Xanthan Gum: A Guide to this Versatile Food Additive

April 14, 2023

What makes your food thick, creamy, and smooth? Often, it's thanks to an ingredient called xanthan gum. Despite its strange name, xanthan gum is a popular food additive from salad dressings to ice cream. This versatile ingredient improves the texture and appearance of food products and has potential health benefits. We will look closer at the benefits and uses of xanthan gum, how to use it, and its alternatives.

1.  What is xanthan gum

Chemical formula(C35H49O29)n
SolubilitySoluble in cold or hot water, insoluble in organic solvents
AppearanceFine, off-white powder or granules
TasteOdorless and tasteless
UsesFood additive, thickener, stabilizer, emulsifier, and more
SafetyGenerally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the FDA

Xanthan gum, a natural carbohydrate-based polymer, creates a gel-like substance when mixed with water due to its high molecular weight. We will explore the production process of xanthan gum, its form, and its unique properties and characteristics.

1.1 Form of xanthan gum

1.The most common form is a fine powder xanthan gum, produced by fermenting a carbohydrate source (such as corn or wheat) with Xanthomonas campestris bacteria.

2. Apart from the powdered form, xanthan gum is also obtainable in liquid form, produced by dispersing the powder in water or other liquids. Liquid xanthan gum is often used in applications that require even distribution of ingredients, such as dressings, sauces, and beverages.

3. Another form is a xanthan gum granular form, produced by drying the powder and then granulating it into small particles.

1.2 Properties and characteristics

Xanthan gum possesses several essential properties and characteristics, including:

  1. Thickening: Xanthan gum effectively thickens liquids even at low concentrations, making it a popular ingredient in foods like salad dressings, sauces, and gravies to give them a more substantial texture.
  2. Stabilizing: Xanthan gum acts as an excellent stabilizer, helping to prevent ingredients from separating or settling out. It extensively uses emulsions such as mayonnaise, ice cream, and yogurt.
  3. Shear-thinning: Xanthan gum demonstrates shear-thinning behavior, making it less dense under high shear forces like mixing or blending. This property makes it easy to incorporate into liquids and prevents clumping or settling.
  4. Compatibility: Xanthan gum is compatible with various ingredients, such as proteins, starches, and other hydrocolloids. This versatility makes it suitable for a variety of uses and formulations.
  5. Stability: Xanthan gum is stable over a broad range of pH levels and in the presence of heat and other processing conditions. Its strength makes it an essential ingredient in several food and industrial applications.

1.3 How is xanthan gum made?

The production of xanthan gum typically involves a fermentation process that employs the bacterium Xanthomonas campestris. Here's a general outline of the xanthan gum production process:

Seed culture: The process starts by cultivating a small amount of Xanthomonas campestris in a nutrient-rich medium called the seed culture.

Fermentation: The seed culture is then used to inoculate a larger fermenter containing a carbohydrate source, such as corn or wheat. The bacteria consume carbohydrates and produce xanthan gum as a byproduct.

Recovery: After the fermentation, the xanthan gum is separated from the mixture using filtration and purification techniques. It may involve removing impurities, washing the xanthan gum, and drying it to obtain a powder.

Quality control: The professional testing department will test the xanthan gum, which ensures it meets the necessary quality standards for its intended use.

2.  What does xanthan gum do?

2.1 Health benefits

● Dietary fiber content

Xanthan gum is a dietary fiber source that boosts digestive health by augmenting stool bulk and averting constipation. By binding to bile acids in the intestines, Xanthan gum will block their absorption into the bloodstream.

● Cholesterol-lowering effects

Studies have shown that xanthan gum can lower cholesterol. It does this by binding to bile acids in the intestines to lower cholesterol levels. Bile acids are produced from cholesterol in the liver and help digest and absorb dietary fat. Xanthan gum can lead to their elimination from the body, then obstructs the absorption of bile acids. As a result, the liver must produce more bile acids, necessitating more cholesterol. This process can reduce overall cholesterol levels, including LDL or "bad" cholesterol.

