March 29, 2019 6:41 am Leave your thoughts
Gelatin (or gelatine) is an ingredient widely used in cooking and found on the ingredients lists of many, many products. It’s a substance made from animal collagen (the structural protein of connective tissue in animals): animal tissues, along with bones, are boiled until they congeal into this gel-like matter. Used in foodstuff, gelatin helps thicken a recipe and ‘gels’ the other ingredients together. You’re most likely to find gelatin in things like chewy sweets, jellies and marshmallows.
If you’re not vegan – or vegetarian – you probably don’t give gelatin much thought. For vegans and vegetarians, however, it’s the number one hidden ingredient to look out for. It turns what appear to be vegan goodies into absolute no-go areas, once you’ve carefully checked the ingredients.
There are, however, several vegan alternatives to gelatin – and we stock these at Naturally Good Food! Let’s take a look.
Agar agar flakes: vegan alternative to gelatin
Agar agar flakes, known as kanten in the East, are supplied to us by Sanchi. Their name translates as ‘sticky sticky’! They’re made by cooking and pressing seaweed until it flakes – with the flakes themselves being entirely flavourless. They give a firmer texture than standard gelatin, meaning that the resulting product won’t wobble quite as much.
They’re easy to use: you put 1/4 cup water into a pan and stir in 1 tbsp flakes over a medium heat. Cook and stir for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture is bubbling and the flakes have begun to dissolve. You should then add the mixture immediately to whatever you are trying to make ‘gelatinous’, as it continues to thicken once you’ve removed it from the heat. If it does go too stiff, or conversely, is too runny, it’s easy to rectify: simply add more water, or more flakes, and reheat.
Carrageenan: vegan alternative to gelatin
Just Wholefoods produce a vegan alternative to gelatine called Vegeset. This too is flavourless and sets clear (agar agar flakes set slightly cloudy). It’s made from carrageenan moss, another type of seaweed, which is washed, boiled, filtered and dehydrated to obtain a gel, which is then dried to make a powder. We’ve got a great recipe for panna cotta at the end of this blog, made using Vegeset.
Guar gum and xanthan gum: vegan alternatives to gelatin
Vegetable gums are sometimes used as setting agents too: at Naturally Good Food we stock guar gum and xantham gum. Guar gum is derived from the starchy interior of the guar bean seed, while xanthan gum is produced by fermenting glucose, sucrose or lactose extracted from corn or soya. Both are effective thickeners, but their ability to ‘set’ a product varies according to temperature and the pH of the other ingredients. They’re therefore not the best standard alternatives to gelatin, but will work in certain recipes.
These gums have several other useful properties too. They’re good emulsifiers, stabilisers and preservatives. In gluten-free baking, they’re used to bind ingredients and add elasticity to dough.
Pectin: vegan alternative to gelatin
Pectin is produced by boiling, filtering and dehydrating fruit (usually citrus fruit) to make a soft gel. It’s this that is used to ‘set’ jams and other preserves. Pectin gives a firmer result than gelatin in other recipes – and is generally less versatile – but it can certainly be used. This website explains how.
We’ve also got a good selection of vegan jelly crystals from Just Wholefoods.
Vanilla Panna Cotta with Mixed Berry Coulis recipe
If you’re interested in using a gelatin alternative, you might like to check out this delicious recipe for panna cotta, made using Just Wholefoods’ Vegeset.
- 250ml milk
- 250ml double cream
- 1 vanilla pod (or vanilla extract)
- 25g sugar
- 1 tsp Vegeset
- 100g mixed berries
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1 tbsp icing sugar
- Place the milk, cream, vanilla and sugar into a pan. Sprinkle the Vegeset evenly on the top and whisk immediately, while bringing the mixture to almost boiling. Remove the vanilla pod, pour into ramekins and leave in the fridge to set.
- Make the coulis by whizzing 100g mixed berries, the juice from 1 lime and 1 tbsp of icing sugar in a blender. Chill, and serve with the panna cotta – lovely.
This post was written by Yzanne