Guar Gum versus Xanthan Gum… what's the difference?

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Dear Readers:

I am asked a lot if it’s okay to substitute guar gum for xanthan gum in my recipes. The answer is “yes”. They are pretty much interchangeable, one for one. Many brands of xanthan gum are a derivative of corn (except for Authentic Foods xanthan gum), so those with corn allergies will want to use guar gum in my recipes when I call for xanthan gum.  But please note, there are subtle differences. To illustrate this subtlety, I have turned once again to my trusty Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe. I made one batch with xanthan gum (as the recipe instructs) and one batch with guar gum. All other ingredients were EXACTLY the same.  See the photos below. The top photo are the cookies made with xanthan gum, the bottom, with guar gum. Both were delicious, but there was a slight difference in texture.



The cookies made with xanthan gum (top) are slightly chewier, with more cracks in the surface.  The cookies made with guar gum (bottom) are more domed, with fewer splits in the surface and a very slightly denser consistency.  One is not better than the other. I found the cookies made with guar gum crumbled a bit more, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles! The one notable difference I should add is that the cookies made with guar gum caused some gastric distress (that’s right, that’s code for “GAS”). I looked into this and sure enough, gas is a side effect of guar gum, but one is assured that after several days of ingesting it, this will settle down.

So what are these vegetable gums, and why use them in the first place? Both xanthan gum and guar gum are used in gluten-free baking to help mimic the structure traditionally provided by gluten (protein) in wheat flour. They add viscosity, and really help keep the baked goods together (binding), as well as preventing them from drying out too quickly. In the old days, I tried baking gluten-free without xanthan gum, out of some sort of misguided rebellion (I didn’t need that 1/4 teaspoon of powder!) I have since come to my senses. After all, it really is magic powder. And a little bit goes a long way… so though it might seem rather spendy, a bag of xantham gum or guar gum should last you many months. Keep it tightly sealed in the fridge.

But back to what they are…. two apt discriptions http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-xanthan-gum.htm http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-guar-gum.htm

In sum: you can use either xanthan gum or guar gum in my recipes. Guar gum is less expensive, but it might give you gas until you get used to it. Up to you.

Happy baking!

Cybele

22 Responses

  1. kelly cooper says:

    First let me say that I prefer xanthan gum. I ran out of it and happened to have guar gum so I used that instead. I was doing a lot of baking that day and that was the only thing that I changed for the recipes I had used. All of my kids (4) had diarhea =( (sorry for the grossness, but I would want to know if it were me. Then every time I served those baked goods, they would get upset tummies with the same results. I finally put two and two together, after reading about guar gum’s side effects. HTH, Kelly

  2. Homa says:

    Thank you so much for doing this!!!! I am hoping corn allergies aren’t always an issue but in the meantime my daughter can have cookies. :) We’ve had no adverse reactions to guar gum like the previous commenter mentioned so we’re lucky in that regard.

  3. Homa says:

    Hi again! Another corn-free substitution question: I can’t find a powdered rice milk that doesn’t have corn derivatives so I can make the Potato Bread. Any thoughts?

    Just made the maple chocolate cupcakes last night and they have been the biggest hit yet! Love love love your cookbook!

  4. Bri says:

    Hi there! As a baker who is just at the beginning of a journey into gluten free and dairy free baking, I’d like to thank you for all of your work and let you know that your book is a fantastic resource! I’ve been wondering, though, if you bake by weight or by volume when you do these experiments. This one, and the one regarding brands of rice flour are interesting to me. However, if you bake by volume I’m less inclined to believe the results are only due to the difference in ingredients between the recipes. If you have been baking by weight, I would LOVE if you would post your weight measurements as well with your recipes!

  5. Marcus says:

    Yes, yes, yes! Please, if you have them, the weight measurements would be so helpful! When I bake by volume, I use every measuring cup two or three times, it drive me nuts. Baking by weight is so much easier….measuring becomes a snap! I absolutely love your cookbooks, and all you’ve done for allergy-free cooking. You’re awesome!

    • admin says:

      Dear Marcus:

      SOrry I’m just getting to comments. Yikes, this has been here for 10 days! I don’t have the weight measurements, but I do have an email from a reader who did a little testing for me. I’ll dig it out and get back to you with her calculations.

      all the best, and thanks for your kind words!

      Cybele

  6. Chemtotal says:

    Guar Gum is an important ingredient in producing food emulsifier, food additive, food thickener and other guargum products. India is the largest producer of guar gum products. Its guar gum exporters, guar gum manufacturers, guar gum products suppliers, foo emulsifier exporter have reached to many countries and today there is a lot of demand for indian guar gum products, food additives, food thickener and other allied guar gum products.

    Guar gum is extracted from the seed of Cyamopsis tetragonoloba, an annual leguminous plant originating from India and Pakistan, also cultivated in the United States. Guar Gum grows best in sandy soils, in areas of West, Northwest India and parts of Pakistan, which are ideal for it’s farming. Jodhpur City in the North Western state of Rajasthan in India is the most important processing center of Guar Gum and contributes approximately 40% of the world’s Guar Gum supply. Indian Guar Gum Products are exported and supplied all over the world by different guar gum exporters, guar gum manufacturers, guar gum suppliers and guar gum exporter. Many food emulsifier exporter also exports superior quality food additive, food thickener and food emulsifier.

