If you're looking for an alternative to xanthan gum or guar gum that will still give your gluten free baked goods an amazing texture, we've got five great options!
Those who have tried and failed know all too well the challenge gluten-free baking presents. Even the most seasoned gluten free baker sometimes experiences cupcakes having the hardness and dryness of a biscuit and breads that are flat and dry. Baking without gluten affects the texture, taste and structure of baked goods, which is why a binding ingredient is so important in a recipe.
Gluten Free Binding Ingredients: A Little Background
Just as the name implies, a binding agent helps ingredients stick together. Gluten is a protein, but it's also a binder. It is the very thing that traps air bubbles inside of a batter to create the perfect balance of air, wet and dry ingredients. (That's that fluffy dinner bread or light yeast bread!)
When you remove gluten from a baked good, it can turn into a runny mess if you don't replace it with something else. The lack of a binding agent not only affects the appearance of your baked goods, but it can affect the taste too.
Alternatives to Xanthan Gum and Guar Gum
Popular alternatives to gluten as a binding agent exist in the form of Xanthan gum and Guar gum. While they're widely used, like gluten, some people experience problems with these too. The good news is that many alternatives DO exist and most of them work just as well, giving your gluten-free baking the light, airy and melt in your mouth texture you crave.
Psyllium Fiber (Psyllium Husk Powder)
Psyllium fiber is found in most health stores as a dietary fiber supplement. It’s popular among bodybuilders and athletes as it helps maintain their digestive health while actively helping to reduce cholesterol. So that's why it may come as a bit of a surprise that psyllium husk powder has been shown to be a great binding agent which improves the baking quality of bread.
A little background on psyllium husk powder
A study conducted in Kuwait proved it. Long story short... scientists started the research with a totally unrelated agenda – they wanted to increase the fiber content in bread. In their experiments, one of the ingredients they added in their blend of flour was 5% psyllium husk powder. The results were completely unexpected and even encouraging from a baking perspective. Not only did the bread rise a little higher, it also retained more moisture and had more volume overall.
That’s not all.
An additional study was performed at the University of Milan and Michigan State University. This particular study sought to improve the structure of gluten-free dough. And guess what? “Psyllium fibre [psyllium husk powder] generally enhanced the physical properties of the doughs."
If you haven't tried psyllium husk powder as an alternative to xanthan gum or guar gum, here are two recipes that use psyllium husk powder:
Gluten Free, Dairy Free and Gum Free Dinner Rolls
Gluten Free 'Boston' Style Brown Bread
You can buy Psyllium husk powder for about $15 at Amazon.com.
Chia seeds are used for everything from sprinkling into flour mixes to add a nutritional boost to substituting for an egg. From a nutritional perspective, chia seeds are as close to a ‘superfood’ as you can get. They are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids (more than 2.5 times that of flaxseed), protein and fiber, just to mention a few. On top of all that, they can be used as a binding agent too.
Besides being very high in soluble fiber, they are also hydrophilic (water absorbing). Chia seeds can absorb up to 12 times their own weight in water, forming a gel like substance which locks in moisture.
In baking, this improves the overall structure of breads, pastries and cakes as it eliminates dry or crumbly results due to lack of moisture.
While they are very small and, unlike other seeds, have no real ‘shell’, their 'seedy' appearance may not be most desirable thing to use in some recipes. Chia seeds can also be ground and added to flour blends although grounding is not required for their ‘binding’ to take effect. (The picture above shows chia seeds and then ground chia seeds.)
It is also worth noting that they have a very mild, nutty flavor which generally does not alter the overall taste of the food items they are added to.
Chia seeds will run about $14.00 for a 16 oz. package.
More Chia Seed info here: How to Make Substitutions for Xanthan Gum in Baking
Ground Flax Seeds (Flax Seed Meal)
Flax seeds are far more common than their chia counterparts. While we tend to associate them with baking, flax seeds are healthy too.
In gluten-free baking, ground flax seeds do a great job of binding ingredients together and mimicking that desirable ‘gluten effect’ by adding moisture and softness to your baking.
But be warned: Flax seeds tend to be rather large in comparison to chia seeds and they also have an outer shell. As a result, just adding them in their natural form to a gluten-free flour blend won't work as a binder.
