Xanthan Gum

Strawberries xanthum balsamic syrup

Xanthan gum, or just xanthan, is one of the easiest ingredients to work with. It is used extensively to thicken liquids; a great ingredient used to turn thin liquids into savory sauces. It quickly hydrates or disperses at any temperature, making it one of the few ingredients you can add slowly and instantly see the result. Also, xanthan gum does not lose its properties when microwaved.

Xanthan gum has a very neutral flavor so it mixes well with foods without masking their flavor. It provides an improved mouth feel to preparations, slightly thickening a liquid similar to how traditionally reducing a liquid does.

When used as a thickener in low dosages, xanthan gum produces a weak gel with high viscosity. This gel will also be thixotropic or shear thinning with a high pourability. This means that when the gel is at rest it maintains its shape but when stirred or mixed it begins to flow again as a liquid and then resets once the agitation stops.

Xanthan gum is gluten free and is often used as a substitute in baking and thickening. It also helps baked goods to retain more moisture than they would have otherwise. When mixed into batters or tempura xanthan gum adds good cling, allowing the batter to stick more easily to the food.

Xanthan gum is produced through the fermentation of glucose with a bacteria found in cabbage, known as Xanthomonas campesteris.

Where to Buy Xanthan Gum

We always recommend ModernistPantry.com, they have great service and are really good to work with (because of this, we do have an affiliate relationship with them). They also have the Texturas brand, if you prefer that. We also recommend purchasing from WillPowder and get larger quantities and bundles at ForTheGourmet.com.

How Much Xanthan Gum to Use

Orange lecithin xanthan foam 2

As a thickening agent, the amount of xanthan gum you will use depends on how thick you want the liquid to be. In general, you will use a 0.2% weight ratio for light thickening, 0.7% for a thicker sauce, and up to 1.5% for a very thick sauce. Be warned though, adding too much xanthan gum can result in a texture and mouthfeel resembling mucus.

To make a xanthan gum foam a ratio between 0.2% and 0.8% is typically used. The more xanthan gum you use the larger the bubbles that can occur and the denser the foam will be.

For bubbles, resembling soap bubbles, a typical ratio is 0.1% to 0.4% xanthan gum and 0.2% to 2.0% Versawhip or egg white powder.

When making an emulsion, the more xanthan gum you add, the stronger the emulsion will be. However, it will also thicken the emulsion, which may or may not be desirable. To start binding an emulsion a ratio of around 0.1% can be used. If you want to also thicken the emulsion you can add up to around 0.8% of xanthan gum.

Dispersion and Hydration of Xanthan Gum

Balsamic vinegar syrup ribs

Xanthan gum is very easy to disperse and hydrate.

Xanthan gum is easily dispersed in liquids at any temperature. It is typically mixed by using a whisk, though an immersion or standing blender works best. You can also improve the dispersion of xanthan gum by first mixing it with sugar, then adding it to the liquid. This is similar to making a slurry out of flour and cold water before adding it to gravy to prevent clumping. The sugar will prevent the xanthan gum from hydrating until it has been dispersed enough in the liquid for the sugar percent to go down.

Xanthan gum will pretty much hydrate in liquid of any temperature. However, if the liquid is very sugary then it can have trouble hydrating. Typically, if the sugar is less than 55% to 60% it will work fine.

How to Thicken with Xanthan Gum

Pressure cooked pork xanthan sauce

One of the primary uses of xanthan gum is to thicken liquids. This can range from very minor thickening to creating very thick syrups depending on the other ingredients and the amount of xanthan gum used.

Another benefit of thickening with xanthan gum is that it greatly increases particle suspension. This means if you have herbs, spices, or other items in the liquid then the addition of xanthan gum will help keep them in suspension instead of settling to the bottom or rising to the top.

To thicken a liquid with xanthan gum you just combine the xanthan gum with the liquid you want to thicken by whisking or blending. The liquid will thicken very quickly.

For thicker sauces that have been sitting you can stir or whisk them briefly to make them flow better. Once they have been plated they will regain their previous viscosity as long as they haven't been heated to too high of a temperature.

Most thickened liquids will keep for a day or two in the refrigerator.

The amount of xanthan gum you will use depends on how much you would like to thicken the liquid. In general, you will use a 0.2% weight ratio for light thickening, 0.7% for a thicker sauce, and up to 1.5% for a very thick sauce.

How to Create an Xanthan Gum Foam

Aquarium pump bubbles 2

Since xanthan gum thickens liquids they can easily trap air bubbles and stabilize foams.