    Guar gum is an emulsifier, thickener, and stabilizer approved for use in a wide range of foods, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals. Gum Technology Stabilizers are carefully controlled blends of various food ingredients. They are mostly natural vegetable gums which come from sources such as seeds, plant exudate and marine plants. These may be blended with other hydro-colloids or food ingredients such as fats or emulsifiers.

    India is famous for guar gum products and food additives. It is sold as a white to yellowish odorless powder, which is available in different viscosities depending on the desired one. One advantageous property of guar gum is that it thickens without the application of heat. Guar Gum has the following properties, which make it useful in variety of applications.

    Easy solubility in cold and hot water
    Film forming property
    Resistance to oils, greases and solvents
    Better thickening agent
    Water binding capacity
    High viscosity
    Functioning at low temperatures

    Industrial application of guar gum includes the textile industry where guar gum’s excellent thickening properties are used for textile sizing, finishing and printing. In the paper industry Guar is used as an additive where It gives denser surface to the paper used in printing. And in the explosive industry guar is mixed in Ammonium Nitrate, Nitroglycerine and Oil explosives, where it helps maintain the explosive properties of the product even in wet conditions.

    In the food, pharmaceutical and cosmetics industry, Guar Gum is used as an effective binder, stabilizer, dis-integrator and thickener. In bakeries, diaries and in production of meat and, dressings and sauces, Guar is an important natural food supplement with high nutritional value, for weight gain and cholesterol reduction. In cosmetics, especially shampoos and toothpastes, guar gum is used primarily as a thickening and suspending agent. In beverages, it is used as stabilizer for preparing chocolate drinks and juices. Guar is also widely used in tobacco, leather, insecticides and pesticides, crayons, adhesives etc. Guar gum comes in different forms – from seeds to powder. Main types of Guar Gum include Guar Seed, Un-dehusked Split, Refined Split, Pulverized Guar Gum Powder, Guar Protein and Guar Meal.

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  8. Norma Stamp says:

    Thanks once again, Cybele for a most informative article! It cleared up a lot of questions I had.

  9. Cybele says:

    Thanks Norma!

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  11. [...] much better since I started using corn free xanthan gum instead of guar gum (see a great comparison here), but because it was my first taste of chocolate since a year ago when I stopped eating chocolate [...]

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  13. Marlaine Eggett says:

    Hi Cybele

    I am having a very hard time making the bread products. I just tried your potato bread again and it will not rise?! I use guar gum instead of xanthum gum. I used 1T plus 2t of guar gum as I had thought you needed more guar gum then you would xanthum gum. Is it worth making bread with guar gum?? If so, I may need to stick to chocolate cake :)

    I cannot digest xanthum gum

    Thanks
    Marlaine

    • cybele says:

      Hi Marlaine:

      Are you changing anything other than the xanthan gum? I don’t think you need to add extra guar gum, I’d use the same proportions as the xanthan. Are you letting it rise in really warm water? Are you replacing the water to make sure it stays hot? Are you covering it while it’s rising? Please give me any variables you might have, so I can help you trouble shoot. Have you tried the “buttermilk” raisin bread? That might be easier? I want to help you make bread!

      all best,

      Cybele

      • Marlaine Eggett says:

        Yeah! Thanks for getting back to me. I did all those things – they just wont rise. When I take the dough out of the mixer, it is not very sticky. I use a package of bakipan fast rising instant yeast. Dark brown sugar instead of light. Guar gum instead of xanthum as above. And 1/3 cup of skim dairy powder instead of vegan as I am ok with that and havent been able to find anything vegan and powdered yet. I dont knead the dough like my mom did. Just formed into shapes per the instructions. Pretty hard to roll up; maybe I’m doing that too tight? Also, the bread broke apart quite a bit when I took it out. The seam was very obvious on the bottom and where there were “lines” on the top, they fell off when the loaf was handled. When sliced, it fell apart too so not very sticky. Thats about all I can think of. Thank you!

        • Marlaine says:

          I’m pretty sure it is not the guar gum. It is my oil. I went back to the cookbook to the pantry section and read up on the Spectrum oil that you use in the recipes. I cannot get that in Canada and have been using Earth Balance shortening. I’ve made brownies and cookies with it and both have turned into a soggy mess. The brownies tasted great but I poured off a lot of oil that was just floating every where. I’ll have to try with every day margarine or maybe canola oil.

  14. Julie S. says:

    I recently found out that xanthum gum is derived from corn, wheat or soy. As I am allergic to all 3, this does eliminate its use. Not sure why it would be a gluten free substitute when it may/may not contain gluten or other allergens.

  15. Guar gum comes from natural legume guar plant and xanthan gum is a laboratory product. Both products are useful for same purpose. Guar Gum and xanthan gum are having different taste in the food products. if You want more information about Guar Gum. You can visit us: http://www.stargumsindia.com/

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