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What's The Difference Between Xanthan Gum & Guar Gum?

Xanthan Gum

As you know, the biggest problem with gluten-free baking is finding a suitable substitute for wheat gluten that mimics the springy, stretchy texture of dough made from wheat flour.  Gluten is also the factor that helps cakes and bread dough retain the carbon dioxide bubbles that form inside the mixture while cooking, making the cake or bread light and pleasant to eat.

Xanthan gum and guar gum are two ingredients that can be used to substitute for gluten in baking to render the dough springy and light.  Due to their ability to attract water and thicken and bind gluten-free ingredients, gums are termed "hydrocolloidals".

Xanthan Gum

Xanthan gum is a polysaccharide, which is the name given to a string of sugars and carbohydrates.  Often used as a binding ingredient in commercially produced salad dressings, gravies and sauces, xanthan gum also helps oil and vinegar to mix together and prevents ice crystals from forming in frozen goods such as ice cream.

Xanthan gum is derived from the bacterium Xanthomonas campestris.  To obtain xanthan gum, the Xanthomonas campestris bacteria are applied to a sugar - usually corn sugar - and left to ferment.  The resulting product can best be described as a "slime" that is dried and ground, and later added to a liquid medium to produce xanthan gum suitable for cooking.

In baking xanthan gum helps ingredients to hold together, producing baked goods with the right texture and elasticity.   Xanthan gum is expensive, but very little needs to be used to obtain the right texture.

When adding xanthan gum to recipes, care should be taken not to over-mix the ingredients afterwards, as too much mixing can cause the cake or cookies to become rubbery and tough.  Just a few stirs are necessary. Try adding 1/2 teaspoon of xanthan gum per cup of flour for cakes, 3/4 teaspoon per cup of flour for breads and 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon per cup of flour for cookies.

Unfortunately, some celiacs or people sensitive to corn cannot tolerate xanthan gum, so guar gum can be used as a substitute.

Guar Gum

Guar gum is made from the ground endosperm of the guar bean.  Once the seeds are dehusked and ground, they are sieved to obtain the guar gum, which is a whitish powder.  Guar gum is also a hydrocolloid and is a polysaccharide composed of sugars called mannose and galactose.

Guar gum has about 8 times the thickening ability of cornstarch, so it can be used in place of flour to thicken sauces.  It has similar properties to xanthan gum, as it can also be used as an emulsifier to help oil and vinegar combine, and as a stabilizer to prevent particles from settling in a liquid. Try using a mixture of 1 cup of wheat-free flour and 1 teaspoon of guar gum for every cup of wheat flour in recipes.

Although, using a combination of both xanthan gum and guar gum can produce the best results.  If the recipe states that you should use 1 tablespoon of xanthan gum, try using one and a half teaspoons of xanthan gum and one and a half teaspoons of guar gum.

So, how do you add these gums to the ingredients?  Personally, I found that adding gums to liquids makes them clump.  To avoid clumping when adding gums, I blend them with one of the dry ingredients such as the flour or sugar.  This way the ingredients bind together in a smoother way with fewer lumps.

After some experimentation with both guar gum and xanthan gum in breads, I found that using guar gum for loaves made the bread very crumbly and not at all “bread-like”.  On the other hand, using xanthan gum gives the bread a spongier texture and much more like bread made from wheat.

In the end, experimentation is the order of the day.  Experimenting with different blends of flours with gums will ultimately give you the combination that works for you.

Need some help converting a regular recipe into a gluten-free version? Download our Flour Conversion Chart

22 Responses to What's The Difference Between Xanthan Gum & Guar Gum?

  1. Dot July 21, 2014 at 8:35 am #

    I was reading about the use of Xanthan Gum and Guar Gum that you wrote and found this statement very confusing. (It sounds like you are saying opposite things about the same product. Please explain.):

    "After some experimentation with both guar gum and xanthan gum in breads, I found that using guar gum for loaves made the bread very crumbly and not at all “bread-like”. On the other hand, using guar gum gives the bread a spongier texture and much more like bread made from wheat."

    • Marla Hingley
      Marla Hingley July 21, 2014 at 9:12 am #

      You're right, that is confusing! I have edited the article - it was a typo and she meant to say xanthan gum is better to use for breads to give a spongier more wheat bread-like texture.