They actually have to be ground for the binding effect to take place. Ground flax seeds are also known as flax seed meal.
Nutritionally, ground flax is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids (though not as high as chia seeds), iron, fiber and zinc – just to name a few.
Flax seed meal is one of our favorite alternatives to xanthan or guar gum. Here are a couple recipes using ground flax seeds:
Quick Gluten Free Double Chocolate Biscuits
Gluten Free Italian Herb Bread for the Bread Machine
Flax seed meal will last a long time - here is a good one to use: Flax Seed Meal
You might also like: Gluten Free Outback Steakhouse Bread (Gum Free)
Gelatin frequently appears on the ingredients list of some popular sweet snacks such as gums and jelly beans. It's the gelatin which gives them their sticky, moist-on-the-inside texture. When mixed with water, it forms a gel-like substance which can be used in baking to make doughs stretchy and to retain moisture in baked food.
Gelatin is frequently used as an egg replacer and for this reason, it functions well as a binder.
A drawback is that gelatin is derived from animals and is therefore not suitable for vegetarians or vegans. Also keep in mind that not all gelatin is created equal - the popular flavored JELLO is not the type of gelatin for baking. Aspen Naturals is a good variety. But avoid any flavored gelatin. It is not the same thing!
Gelatin is on the high end in terms of cost, so be prepared to make a lot of eggs with it!
Agar agar is a vegan alternative to gelatin (and less expensive!). It is derived from seaweed and is a common food additive in food processing plants. Much like gelatin, agar agar can be found in a flavorless variety and it acts as a thickener, stabilizer, texturizer, forming a gel-like substance when mixed with water.
In gluten-free baking, this would result in a stretchier dough, chewier breads and (more) moist cakes. That said, it’s a good idea to exercise caution when using agar agar as using too much can result in excess moisture being retained, making your bread or cakes soggy.
Agar agar is available here and since a little goes a long way, you'll have it for a while.
Which Alternative to Xanthan Gum or Guar Gum is Right for You?
Xanthan and guar gum may be the heavy hitters when it comes to binding agents for gluten free bakers, but they aren't the only game in town! What’s more, these other baking solutions promise to deliver results which are just as tasty as using xanthan gum or guar gum in your breads, rolls, muffins, cakes and pretty much anything else you'd like to substitute it for.
Our recommendation? Flax seed meal, chia seed or psyllium husk powder - they're our go-to alternatives for xanthan gum or guar gum!
Ready for some mouthwatering recipes? These are great ones to start with:
Gluten Free Dairy Free Dinner Rolls
Gluten Free White Bread Without Xanthan Gum
This article was originally published 10/26/2013, then updated 3/23/2018 and updated again with new pictures 8/28/2019.
really interesting!, but in what proportions add flax seed? I only those
In most recipes, you would use the same proportion of flax seed as xanthan gum. It's a one-for-one substitution. So 1 tsp. of xanthan gum would mean 1 tsp. of flax seeds (and this would mean the golden flax seeds).
Thanks for asking!
how much psyllium husk replaces 3/4 teaspoon of xanthum gum. Also, does gelatin work or collagen powder?
Sure so for 3/4 teaspoon of xanthan gum, if the recipe is calling for 1 cup of flour, then use 2 teaspoons of psyllium husk powder. I usually stick to 2-3 teaspoons in a recipe.
Hope that helps!
Thanks just what I was looking for. So how would the other ingredients be substituted? I am specifically looking to use psyllium, chia or gelatin.
Hi Zsa Zsa,
Glad it helped you out!
This article addresses psyllium and chia substitutions - https://zestforbaking.com/make-substitutions-xanthan-gum-baking
I didn't know there were so many alternatives. When we stared our GF life we were only looking for GF products. For the last couple of months now we try to eliminate starches and xanthan gum.
Great read thanks
Glad you enjoyed it!
There really are a lot of options out there -
Thanks for stopping by!
Thanks for posting this, I've recently had to start gluten free for my son and I and haven't wanted to use xantham gum or any corn product or corn by-product and this has help me greatly in helping find alternatives in my baking. And usually have flax seed and chia seed on hand for my family and our animals. Time to get plenty more and whip out recipes or find new ones that we love.
So glad it helped Kendall!
Thank you for your awesome feedback!
