Whether you are new at the keto diet, or you have been following a keto diet for a long time, you are bound to miss the creamy, starchy soups, sauces, smoothies and juices at some point of your journey.
Let’s be honest we all miss and crave a little ice cream or jello sometimes!
- #1. Agar-agar
- #2. Chia Seeds
- #3. Psyllium Husk
- #4. Ground Flax Seeds
Of course, nowadays ketogenic options of all those foods are available in stores or online, and there also are plenty of recipes online that show you how to make them yourself. The one common ingredient that store-bought foods and the recipes have is xanthan gum.
Xanthan gum is a commonly used food additive in the form of a powder that acts as a thickener, stabilizer, and emulsifier when added to liquid foods. Many store-bought foods already contain xanthan gum in them, and many recipes may require you to use it to achieve the wanted results when cooking.
However, sometimes getting a hold of xanthan gum may be a bit of a problem. While it is sold at some grocery stores, others simply don’t have it. Ordering it on the internet means that you’ll most likely have to wait a few days until it arrives- and sometimes, waiting just isn’t an option! You just want to make your dish as soon as possible!
Whatever your reason may be, we understand that sometimes using xanthan gum in your dishes isn’t possible. This is why we have created a list of the best keto-friendly substitutes for xanthan gum you can use to make your dishes!
And here they are:
Agar-agar is a plant-based additive that is used as a stabilizer, binding agent and thickener. It is contained in foods such as marshmallows, jello, and is often used as a plant-based substitute for gelatin.
What is agar-agar and how it is used?
Agar-agar is a mixture of two carbohydrates-the linear polysaccharide called agarose and a heterogeneous mix of small molecules which are called agaropectin. Those compounds are extracted from the Red Seaweed algae. (*)
It’s believed that it was first discovered in Japan by an innkeeper who noticed that his seaweed soup had gelatinous masses in it after it had been sitting in the cold for a night.
Soon after the discovery, agar became a subject of chemical analysis, and after a few years, it found its way to the fields of microbiology as a solid medium for growing various microorganisms. After that, it just kept growing in popularity, and today it’s production fluctuates annually.
Today, agar is still used both in the microbiological field and the culinary world.
In the culinary world, agar-agar is used to form gelatinous masses and help thicken and balance liquids. It is sold white or transparent forms in packages in the shape of strips or powder which you add to the liquid and then boil to activate it.
Agar-agar is used in many Asian cuisines, such as Japanese where it is used to make the traditional amitsu, the Philippine cuisine where it is used to make jelly bars and in Vietnamese cuisine where it is used to make thạch which are jelly layers of agar. It is also used in Russia where it is added to marmalades and jams.
In the keto kitchen, agar-agar is used as a low-carb and low-calorie option mostly in recipes where you want more gelatinous results. When you want to use it as a substitute for xanthan gum, you should use twice as much agar-agar as xanthan gum in the recipe.
Nutritional Facts of 100 grams of agar-agar
Agar-agar is a great option to substitute xanthan gum or gelatin with because it is low in calories and also low in carbs (*).
|Total Carbs||7 grams|
|Net Carbs||6.5 grams|
Where to find agar-agar?
You can find agar-agar in some grocery stores, or in Asian stores. You can also find it online on sites such as amazon.com.
#2. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are a type of edible seeds that are known for their ability to absorb up to 12 times their weight. Their hydrophilic characteristic is used in different dishes such as puddings, smoothies, yogurt, granola bars and they can be sprinkled over salads and used in some breads.
What are chia seeds and how are they used?
Chia seeds are the seeds of a plant called Salvia hispanica, which is a member of the mint family, local to Central America or a plant called Salvia columbariae, which is native to Mexico and the United States.
Chia seeds are small and oval. They are up to 1 millimeter in diameter and weigh 1.3 milligrams or 0.020 grams per seed. Their color can vary from gray, black, white and brown.
The history of chia seeds goes all the way back to the 16th century where it is believed that it was cultivated and widely used by the Aztec in many different ways. Today chia seeds are used and produced on large scales commercially in Argentina, Ecuador, Guatemala, Bolivia, and Mexico. (*)
As we said before, chia seeds are hydrophilic and they can absorb up to 12 times their weight in liquid when soaked. In this condition, they develop mucilaginous coating which gives the gel-like consistency to the food they are added to.
Healthwise, chia seeds are rich in fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, phosphorus, zinc, calcium, and protein. (*)
This characteristic they have is used in numerous ways when creating dishes. Chia seeds are used to create chia pudding, sauces, bread and smoothies as a vegan substitute for eggs and a substitute for xanthan gum in keto and gluten-free dishes.