2.2 Benefits in food production

  • Improved texture and appearance

Xanthan gum is a valuable ingredient that thickens liquids by creating a gel-like network, which captures water and other elements. This improves the texture of products like sauces, dressings, and soups, granting them a smoother and creamier consistency. Additionally, xanthan gum enhances the appearance of food items by contributing a glossy finish to glazes, icings, and coatings.

  • Increased shelf life

Xanthan gum is a valuable ingredient that thickens liquids by creating a gel-like network, which captures water and other elements. This improves the texture of products like sauces, dressings, and soups, granting them a smoother and creamier consistency. Additionally, xanthan gum enhances the appearance of food items by contributing a glossy finish to glazes, icings, and coatings.

3.  Xanthan gum uses

Have you heard about xanthan gum? This super versatile food additive is used in all sorts of things, like food, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and even oil drilling! Crazy, right? Let's take a closer look at all the xanthan gum uses. However, we will mainly discuss how it's used in the food industry.

3.1 Uses in the food industry

  • As a thickener

Xanthan gum as a thickener is one of the most common uses. It's mainly used for thickening in the food industry. When added to a liquid, xanthan gum can increase viscosity, creating a thicker, more substantial texture. We will introduce the xanthan gum application in the food industry. Here are a few examples:

1.Salad dressings: Xanthan gum is often used in salad dressings. The reason for doing this is to create a more substantial texture, and it will be easier for lettuce and other vegetables. It can also help to prevent separation between the oil and vinegar components of the dressing.

2. Sauces: Similarly, xanthan gum can be added to sauces (such as tomato sauce or gravy) for a thicker, more velvety texture.

3. Soups: Xanthan gum is also commonly used in soups and stews, where it helps to create a more substantial broth that can better hold ingredients like vegetables and meat.

  • As a stabilizer

1.Dairy alternatives: Many plant-based kinds of milk, such as almond or soy, use xanthan gum to prevent the solid particles from separating from the liquid over time.

2. Salad dressings: Xanthan gum can also be used in salad dressings to help prevent the oil and vinegar from separating.

3. Ice cream: Xanthan gum can help prevent ice crystals from forming in ice cream, giving it a smoother, creamier texture.

  • As an emulsifier

In addition to the two roles of xanthan gum mentioned above, it has another well-known function. In the food industry, it is also an emulsifier because it helps to combine ingredients that would otherwise separate, such as oil and water.

1.Salad dressings: Xanthan gum can be added to salad dressings to help combine oil and vinegar, creating a smooth, creamy texture.

3. Mayonnaise: Xanthan gum is frequently used in mayonnaise to create a stable emulsion between the oil and egg components.

3. Baked goods: Xanthan gum can be added to baked goods like bread or muffins to help combine water and oil-based ingredients, creating a more uniform texture.

3.2 Xanthan gum used in cosmetics

Xanthan gum is not only used in the food industry but also finds application in cosmetics and personal care products. Its various uses in these industries are:

  • Skincare

When you apply skin care products, you must find that they are smooth and delicate.

Xanthan Gum provides a creamy texture and adhesion to skin care products.

  1. Moisturizers: To create a lightweight, hydrating formula that quickly absorbs into the skin without leaving a greasy residue.
  2. Serums: To create a smooth, serum-like texture that can easily glide over the skin and deliver active ingredients like vitamins and antioxidants.
  3. Masks: To create a thick, creamy texture that can be easily left on the skin for a prolonged period.
  • Haircare

Xanthan gum is a versatile ingredient commonly used in haircare products to create a thicker, more substantial texture.

1. Shampoos: Xanthan gum can help to create a thick, foamy lather that effectively cleanses the hair without stripping away its natural oils.

2. Conditioners: Xanthan gum can help to create a thick, creamy texture that coats the hair, providing hydration and protection.

