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Posted: Sep. 25 2006, 20:59 ET
One of the difficulties in preparing low carb versions of traditional recipes is the inability to use cornstarch or flour as a thickener. Fortunately there is a solution: xanthan gum. While this post is about xanthan gum, guar gum is similar in most aspects and is generally interchangable with xanthan.
What is it?
Xanthan gum is pretty much 100% fiber and as such is dietetically inert. It is a food additive so it's not even in the FDA nutrition database. It's in lots of "permitted" foods like the Walden Farms dressings, Dr. B protein powder packs, etc., so as far as I'm concerned it's fine for the diet even though it's not on the food list (technically it's not a food).
Where do I get it?
Try your local health food store first. It is used frequently in diet and organic foods as a thickener. I was able to buy it at my local Nature's Food Patch. If you can't find it locally, it is available by mail order pretty cheap here. You use very very little of this stuff, so 6 oz. will last you forever. Be sure that what you buy is pure xanthan gum. I've seen one brand called "EnerG Xanthan Gum" that has 80 calories and 4g of carbs in one teaspoon, so that must have something else in it other than the xanthan.
What do I do with it?
Use it to thicken things like gravies, sauces, shake drinks, etc.
How do I use it?
When using xanthan gum you need to be aware that it thickens instantly. Like, really instantly. If you try to measure some into a pot of soup it will instantly make a tenacious clump that will be almost impossible to break up. The best way to add it is to mix it into some liquid in a food processor or blender, and then mix that thickened liquid into whatever you want to add it to. The first time you use it you'll know what I mean.
How do I store it?
At the place I bought it it's just sold in paper bags kind of like bags of sugar, but smaller. Since it takes so long to use, I transferred mine into an airtight jar and keep it in the freezer. I don't know if it's necessary or not, but I've had mine for a couple years now with no observed degradation. For all I know it would be just fine in the cupboard too.
Any time I post a recipe that involves xanthan gum, I'll try to link to this post in the ingredient list so that those who are not familiar with it can read about it.
If you want to link directly to this page in a recipe, just cut and paste this code to insert "xanthan gum" as a link to here:
|Code Sample |
Since this is a food additive and not a food, it is not in the USDA nutrition database. However one seller had a nutrition panel for it on their site which I reproduce here for your convenience:
Serving size: 1/2 tsp.
Calories from fat: 0
Total fat: 0g
Total Carbohydrate: 1.3g
Dietary Fiber: 1.3g
As you can see, it is 100% dietary fiber, so has no net carbs.
If you want to read an interesting article on "gums", go here.
Posted: Sep. 27 2006, 14:34 ET
For anyone in Edmonton you can find the Xanthan and Guar Gum at.
Barb's Kitchen Centre
9766-51 Avenue Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6E 0A6
Toll Free: 1-866-212-2210
Posted: Sep. 28 2006, 16:46 ET
Just a follow up post to bump this. When you buy your xanthan, be sure it is pure xanthan. I had seen (and Michelle pointed out to me) a brand called "EnerG Xanthan Gum" that is sold as like a flour replacement or something. It has 80 calories and 4g of carbs per tsp. This must not be pure xanthan. As with everything on this diet, watch your labels.
Posted: Sep. 28 2006, 17:12 ET
There are a whole bunch of the stuff for sale on Ebay.
Posted: Sep. 28 2006, 17:16 ET
I think that is targeted at people who have to have a "gluten free" diet. I don't know what all is in it, but it has to be something other than xanthan best I can tell. You can use Froogle to find plenty of places that sell the pure xanthan. I linked to a couple of them here and there above. If you have a decent organic food store near you they should definitely have it.
Nature's Food Patch (in Clearwater) had xanthan and guar gums, but the xanthan was in individual packages while the guar was bulk (like scoop it into a bag yourself). I don't really like the bulk option for sanitary reasons -- especially something that is going to be around a long time.
Posted: Sep. 30 2006, 11:54 ET
Are Guar Gum and Xantham Gum interchangeable?
Guar gum is the active ingredient in Benefibre. Taste free, grit free, will never thicken...
4g (1T) of Benefibre = 3g soluble fibre.
Max adult daily dose is 5T.
No added fillers, sugar, artificial flavours or sweetners.
Posted: Sep. 30 2006, 14:10 ET
For recipe purposes (as a thickener) guar gum and xanthan gum have similar properties and similar nutritional information. The Benefiber has stuff other than guar gum in it however. For recipe purposes, if we all standardized on xanthan it might make things a little easier.
Here's why I say that. Xanthan and guar are very similar, but xanthan thickens a little more strongly weight for weight than guar. One of the hardest things about using thickeners is knowing/learning how much to use. If we all standardize on xanthan, then when we post a recipe using xanthan, you'll know the amount is right. Otherwise if some are in xanthan and some guar, you might have to experiment more. With these gums the difference between just right and way too much could be as little as 1/4 tsp.
You use so little of it that nutritionally they might as well be the same, so if you can't find xanthan, buy the guar and just know you might need to use a little more of it. Just make sure that what you buy is pure guar gum.
Posted: Nov. 23 2006, 09:01 ET
Moved this topic to the new "Recipe Helpers" section but left a copy in the original location due to links that point to it.
Posted: Dec. 3 2006, 22:55 ET
You can get Xanthan gum at the Bulk Barn, here in Windsor.
Posted: Dec. 3 2006, 23:46 ET
That is good to know Bernice! I won't have to order off Ebay next time!
Posted: Jan. 29 2007, 16:41 ET
This stuff sounds brilliant!! Going to add this to my shopping list asap!
Posted: Jan. 29 2007, 16:52 ET
I also found it at Fortinos the other night ... in the health food section so probably the same at Loblaws or Superstore.