The first step to make an xanthan gum foam from a liquid is to mix in the xanthan gum using an immersion or standing blender. Once it's evenly dispersed you need to introduce air into the liquid. This can be done through whipping, blending, or with the use of a whipping siphon. Typically a whipping siphon is the most efficient way to create a foam.

Another interesting way to create an xanthan gum foam is through the use of an aquarium bubbler. It will create large, unevenly sized bubbles, resembling soap bubbles, which can add a whimsical quality to many dishes. For this preparation it is typically combined with Versawhip.

How to Create an Xanthan Gum Emulsion

Modernist vinaigrette 2

Because xanthan gum thickens liquids it also helps create more stable emulsions. This can be used to hold traditional vinaigrettes together, create new vinaigrettes using purees, or to use much less oil than you usually would.

Strengthening an emulsion with xanthan gum is very easy. First create the emulsion like you usually would. Then blend in a pinch of xanthan gum. It will thicken the liquid slightly and help the emulsion hold for a much longer time. For an even stronger emulsion you can add some soy lecithin at a ratio of 0.3 to 0.5%.

Interested in more information like this?

Modernist Cooking Made Easy: Getting Started covers many of the popular modernist techniques such as gelling, spherification, and foams. It also explores modernist ingredients like agar, sodium alginate, tapioca maltodextrin, and xanthan gum.

It is all presented in an easy to understand format along with more than 80 recipes and photographs.

I might be biased but I think
it's the best way to learn about modernist cooking!

Xanthan Gum Recipes and Articles

Pulled Pork with Spicy Pineapple Chutney Recipe

Pulled-pork-pineapple-salsa
This pulled pork recipe takes a tropical turn with pineapples, chiles, cilantro, and lime juice. This versatile dish can be served as an appetizer or main dish and either hot or cold.

Watermelon Soup With Pickled Rind Recipe

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When watermelon is in season it's hard to resist. For some parties you need nothing more than to slice it and hand it out with paper towels for people to scarf down. However, sometimes you want something a little more refined and that's where this recipe comes in.

Sparkling Grape Gazpacho Recipe

Sparkling-grape-gazpacho-front
Sweet green grapes are another favorite snack of mine and they're a great party food because most people really like them. For this more upscale dish I turn them into a sweet, fizzy soup. The xanthan gum helps hold the particles in suspension and the carbonation effect adds a pleasant tingle and tang to it.

Lemonade with Blueberry Froth

Blueberry-foam-lemonade
This modernist recipe is a refreshing take on blueberry lemonade that changes the ubiquitous summer drink into a modernist creation your friends will love. It is a light blueberry froth dispensed on top of a glass of lemonade. The blueberry foam slowly filters into the drink, changing the flavor of the lemonade the longer you drink it. It is a quick recipe to make and is a great way to elevate a common drink.

Aquarium Pump Bubbles Recipe

Aquarium-pump-bubbles-2
There are many different types of foams you can make using different modernist ingredients and foaming methods. This foam resembles bubbles and is made with xanthan gum and Versawhip that has been aerated with an aquarium pump. It's a pretty unique way to make bubbles and they are very interesting.

Salmon Bites with Tomatillo Agar Fluid Gel Sauce Recipe

Tomatillo-agar-fluid-gel-pudding
These Mexican inspired salmon bites pack a lot of flavor in a little package. The acidity from the tomatillos compliments the salmon perfectly and the crunch from the fried tortillas adds great texture.

Roasted Red Pepper Pesto Recipe

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Not all dishes that use modernist ingredients have to be super fancy in-your-face dishes that look like they came from Alinea. This red pepper pesto crustini is a great example. It is a simple, hearty snack that is great when served as an appetizer or set out as hors d'oeuvres.

Xanthan Strengthened Maple Vinaigrette Recipe

Maple-vinaigrette
This is a simple modernist vinaigrette to make and utilizes both xanthan gum and lecithin to strengthen and thicken it. I really like the sweet maple syrup with the tangy balsamic vinegar. This goes well on salads, especially ones with berries. You can also add a little more xanthan gum and use the vinaigrette as a sauce on fish or chicken.

Xanthan Gum Banana Milkshake Recipe

Xanthan-gum-banana-milkshake
Xanthan gum is a great thickener and can be used with a variety of foods. Making low fat milk shakes is a great way to use it. Here we make a low fat banana milk shake.

Xanthan Gum Balsamic Vinegar Syrup Recipe

Strawberries-xanthum-balsamic-syrup
One of the nice things about modernist cuisine is being able to thicken liquids without significantly diluting the flavor of them. There are several ingredients that can do this and here I use xanthan gum to make a balsamic vinegar syrup.
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