Guar gum (guaran) is a popular food additive that you'll find in many products, especially when it comes to gluten-free baking. In Europe, guar gum goes under the E number: E412
In short, guar gum is vegan and does not contain any animal-derived ingredients.
Guar gum is actually a whole food and is extracted from the seed of the guar bean plant which is similar to the green string bean, only smaller and more bitter. The additive is typically sold as a white powder.
Although traditionally grown in India and Pakistan, guar gum is also cultivated in the US, Australia, and parts of Africa.
What's particularly interesting about guar gum is is that there are a lot of vegan uses for it. For example, guar gum is commonly used in plant-based milk such as almond milk to thicken the texture of the liquid. Guar gum can also act as a vegan-friendly gelatin alternative.
Guar Gum Uses
Guar gum is used as a natural food additive in a range of food products where it offers thickening, binding, and stabilizing properties. You can find guar gum in both processed and fresh food products as well as in cosmetics.
Here are some examples of products that often contain guar gum:
- Plant-based milk
- Gluten-Free Bread
- Pharmaceuticals (inactive)
As you can see, the food industry is, by far, the largest user of guar gum in the world.
The additive can help bakers cut costs and increase the yield at the same time as it helps perfect the crusty edges. Alongside xanthan gum, guar gum is also one of the main ingredients in gluten-free baked goods.
Furthermore, it can help bind whole grain flour together and is sometimes used as an egg replacer.
Lately, guar gum has also become increasingly more popular in vegan food since it helps mimic the texture of items that are otherwise hard to replicate such as yogurt and soft cheeses.
Besides that, guar gum is also used similar to other thickeners and can be found in everything from non-dairy ice cream and plant-based milk to jelly products and even sauces.
Check out this vegan ice cream recipe for an example of how you can use guar gum at home.
Pros and Cons
Is guar gum bad for you?
The quick answer is no, guar gum is not bad for you. The ingredient has been declared harmless by the FDA and the EU, and it’s free to use without warning labels. As a matter of fact, guar gum actually has some health benefits.
Studies have shown that guar gum can be an effective tool for treating people with diabetes because it slows down the absorption of sugars in the body.
People suffering from bowel related issues such as IBS and Crohn's can sometimes find relief when consuming guar gum.
That being said, over-consumption of guar gum can limit your ability to absorb food and nutrients which is why the FDA has banned the use of guar gum as a weight-loss remedy.
As mentioned, guar gum is also gluten-free and a good replacement for people with gluten intolerance. Although, people with allergies to soy should try and stay clear since the contamination risk is high. Indian guar gum, in particular, is known to contain high levels of soy trace particles.
Where Do You Buy Guar Gum?
Bob’s Red Mill is the most popular brand in the US but stores such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe's typically carry their own brands as well. You can also order guar gum directly off of Amazon.
In addition, guar gum is sold in many specialty stores and Asian supermarkets.
Gluten-free bread and ice cream recipes are probably the most common reasons people buy guar gum. However, it can also come in handy when baking desserts, cheesecakes, and more.
Substitutes For Guar Gum
By know, you’ve probably noticed that guar gum is often used to replace thickening agents and stabilizers in recipes. But guar gum is not the only ingredient with these properties and there are some alternatives that you can use instead.
Guar Gum vs Xanthan Gum
Guar gum and xanthan gum are two of the most commonly used food thickeners and stabilizers used in gluten-free baking, and many times they can be used interchangeably.
Generally speaking, when baking at home, guar gum is best suited for cold foods while xanthan gum is slightly better for baking.
Besides that, the two substances are fairly similar. Although, xanthan gum is also an emulsifier which makes it a bit more versatile than guar.
Guar Gum vs Gelatin
In certain recipes, guar gum can be used to replace gelatin and turn a non-vegan (and even non-vegetarian) recipe to a vegan-friendly one in seconds.
If you’re planning to use guar gum instead of gelatin you need to replace the gelatin with one-sixth the amount of guar gum.
Guar Gum vs Agar Agar
Agar agar is an ingredient derived from a sea vegetable and it has similar properties to guar gum. For example, agar agar is used in a lot of vegan cheeses since it helps create that perfect meltable texture.
Guar Gum vs Flax Seeds
Flax seed is one of the most popular replacements for eggs in vegan cooking, and it also shares similarities with guar gum. Although, flax is not nearly as effective at binding other ingredients together.
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