3. Styling products: Xanthan gum can be added to styling products like gels and mousses to create a thicker, more substantial texture that helps to hold the hair in place.

  • Toothpaste

Xanthan gum is also added to our daily toothpaste. It can create a smooth, creamy texture and help the product adhere to the teeth and gums.

1. Texture: Xanthan gum can create a smooth, creamy texture that makes toothpaste easier to apply and more pleasant to use.

2. Stability: Xanthan gum helps stabilize the toothpaste formula, preventing the ingredients from separating and ensuring the product maintains its texture over time.

3. Foaming: Xanthan gum can help to create a foaming action in toothpaste, which can help to dislodge debris and bacteria from the teeth and gums.

3.3 In pharmaceuticals

Xanthan gum is a common ingredient in pharmaceutical products. Because it is a thickener, stabilizer, and suspending agent.

1.Oral suspensions: Xanthan gum can help to create a stable suspension of drug particles in a liquid medium. It's essential for drugs insoluble in water or has poor bioavailability.

2. Ophthalmic products: Xanthan gum is also significant in our ophthalmic drugs. It is used as a thickener and stabilizer in eye drops and ointments. It helps keep the product in contact with the eye for a more extended period, improving its effectiveness.

3. Topical gels: Xanthan gum can create a gel-like consistency in topical products like creams and ointments. It can help to improve their spreadability and absorption into the skin.

3.4 In oil drilling

Xanthan gum finds utility in various industrial applications, including oil drilling. Here are a few examples of its usage:

  1. Drilling fluid: Xanthan gum is added to the drilling liquid to help stabilize it and prevent the well from collapsing. It also creates a barrier between the drilling fluid and the surrounding rock to prevent contamination.
  2. Fracturing fluids: Xanthan gum acts as a thickener and suspending agent in fracturing fluids, which are used to fracture underground rock formations and release oil and gas.
  3. Enhanced oil recovery: Xanthan gum is utilized in improved oil recovery processes to enhance the viscosity of the fluid injected into the well. This can improve the efficiency of the process and increase the amount of oil that can be recovered.

4.  Use of xanthan gum

Now that we have carefully understood the basic knowledge of xanthan gum, including its functions and uses. So, you may be curious, how should we use it? We will explore how to use xanthan gum effectively and offer some tips for storing it properly. By the end, you will master the information you need to incorporate xanthan gum into your business or recipe.

4.1 How to use xanthan gum?

1.Use a small amount

When utilizing xanthan gum, it is crucial to use a small quantity since it is highly potent, and a little can have a significant effect. Overusing xanthan gum can result in a slimy or gummy texture, spoiling the dish's texture and flavor. Based on our experience, use no more than 1/2 teaspoon of xanthan gum per cup of liquid or flour mixture. Of course, the exact amount needed will depend on the recipe and texture you want.

2. Mix well

Mixing it thoroughly to ensure even distribution throughout the recipe is crucial. Improper mixing can result in clumping and uneven texture. Mix xanthan gum evenly with a whisk, blender, or food processor. Alternatively, you can make a slurry by combining xanthan gum with a small amount of water before adding it to your recipe. It will help the xanthan gum to disperse evenly, producing a smooth and consistent texture.

3. Allow time for thickening

The thickening process continues over time, so be careful not to add too much xanthan gum, which can lead to an excessively thick or gummy texture. If xanthan gum is used in sauces or condiments, let it stand for a few minutes before serving. This will make the taste of the dish more integrated, and the texture will fully develop.

4. Adjust for taste

Adjust for Taste Xanthan gum can sometimes have a slightly bitter taste, so adjusting your recipe for taste after adding it is essential. Begin by adding a small amount of xanthan gum to your recipe and taste it before adding more. If you notice a bitter aftertaste, adjust the other flavors in your recipe to balance it out. For example, add some salt or sugar to offset the bitterness. If you find that xanthan gum has a strong taste, you need to adjust it. You can use different thickeners, such as corn starch or arrowroot powder.