Just a question: if substituting gelatin or anything else listed here for xanthan gum, is it measure for measure? Thanks.
It usually is - usually just a 1:1 substitution, unless otherwise noted.
Hope that helps!
these were very useful, thanks.
just one clarification, to use chia or flax we need to ground it then use right? so quantity to be taken is grounded mixture?
Yes Saloni, that is correct.
Hi...VERY interesting article. I grow vanilla beans and want to make some Vanilla Paste with some of my cured beans. Most recipes want you to add xanthan gum as a thickener. I believe what I need is a consistency almost like honey...maybe a tad thicker but not firm like a jello for sure. I am not liking what I read about the xanthan gum and I am curious to know which of the above listed suggestions would give me this consistency even after being cooled and decanted into small glass jars. I could not have "seeds" or small ground particles in the Vanilla Paste either. It needs to have a clarity to it! Can you help me to determine which is best to maintain the integrity of the paste? Thanks, and thanks again for this great article!
Hi Nanny B,
Thank you so much for the kind words!
So yeah I have a friend who makes vanilla paste... I asked her about it, since I've never ventured to make it! She said she uses agave nectar and the vanilla bean. That's it.
She said it turns out wonderful every time.
And she does strain it well, to remove the small particles, like you mentioned.
Hope that helps!
Will using only chia seed work? I'm on a very restricted diet and can only use chia seed and not flax or any other above mentioned grains.
Chia seed should work just fine. It's going to depend on the recipe though. Like this recipe, https://zestforbaking.com/amazing-gluten-free-white-bread-without-xanthan-gum I use a combination of chia and flax. But you could try to use just the chia. I'd be curious to see how it turns out for you.
Thanks for asking!
Just like to say thank you for your info as many times I have tried to find simple
solutions to no avail.
As I have been instructed to maintain a gluten free, dairy and soy free diet it hasn't been easy but now that I have read your spill on binders it has made life easier.
Glad to help Sue!
Thanks for this forum. I have been trying to get this Xanthan gum, I need it for my project but unable to get. I don't know may be it has another general name because I thought I would get it from those selling pharmaceutic chemicals but they don't know it. Thanks.
Thanks for the question.
Amazon usually has it at a good price - http://amzn.to/1sEpHZv
Hope that helps!
Thanks for all the great ideas for other things to use. Why can't the manufactures of gluten free breads and cookies use them? I am more interested in baked cookies and cakes than bread ; which some brands don't contain the gum. Would be nice if all of them did. Can you print more of the cookie and cake ones for us. Thanks so much again.
Glad you enjoyed it! I will definitely work on creating more cookie and cake recipes 🙂
I've also used Konjac powder (also called glucommen) as a 1:1 substitute for xanthan gum, which I can't digest. I bought it online.
Hi! oh great tip!
Thanks for sharing!
Can't wait to try these tonight with some homemade soup!!! Thanks for the recipe and the substitutions. I now have another use for my flax seed meal.
Great, you are very welcome! 🙂
Hi Christine, I’m trying to make a 5-ingredient cookie recipe right now, which contains : butter, sugar, flour, vanilla, & chopped pecans. I don’t have any of the items you mentioned right now, and the cookies are crumbling apart. The only thing I have here, that might hold the GF flour together, is eggs. Would you please tell me if eggs would work, & if so, how many eggs to use, per cup of flour?
That's a tough one - my best guess would be eggs and the number of eggs would differ from recipe to recipe. But typically a batch of cookies gets 2 eggs. Is this recipe gluten free as written?
Hi. I'm newbie in baking.
So if I want to make cinnamon rolls and the ingredient stated 3,5 cups gluten free flour, so what is the ratio of gf flour (without xanthan gum) and say, I use chia and flax meal?
So it really depends on the recipe. Are you making these? https://zestforbaking.com/delicious-gluten-free-cinnamon-rolls-recipe If so, I'd suggest trying 1 tsp. of psyllium husk powder for the xanthan gum. I haven't made it with the substitute so I can't be certain of the results, but that would be a good place to start. I use chia and flax often, but psyllium husk might work better in this recipe.
One correction requested. I realize that the post is old, but the information about relative Omega-3 content between Chia and Flax seeds is wrong, way off. Contrary to your statement that Chia has more than 2.5 times the Omega-3 oils of Flax, Flax has about 30% more Omega-3 according to this web page: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/chia-vs-flax , and that is not the only reliable source I have seen this information.
