What can I use instead of agar-agar? We found some of the best replacements for agar-agar powder are pectin powder, gelatin, xanthan gum, guar gum, carrageenan, cornstarch, cassava powder, and our favorite, arrowroot.
Agar-agar powder is produced from seaweed and used in the kitchen for thickening or gelling foods and sauces. We have searched and listed eight of the best substitutes you can use if you run out or can’t find agar-agar. All of them, except gelatin, are vegan-friendly and can be easily found to replace agar-agar.
The Best Agar Agar Substitutes
One of the best substitutes for agar-agar if you are using it for baking is pectin powder.
Pectin, like agar-agar, is derived from plants and is vegan-friendly. Primarily found in fruit peels, you can also find pectin in vegetables. Pectin is what gives the fruit and vegetable their firmness and keeps their shape.
Pectin powder is fundamental in desserts and used for baking, and it is not ideal for savory recipes as it contains sugar. However, it usually has a flavor note from the fruit it is made from.
That’s why it is popular in jams, marmalades, and fruit preserves. It also makes an ideal gel for producing a clear glaze on fruit tarts.
It is easy to use, comes in dry or liquid form, and can be used directly into the ingredients without prior preparations. In addition, the powder is easily dissolvable in cold water.
Compared to agar-agar powder, it has slightly more benefits as it contains more fiber which helps with gastrointestinal issues and studies show that it can help reduce cholesterol levels.
When using pectin powder to replace agar-agar, you can use a 3:1 ratio.
If you’re not concerned with vegan-friendly products, gelatin is an excellent substitute for agar-agar.
Gelatin comes from animal by-products such as skin, tendons, and ligaments and contains high levels of protein and calcium as it is also partly made from bones.
The lack of taste from gelatin makes this product ideal to use, and it takes on the flavors of whatever food it’s mixed with.
High temperatures reduce the gelling properties, which allow this product to be suitable as a thickening agent as well for savory and baking.
It comes in powder form and solid sheets that you can use in desserts or savory dishes. Gelatin is the main ingredient of Jell-O and is suitable for gelling softer foods such as mousse or panna cotta, whereas agar-agar has more potency when gelling foods.
Gelatin helps to promote a healthy stomach lining called mucosal that may aid digestion and contain lysine, with calcium and high protein, promoting healthy bones.
One of our favorite benefits of gelatin is that it may help in weight loss as it satiates cravings and leaves you feeling fuller, avoiding the possibility of overeating.
As gelatin does not have the same potent ability as agar-agar, the ratio that produces similar results would be 8:1.
Xanthan gum is another great alternative to agar-agar when needed to thicken, emulsify, or stabilize foods.
It is the first natural biopolymer produced on an industrial scale and made through a fermentation process of simple syrup from the bacteria called Xanthomonas campestris found in plants.
Xanthan gum has no taste making it useable in various products, such as soups, salad dressing, and ice cream, among a few. In addition, its uses go beyond the kitchen in multiple non-food items such as hair, beauty, and cleaning products.
Xanthan gum is FDA approved without limitations and is an ideal substitute for agar-agar if you need a gluten-free product. You can also use xanthan gum in baking or savory dishes.
It only comes in a white powdered form.
Although there are no calories or nutritional value to talk about, this product may help lower and stabilize blood sugar levels and has benefited people with celiac disease due to its gluten-free properties.
Easily interchanged for agar-agar, xanthan gum has a 1:1 ratio to agar.
Another great substitute if you run out of agar-agar is guar gum which helps as a binder and thickener but can also be an ideal replacement as an emulsifier.
This vegan-friendly starch is made for the guar bean legume and is also gluten-free, an added benefit for gluten intolerant people.
It’s an odorless powder, but it can have a slightly bitter taste, so for recipes that require minimal amounts, this makes it an ideal product.
The product is potent, and you need very little to thicken your sauce, so go easy with the measurement. However, we wouldn’t recommend it for gelling as it is not self-gelling and requires the addition of calcium or borax to gel.
Available in powdered form, it is used for hot and cold liquids to thicken and bind sauces.
Often used for baking, it is also an acceptable alternative for health enthusiasts as it may help reduce cholesterol and blood glucose levels.
With eight times the thickening power, it is a cheaper substitute as you use less for the same purpose. Another positive is that the price of guar gum is a quarter of what you would pay for agar-agar.
Another replacement for agar-agar is carrageenan powder, also produced from seaweed.
Like agar-agar, this natural powder, produced from red seaweed, also called Irish moss, is a dark red, dense parsley-like plant that grows on rocks.
Carrageenan has no added flavors or smells.
Carrageenan is a popular agent in baking to thicken puddings and custards and to gel desserts. It can also be used in the kitchen as a thickening agent, emulsifier, or to help preserve foods and drinks.
Often found in dairy products, especially nut milk and meat products.
Carrageenan can typically be found in three different grades of powder.
A highly debated additive, carrying no nutritional value, has been the center point of back-and-forth debates about whether it is safe for consumption.
The FDA has considered it safe for use within its daily recommended usage.
Carrageenan can substitute agar-agar in a 1:1 ratio.
Cornstarch is a great alternative to agar-agar if you need a thickening agent for your soups, gravies, stews, or sauces.
Cornstarch is a powdered thickening agent made from the starchy part of the corn kernel.
This unflavored powder is ideal for any recipe as it won’t impart any flavors to your dishes.
Cornstarch can easily be used in many recipes in savory sauces and stews and can be included in baking recipes to bind and stabilize foods.
Its uses reach beyond the kitchen, and its benefits in many non-culinary applications around the house make this a popular pantry addition.
Mix it well with cold water to create a slurry before adding it to your recipe, which makes this an easy and quick ingredient to use.
Cornstarch is readily found in powdered form in many grocery outlets.
A ratio of 1:1 cornstarch to agar-agar is recommended.
Cassava flour, also known as tapioca, is another starch that is an ideal alternative for the lack of agar-agar in your pantry.
Made from the root vegetable of the cassava plant, it has a similar shape to sweet potatoes.
Cassava is used in either sweet or savory dishes but should be paired up with the right recipes as the taste is slightly nutty and could affect the flavors of your dish.
This gluten-free flour is rich in carbohydrates and is often used to replace wheat flour; also highly effective as a thickener due to its high fiber contents.
It is available in powdered form from most retail and health shops.
Low in calories, fat, and sugar, it is an ideal substitute for use in dietary restrictions. In addition, the presence of resistant starch, which does not get absorbed by the digestive tract, feeds the gut bacteria to promote healthy gut flora.
With a milder thickening ability to agar-agar, we recommend that you use it in a ratio of 2:1.
Scary trivia, though, about this root is that consuming high quantities of fresh cassava can lead to cyanide poisoning in the body.
We saved the best for last.
Arrowroot powder gets obtained from the rhizome tubers of the tropical flower Maranta arundinacea.
Arrowroot is flavorless and considered allergy free.
You can use arrowroot in sweet and savory dishes, giving food a glossy texture with a silky feel, perfect for creamy custards and pudding, and you can also use it to make clear jellies.
Usually found in fresh and dry form, it is known for its many nutritional benefits and high nutritional values.
The powdered form of arrowroot is much easier to digest than when it is in its fresh state. The added benefits of a healthier alternative to baking foodstuff make this our preferred substitute for agar-agar.
A gluten-free and vegan-friendly alternative to suit different diets, it also has many health benefits, like supporting weight loss when used as replacement flour for bread.
It is an ideal substitute for people with diabetes and promotes sleep for those night owls.
Another positive is that it’s also a cheaper option than agar-agar.
Again, not as potent as agar-agar; the recommended ratio is 2:1.