  2. Pat November 7, 2014 at 11:35 am #

    I am a total newby with many many sensitivities to my system. Having recently discovered Chia seeds and their gelatinous properties, can they be used as a gum in baking?
    Also, can you recommend a good starting point to get me started in the GF world?
    Thank you

    • Angie Halten (Admin)
      Angie Halten (Admin) November 8, 2014 at 6:06 pm #

      To replace xanthan gum with chia seeds, mix together 1 Tbsp ground chia seeds and 2 Tbsp boiling water. Mix, let sit until thick, then add to your batter (you may need to increase your baking time by 15 minutes).
      We have a number or articles in our Lifestyles section to get you started on transitioning to a gluten free lifestyle, as well we have a number of ebooks available. If you look on the home page on the right side under Gluten Free Resources, all our ebooks are listed.
      A Beginners Guide to Living Gluten Free & Gluten Free Cooking Secrets are probably the best place to start!

      • Maureen E June 17, 2015 at 7:36 am #

        Sorry, how much xanthan is this chia replacing? I would like to use the chia but have yet to find the right quantities. For 1 tsp xanthan, how much chia?

        • Marla Hingley
          Marla Hingley June 17, 2015 at 10:18 am #

          In place of xanthan gum, replace at a 1:1 ratio (dry). Then prepare the chia (or ground flax seeds) using twice as much boiling water to hydrate them. I'm just finishing up working on an article for Xanthan Gum Substitutes, it should be ready by the end of the week!

  3. Ilse January 17, 2015 at 1:21 pm #

    I do not have a gluten problem and recently got a hold of some gluten free bread and like the taste and texture from the bread. Do you have a recipy for a small bread machine to make a simple1lbs loaf of bread? I do have xanthan gum, how much do I have to use for the bread?

    Thank you.

    Am new at this, am I doing it right?

  4. Wendy January 23, 2015 at 7:04 pm #

    thank you for the advice. I will get some even though it is expensive.

  5. Pete. March 11, 2015 at 8:04 am #

    What do beans do for a celiac? Are they fattening etc. ?
    Thanks.
    Pete.

    • Angie Halten (Admin)
      Angie Halten (Admin) March 11, 2015 at 7:20 pm #

      Beans are low in fat, high in fiber, and are an excellent source of source of protein, especially for those avoiding meat.

  6. Saif March 12, 2015 at 2:28 am #

    Appreciate if someone can please direct me to some online shops selling GF products for baking and cooking. Thanx.

    • Angie Halten (Admin)
      Angie Halten (Admin) March 12, 2015 at 8:38 am #

      There are a lot of gluten free food supply online stores now. Generally you'll get better deals the closer the company is to your house (lower shipping costs), so the advantages of doing a google search on your own computer is that googles program is smart enough that it usually brings up websites that are within your state/province first. Remember that specialty gluten free sites can sell their products at a premium price. I like to shop at amazon.com They have an amazing gluten free selection, and good prices (and usually you can get free shipping).

  7. Jessie March 12, 2015 at 12:55 pm #

    It might be good to mention that guar gum is often adulterated with soy (by as much as 10% soy protein) as many celiacs may have soy sensitives as well.

    • Susan Myers March 15, 2015 at 10:44 am #

      Thanks for sharing that. Almost all soy is GMO and if it is in guar gum I would not use it and Chatham gum comes from corn which most corn is BT (genetically modified) so what other alternatives are there?

      • Susan Myers March 15, 2015 at 10:50 am #

        I meant xanthan gum but my Kindle would not let me edit my post.

      • Marla Hingley
        Marla Hingley March 15, 2015 at 8:23 pm #

        I'm actually finishing up an article right now on xanthan gum substitutes, it should be ready in about a week!

  8. Susan Myers March 12, 2015 at 11:08 pm #

    Since Xanthan gum is derived from corn and a high percentage of corn is BT ( genetically modified ) I would prefer to try the guar gum.

  9. Debbie April 20, 2015 at 7:47 am #

    Can you use in pudding? If so how much compared to cornstarch?

    • Marla Hingley
      Marla Hingley April 20, 2015 at 12:34 pm #

      Are you allergic to cornstarch? If so you could try substituting tapioca starch (do not use arrowroot starch, it will affect milk-based recipes). Most pudding recipes are naturally gluten free, and get their thickening from cornstarch. Xanthan gum shouldn't be added. Xanthan gum has a gel-like consistency and would really affect the creamy texture of pudding. Here is our Vanilla Pudding you can try if you like.

  10. Cathryn July 3, 2015 at 2:02 pm #

    I am new to using gluten free flour. Do I need to sift them with the sifter? Thank you.

    • Marla Hingley
      Marla Hingley July 3, 2015 at 6:27 pm #

      Sifting is always a good idea, especially with gluten free flours since you don't want to add to much flour (which can happen when the flour compacts in its canister) or your baked goods will end up very dense. Personally I don't use a sifter (makes my hand sore :), instead I use a whisk - whisk the flour inside it's canister until it is light and fluffy, then use a scoop to fill the measuring cup up. Then level it off with a straight edge.

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