that works as a gelling or thickening agent.
It’s a common ingredient in soy milk, yogurt, cheesecakes, puddings, and ice creams and is often used in vegan and vegetarian dishes.
You can use a 1:1 ratio when using carrageenan powder.
Depending on your recipe, you can adjust it to two or three times more.
Although it’s not as commercial as the other agar agar substitutes, xanthan gum makes an excellent alternative.
It’s a common ingredient in various dressings, gravies, sauces, baked goods, and keto recipes.
Xanthan gum is a thickener, emulsifier, and stabilizer in most gluten-free recipes that require gelatin.
It’s the ingredient that gives them that chewy texture.
Once you add water to xanthan gum, it will create a thick, almost slimy solution, making it a perfect substitute for agar agar.
There’s also not a lot of preparation involved when using xanthan gum as a substitute. It’s gluten-free and vegan-friendly, too.
1/4 to a half teaspoon can go a long way when using xanthan gum. Whisk, sprinkle, or blend it in your recipe.
If you’re using gluten-free flour, you may skip using it to avoid making your dish thick and heavy.
Guar gum comes from the seeds of the Asian guar bean plant. It works as a binder and thickener in baked goods in powder form.
It works similarly to gelatin, making it an excellent agar powder substitute.
Guar gum is perfect for ice cream, smoothies, sauces, jellies, custards, and pie fillings.
It’s also a must for gluten-free baked goods like bread, cookies, muffins, and cakes because it has eight times more thickening properties than cornstarch.
You only need half a tablespoon of guar gum to substitute one cup of agar powder.
Sift it to remove clumps when adding it to dry ingredients, and then add your liquid ingredients.
A common ingredient in Japanese dishes, konnyaku is flavorless and has a consistency like that of Jell-o.
It comes from a taro-like potato native to Asia, which is why it’s also known as yam cake.
Konnyaku is flavorless, but it soaks up the flavors of your dishes. And since it’s 97% water, it has little sugar, fat, protein, and calories.
You can buy konnyaku in slabs, balls, noodles, or powder form at any Asian grocery stores or health food stores.
Use three tablespoons of konnyaku to replace a teaspoon of agar powder.
Mix konnyaku with sugar, and then add water. Let it dissolve before you pour it into your molds.
Check out cassava flour if you want a more widely available ingredient to substitute agar.
This flour comes from the cassava plant and is made by drying and grounding the cassava root to a powder.
It contains more fiber and has a dense texture and nutty flavor.
Many gluten-free recipes use it, so use it for baked goods or gravies if you don’t have agar flakes or powder.
It’s also a suitable thickener for sauces and soups.
Follow a 1:1 ratio when using this flour as an agar powder substitute.
Last but not least is potato starch, a kosher, gluten-free, and vegan agar agar substitute.
Don’t confuse it with potato flour, which can make your dish lumpy.
Potato starch is a good agar substitute because it’s a good thickener that makes glossy and silky sauces.
You can use it for any recipe that requires a thickener. Make sure to use a little, and then add more as needed.
Add potato starch when you’re about to finish cooking sauces or gravies.
It doesn’t do well in long-simmering soups and sauces in high temperatures.
Yes, you can, especially if you don’t require a vegan alternative. Go for unflavored gelatin, which makes a soft, chewy, and bouncy gel and allows you to taste more flavors.
They have similar properties, which makes cornstarch an excellent agar agar powder substitute.
But agar agar is a jellylike substance made up of carbohydrates from a type of seaweed called red algae.
Meanwhile, cornstarch is also a carbohydrate extracted from corn grains and ground into powder.
Cornstarch is the starch extracted from corn grains that is ground into a fine powder.
No, xanthan gum is different from agar agar because it’s made from bacterial fermented sugar. And unlike agar powder, it will thicken your recipe without hardening or breaking it.
The best gluten-free substitutes for agar agar, a plant-based gelling agent, include gelatin, pectin, cornstarch, arrowroot powder, konjac powder, and chia seeds/flaxseeds.
Agar agar is an essential and versatile ingredient in many recipes. Thankfully, there are several alternatives if you can’t get your hands on it.
If you need a vegan substitute, use potato starch, arrowroot, carrageenan, or xanthan gum. But if you can use anything to substitute agar, you can opt for pectin powder, cornstarch, or guar gum, too.
So don’t scrap your plans to make something that needs agar powder because you can still make a delicious and impressive dish using these substitutes!