Gellan gum is a food additive that’s used in food, drinks, toiletries, and household cleaners. It was first found over three decades ago, but has increased in popularity over the last 15 years.
Gellan gum is often found in non-dairy milk, as it keeps nutrients, like calcium, blended into the drink instead of sinking to the carton’s base.
Gellan gum is also used as a gelling agent that’s used in vegan brands of ‘gum’ candy, but is gellan gum really vegan?
Most gellan gum is vegan, but some gellan gum is produced by fermenting lactose, which won’t be vegan.
We’ll cover more about gellan gum in this post, including what it is, its common uses, and if gellan gum is vegan-friendly.
Gellan Gum: The Basics
Gellan gum is a food additive that’s made by fermenting bacteria. It can form liquid gel blends with a frail composition, which can help add a creamy texture to different solutions.
Gellan gum is used in similar ways to guar gum, xanthan gum, and locust bean gum. These all help texturize and balance different products, particularly foods.
Emulsifiers and stabilizers should be used in small quantities, but adding a small amount of gellan gum to foods, like desserts or yogurt, can make the result smooth and creamy.
Gellan Gum Uses
Here are some of gellan gum’s main uses:
Stabilizing and Texturizing Foods
Gellan gum’s most popular use is to mix it with different stabilizers when baking, cooking, or preparing desserts, as this stops ingredients from separating.
It can also give spreads and purees a gel-like texture, without changing the flavor or color of foods. Gellan gum won’t turn into a liquid as it retains its form, even when it’s heated.
As it can increase thickness, gellan gum can also create several unique fluid consistencies. Examples include thickening marinades, vegetable soups, and plant-based milk.
Vegan and Vegetarian Recipes
Gellan gum that’s been created with bacteria fermentation is often added to vegan foods.
Several vegan and vegetarian recipes need an additional thickening agent to stop ingredients from separating, like coconut kefir and almond milk.
This is why stabilizers, like guar gum, locust bean gum, and organic gellan gum, are added to these recipes. The gellan gum that’s used is usually vegan, but this will depend on the product it’s added to.
Gellan gum is often used in vegan packaged food products as it’s a good substitute for gelatin.
If you want to check if your product contains gellan gum, look out for the ingredients ‘E418’ or simply ‘gellan gum’ in the ingredient list.
Stops Desserts From Melting
Chefs can add gellan gum to sorbet and ice cream to aid churning. It can also stop cold desserts from melting when alcohol or flames are used to brown the top (wondering whether alcohol itself is vegan? Read here).
Examples include flaming sorbet, bananas foster, and crème brûlée.
Is Gellan Gum Vegan?
Gellan gum is a vegetarian substitute, but even though it’s plant-based, it isn’t always vegan. Some gellan gum is made by fermenting lactose, which would make it non-vegan.
This isn’t the case for all gellan gum products. For instance, CP Kelco sells gellan gum which is made through bacterial fermenting corn syrup.
All the substances in corn syrup are plant-based, which makes the product vegan-friendly.
Despite this, some food items may be made with gellan gum that has been produced by fermenting cheese or milk. As a precautionary measure, it’s best to stick to food products that are certified vegan.
How To Use Gellan Gum
Gellan gum is usually sold under a brand name. Examples include Nanogel-TC, AppliedGel, and GELRITE.
If you can find it in your local grocery store, or opt to buy it online, small quantities of gellan gum can act as an effective stabilizer or thickening agent. It’s a good substitute for non-vegan thickening agents, like gelatin.
If you need to bind ingredients in a vegan recipe, gellan gum can be a good ingredient to keep on hand, particularly when baking or cooking.
You won’t need more than a tiny amount of gellan gum. If you’re making a recipe, find products that have a concentration of 0.2% to 1.0%.
Begin with a tiny pinch, no more than half a teaspoon. You can add a little more as you go, based on the size of the recipe and the consistency you’re aiming for.
Remember that gellan gum works fast and will thicken up recipes incredibly quickly. Less is definitely more!
Gellan Gum Risks
Research looking at gellan gum effects hasn’t yet discovered toxic effects. It seems to be safe for most individuals as it’s used in tiny quantities. However, it’s best to limit the amount of added emulsifiers you ingest or cook with.
All thickening and stabilizing agents, including gellan gum, come with a risk of side effects, like digestive problems.
A reason why emulsifiers and additives may be harmful is that they can affect the levels of bacteria within the intestines. The gut’s mucous lining can be affected which leads to low-level, constant inflammation.
This can alter the cells in the digestive tract and the colon.
More studies are needed to look at the effects of stabilizers in food products. You can reduce the risk of side effects by only using these substances occasionally in tiny amounts.
Gellan gum tends to be used in products that are, at minimum, partly processed, which is grounds for limiting your intake.
If you often eat or drink products that are made with emulsifiers, look out for any digestive problems and related symptoms.
This may be a sign that your system is struggling to break these substances down.
Gellan gum is an additive that helps bind, stabilize, and add a creamy texture to ingredients. It’s often found in ice cream, vegan dairy replacements, and yogurt.
While most gellan gums are vegan, ones that are fermented using lactose won’t be.
You can avoid consuming non-vegan gellan gum by doing your research and sticking to products that are certified vegan.
Gellan gum is usually safe in small quantities, but some may experience digestion issues as a related side effect.
If this is the case, you may want to switch to using natural products in vegan recipes.
Flaxseeds, pureed bananas, and mashed sweet potatoes are examples of vegan ingredients that work well to bind ingredients together.
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