Xanthan gum, or any other gums for that matter, has always been thought of as a necessary ingredient in gluten free baking. The assumption comes from the fact that since there was no gluten in the recipe, you’d need to use something to acts as a gluten replacer. Xanthan gum and guar gum stepped in to try to fill that void.
But, as it turns out, gums sometimes cause more trouble than they are worth. They don’t always agree with digestive tracks and they may not be the best thing to put into your body. According to this article about how xanthan gum is actually made, it is safe to consume in moderation, but people with digestive issues could experience the laxative effect that xanthan gum is also responsible for.
You’ve probably seen xanthan gum listed as an ingredient in countless gluten free recipes. Breads mainly, but pancakes, biscuits and muffins aren’t excluded either. So that brings up the next topic in the Gluten Free Bread Baking Problems, Answered series…
How to make gluten free bread without xanthan gum
A brief history of xanthan gum
According to LiveScience, xanthan gum has been a stabilizer in our food since around 1969. It’s now found in everything from salad dressings to breads to wall paper. And the fact that it’s mass produced for all these uses means xanthan gum is big business. Back in the 1970’s, xanthan gum was found to be extremely useful in thickening liquids. This is probably how it crept its way into gluten free baking. It worked for dressings and whipped cream by binding the ingredients together, so it could do the same for breads that needed a binding agent.
Ideal solution, right?
But with any solution that seems ideal, there is the other side of the coin.
What to do if you want to avoid xanthan gum in your baking
Xanthan gum causes a lot of trouble for a lot of people. Especially those who already suffer from digestive / stomach issues. So the only answer in that case is to avoid it all together.
But because xanthan gum does have that stabilizer / binding quality, in many recipes that effect is still needed, so if you want to avoid it, you have to replace it with something else that will work the same way. Or as close to the same way as possible.
If you’ve been following me for any time, you’ll notice that I am slowly converting all my recipes to replace the xanthan gum. Here are some of the best solutions for replacing xanthan gum in your gluten free recipes…
Street Directory mentions how eggs can be used as a binding agent. But most recipes already contain eggs so what then? Well an option would be to use an extra egg white. This is a great option if you can tolerate eggs. But if you can’t, keep reading.
Chia seed / golden flax meal
(This is a Zest for Baking original!) This just might be one of the best kept secrets for making gluten free bread without xanthan gum. A combination of chia seeds and golden flax meal mixed with water. Not just chia seeds or just flax seeds, but a combination. And go with the golden flax, not regular ground flax seed, it bakes up really nice in your breads.
Here is the reason I am a big proponent of combination baking: In every recipe we have on the website, even in the bonus included with my masterclass, combinations are everywhere – from flours to starches to binding agents. I’ve found that this is the best way to go for replacing ingredients. Use a half and half ratio. For a first-hand look, check out this sandwich bread recipe.
Psyllium husk powder
Psyllium husk powder is pure dietary fiber. Think Metamucil. But before you fear that this is not the direction you want to take your gluten free breads, consider this – used in small amounts, it will not send your friends and family running for the bathroom. In fact, in some recipes, like this cinnamon raisin bread, just a small amount is needed.
Gelatin is also an option for replacing xanthan gum in a recipe. It’s listed last because it is last in my arsenal of replacer options. The reason why is because I just don’t use it much. But if you want to use gelatin to replace the gums, the gelatin would need to be doubled. So if the recipe calls for 2 tsp. of xanthan gum, use 4 tsp. of gelatin.
One other point to keep in mind when making gluten free bread without xanthan gum is to incorporate a ‘stickier’ flour. When you take out the binding agent in your breads, muffins or cookies, choose a flour like sweet rice flour to create a texture you’d get with xanthan gum, only without the side effects.
For the latest on this series and other special recipes, join our email list below.
Hello, with the replacement for xanthan gum, could you please put the ratios for replacement?
with one teaspoon of gum or tablespoon, how much chia seed and flaxmeal would I need
Sure, so with 1 tsp of gum, you'd need the same amount of chia and flax seed. BUT, you'd make the slurry first - use 2 - 3 times the amount of water. So 3 tsp. water and 1 tsp. chia or flax seed or a combination as I use here https://zestforbaking.com/amazing-gluten-free-white-bread-without-xanthan-gum and then let it soak for a few minutes before adding it to the recipe with the wet ingredients.
Hope that helps!
I have tried using the recipe without any gums, but my loaf rises well and then sinks in the middle before the baking is finished. How can I overcome this ?
Thanks for asking...
What recipe are you using? What are you using to replace the gums? What size pan are you using? It's tough to nail down exactly why it fell, but I'll try!
Let me know, thanks!
Can I do the reverse? I'm vegetarian so don't eat gluten and I was wondering if I can adjust the xanthan gum in order to omit the gelatin. Thanks!
I can't edit my above question… I made a typo: I should have said I don't eat **gelatin.**
Thanks for the question!
Actually you may not have too - if you can do xanthan gum with no problems, then just use that. If there is gelatin in a recipe you want to make, then a good rule of thumb is 1 tsp. of xanthan gum per cup of flour.
Hope that answers your question.
Hi. I'm allergic to flaxseed. Can I double the chia or use psyllium husks to replace the flax, or instead of double chia at 2 tsp., maybe use 1.5 tsp. chia instead to avoid to much sticky gum effect? Thank you!
Yes, absolutely - but use the method of just doubling the chia seeds, keeping the water at 4 tsp. Otherwise, with the psyllium, you'd have to tinker with the water too, and I am not certain how the results would be.
Hope that helps!
Also, have you ever tried subbing pectin for gelatin? It's what they make vegan (jello) out of. You can buy it plain and flavorless too.
I haven't, but I've had it on my list for a while - I'll definitely check it out!
Thank you for this! I’m also hoping you’ll be able to adapt your French Bread recipe soon, so try it no longer calls for xanthan gum.
Following your blog and love it!
Aw, thank you and welcome!
And yes, I have it on my list to work on!
Can I use cornstarch in place of tapioca starch
Yes, that should work just fine.
I have to bake grain free instead of gluten free without grains. I am allergic to almonds and about all the grain free recipes call for almond flour. I have used cassava flour but it comes out gummy on the inside and done on the outside. What am I doing wrong?
So cassava flour is too starchy to be used on its own (I do have a tortilla recipe that uses just cassava flour), but for breads, it's not a good solo flour.
Have you tried using protein powder in breads? Like in this recipe https://zestforbaking.com/low-carb-flour-free-gluten-free-white-bread
Hope that helps!