4.2 How to store xanthan gum?

To ensure that your xanthan gum stays fresh and effective, it's essential to store it properly. Here are some suggestions on preserving xanthan gum from us as a food additive manufacturer:

1. Keep it dry: Xanthan gum is hygroscopic, which absorbs moisture from the air. So, store xanthan gum in a cool, dry place away from water to prevent clumping and moisture damage.

2. Avoid direct sunlight: Exposure to sunlight can break down the properties of xanthan gum, so keep it away from direct sunlight.

3. Use airtight containers: You can reseal it in a plastic bag, like a glass jar with a tight lid. It will help prevent moisture from getting in and keep your xanthan gum fresh.

4. Check the expiration date: Xanthan gum can be used for two years if stored properly. This ensures that xanthan gum is still effective.

5.  Xanthan gum substitute

If you don't have xanthan gum or prefer not to use it, several substitutes can provide similar properties. Do you want a plant substitute or some common food ingredients? Regardless of the demand, we will provide some of the best alternatives to xanthan gum.

5.1 Guar gum

Guar gum is an excellent substitute for xanthan gum, made from the guar plant seeds found in India and Pakistan. It is also a powerful thickener, making gluten-free baked goods, sauces, and dressings more enjoyable. However, remember that guar gum has distinct properties compared to xanthan gum. It requires more to get the same results and has a different texture and mouthfeel. To find the right amount to use in your recipe, it's best to experiment with it.

5.2 Cornstarch

Cornstarch is the ingredient you often use in chicken. It can also be used as a substitute for xanthan gum. When using cornstarch as a substitute, mix it with cold water to form a paste. Then use approximately 1 tablespoon of cornstarch per cup of liquid, stirring the paste into a hot liquid. During this period, stir continuously over medium heat until the mixture thickens. And, it's essential to use caution when cooking with cornstarch as it can reduce quickly and become lumpy if not gone constantly. And, it's essential to use caution when cooking with cornstarch as it can reduce quickly and become lumpy if not gone constantly.

Cornstarch is most effective as a thickening agent in sauces and gravies rather than baked goods or other recipes requiring binding properties.

5.3 Arrowroot powder

Arrowroot powder comes from the roots of the arrowroot plant, which is native to South America. It is a plant-based substitute for xanthan gum.

Mix arrowroot powder as a substitute for xanthan gum with cold water to create a slurry. Use about one tablespoon of arrowroot powder per cup of liquid in the recipe. Then, whisk the slurry into the hot liquid and cook over medium heat, constantly stirring, until the mixture thickens. Be cautious when cooking with arrowroot powder, as it can reduce quickly and become lumpy if not continuously gone.

Arrowroot powder has a neutral flavor and is often used in gluten-free baking as a substitute for wheat flour. It can also be used as a thickener in recipes like sauces and gravies and may provide a smoother texture than cornstarch.

5.4 Psyllium husk

Psyllium husk is a plant-based ingredient derived from the husks of the seeds of the Plantago ovata plant and is often used as a dietary fiber supplement. It can also be a suitable substitute for xanthan gum in gluten-free baking since it possesses binding properties that enhance baked goods' texture. And psyllium husk has a high fiber content and may have a slightly nutty flavor that can be noticeable. It's best to use psyllium husk in recipes like bread, muffins, and other baked goods that require binding properties.

When you use psyllium husk as a xanthan gum substitute, mix it with warm water, creating a gel-like substance. In the recipe, roughly 1 tablespoon of psyllium husk per cup of flour. After mixing the psyllium husk and flour, you will allow the mixture to rest for a few minutes to thicken, then add to the recipe. It's essential to be cautious when working with psyllium husk since it can reduce quickly and may become gummy if too much is used.

In summary, xanthan gum is a widely used food additive critical in many foods. Its versatility and benefits make it a valuable ingredient, but understanding how to use it safely and effectively is crucial, as with any food additive. And understanding xanthan gum and its uses can help us make informed decisions about the foods we consume.

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