Thanks for the comment - so I use a lot of these substitutes so I definitely don't want any errors in my information!
But chia does in fact have more omega-3's than flax. That's according to Harvard public health, https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/chia-seeds/.
The actual product listings for each show the same thing... flax: https://arrowheadmills.com/cpt_products/organic-flax-seed/ and then chia: https://www.bobsredmill.com/organic-chia-seed.html
I make sure all of my information and recipes are on point so I welcome any feedback. (Provided nothing medical as I am not a medical doctor or nutritionist, just a baker who loves to bake and wants to make sure info is correct 🙂
Thanks for this great info! Which would you recommend for making GF tortillas?
It depends on the recipe... I have a good cassava flour one that's just 4 ingredients https://zestforbaking.com/cassava-flour-tortillas
Starch is going to be really important in any tortilla recipe though.
I was diagnosed with celiac disease about 13 months ago. Since then I've been experimenting with a multitude of recipes for baking. I think I've got the hang of it however I have much to learn. I have been a scratch baker almost all of my live, I'm 69. This is quite the change.
The reason for this post is that I just saw your recipe for GF bread, then crotons. I have a favorite French onion soup recipe but every homemade bread I have used to float on top, so that I can have baked cheesy goodness, hasn't work. The bread falls apart, gets granular and falls to the bottom of the crock with the cheese!
Have you used this bread for this purpose? Any suggestions?
Thanks so much,
Oh I definitely understand... have you tried to toasting it really well? You could bake this one https://zestforbaking.com/golden-gluten-free-french-bread-dairy-free then let it dry out and cut up the slices into small pieces then season and toast the pieces in the oven.
Hope that helps!
I'm new to bread baking and I'm GF (Celiac). I have a couple of burning questions that I would love to hear from your experience. I've been using a GF recipe book (ATK) and so far I'm pleased with the outcome. They feel a bit more dense but are still soft and yummy. I will be of course venturing on some of your recipes in the near future (the french bread looks amazing!). To my questions:
1. I'm curious specifically on psyllium husk powder, I've read there are a couple of varieties and some can impart a purple-ish tone to the baked goods. I've been using a GF recipe book that calls for it, so far so good but the loaves are turning brown like whole wheat (event though it's a classic sandwich bread, no whole flours). Do you know the reason for that and what brand do you recommend that would give a natural bread tone-like? And for one 9x4 loaf, how much do you recommend using?
2. How can I figure out when the bread is fully baked? The ones I've baked seem to be a bit overcooked and a bit drier than I'd like. Other baked goods like cakes etc is pretty easy to figure out but bread is still a mystery to me.
Thanks in advance, really happy I came across your website and all the fantastic recipes and resources.
Thanks for asking!
So for the psyllium husk powder, how much are you using? Typically I use no more than 2 teaspoons in a loaf. If that sounds about right, then the color is just the nature of psyllium husk - a teaspoon of molasses can help avoid a purpleish tint, but it'll still bring out the golden brown.
And the surest way to determine when bread is done is with a thermometer. Bread needs to get to 210 F to be considered done. And sometimes, not all the time, but sometimes, you can still tap on it and it'll sound hollow inside. But the thermometer is definitely the surest way.
Hope that helps!
Hello If i substitute psyllium husk for the xanthan gum would I just add it in or should it be mixed in warm water first? Thanks so much for all the info, so informative and helpful to us novice bakers of gluten free
For psyllium husk, you would just add it in. No water needed.
Let me know if I can help further!
Thanks so much I will try that. Linda
Hello. I can’t tolerate Xanthan gum gives me upset stomach can I substitute cornstarch if yes will it be 1-1?
So it depends on the recipe - but typically psyllium husk powder is a good substitute (in general). Cornstarch may work too though - not sure if that helps, but let me know if you have other questions!
What about pectine as a replacement?
Yes, pectin can be used also - I haven't tested it in recipes, so I can't say for certain on the amount to use but it definitely can be used.
Thank you for asking.
What temp for baking the Boston style brown bread.? I m thrilled to have found your site. Olena
Welcome! Thanks for asking - it's 325 F.
Let me know if I can help with anything.