Chia seeds are a great substitute for xanthan gum because they have a mild nutty flavor which tends to not interfere with the flavor of the food when it is added. When using chia seeds as a substitute for xanthan gum, you need to use a 1:1 ratio which means to just use the same amount of chia seeds in weight as you would if you used xanthan gum.
Nutritional Facts of 100 grams of chia seeds
Chia seeds have a high-calorie content per 100 grams, but a low net carb content therefore it is a great option for those on the keto diet (*).
|Total Carbs||42.12 grams|
|Net Carbs||7.72 grams|
Where to buy chia seeds?
Chia seeds are rising more and more in popularity, so most grocery stores will have them. You can search Kroger, Trader Joe’s, Target, Publix, Aldi, Whole Foods, Walmart, and Safeway. You can also order them online on sites like amazon.com.
#3. Psyllium Husk
Psyllium is a fiber made from the husks of the plant Plantago ovata’s seeds. It is most commonly used as a treatment to relieve symptoms of constipation and diarrhea, but it is also used in cooking as a thickener. (*)
What is psyllium husk and how is it used?
Psyllium seeds the Plantago ovata plant and is covered in a viscous, soluble, fiber-rich substance called psyllium husk or ispaghula husk. Psyllium husk absorbs water to form a gel-like matter.
The Plantago ovata plant is believed to be native to western and southern Asia. The plant from which the seeds are extracted can tolerate cool and dry places and today it is commercially produced in northern India and some European countries such as the former Soviet Union.
The uses for the psyllium husk are not just in the kitchen, but they take an even bigger role in the medical and pharmaceutical world as a viscous, soluble dietary fiber. It is most widely used in some medications that help with symptoms of constipation and mild diarrhea. This is possible because of its high fiber content which absorbs water and subsequently softens the stool. (*)
Medically, psyllium husk can be used for lowering high blood cholesterol, as some studies suggest. Therefore, it can be a great way to lower the risk of heart disease. (*). There are also some indications that it may help those who are diagnosed with diabetes type 2.
Because of its low carb content, it is an extremely good option for someone on the keto diet. It can be a good ingredient to use in order to make ketogenic versions of bread, pizza, bagels or even keto ice-cream.
When using psyllium husk as a substitute for xanthan gum it is a good rule of thumb to use 2 teaspoons of psyllium husk for every cup of flour, starch or keto flour.
Nutritional Facts for 100 grams of psyllium husk
Psyllium husk low-carb, with 0 grams of fat and 0 grams of protein (*).
|Total Carbs||80 grams|
|Net Carbs||10 grams|
Where to buy psyllium husk?
You can find psyllium husk in some larger grocery stores, most often in their health sections or gluten-free sections. You can also find them online on sites like amazon.com.
#4. Ground Flax Seeds
Flax or also known as common flax or linseed is a popular food and fiber plant that is cultivated in colder climates. The plant Linum usitatissimum or flax is also used to create textile fibers to create linen and for food, the flax seeds are used on many breads, smoothies, juices and as a thickening and binding agent when ground.
What are flax seeds and how are they used?
Flax seeds are the seeds of the Linum usitatissimum plant and they come in two basic colors, brown and yellow that share similar nutritional value.
The Linum usitatissimum or flax plant is grown for its seeds, which can be used in a few different ways. They can be ground and added to a meal, they can be turned into linseed oil, as an ingredient in some wood-finishing products or as a nutritional supplement.
Flax seeds are used in many ways in the kitchen, for example, in bread, in granola, juices, salads, smoothies and many more since they have gained popularity over the last few years. The high fiber content in flax seeds means that they have a good impact on your digestive health and blood cholesterol, as well as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. (*) (*)
If you want to use flax seeds as a replacement for xanthan gum then you need to grind them first. That is because they have a shell-like coating on the outside that does not allow for the binding to happen. By using ground flax seeds they are going to absorb the water and thicken the liquid.
For substituting xanthan gum with flax seeds you can use the same amount of flax seeds in weight, but add twice the boiling hot water to create the same effect as with xanthan gum.
Nutritional Facts for 100 grams of flax seeds
Flax seeds are an extremely keto-friendly option and a great way to make sure you consume fewer carbs. They are packed with nutrients, but they are low on the net carbs- which is perfect for the keto diet (*).
|Total Carbs||29 grams|
|Net Carbs||2 grams|
Where to buy flax seeds?
Similar to chia seeds, flax seeds are rising in popularity, so you can find them in most grocery stores like Kroger, Trader Joe’s, Target, Publix, Aldi, Whole Foods, Walmart, and Safeway, and online on amazon.com.
While xanthan gum powder is a convenient, low-calorie and low-carb option to thicken liquids in keto cooking, it is not the only option. There are quite a few other options that work just as well as xanthan gum and now all you have to do is try them out!
*Photo by IMelnyk/depositphotos