Yes, most of the time xanthan gum is vegan.
It’s a fairly common ingredient that perhaps you’ve never heard of, and we’re here to fill you in on all the details.
What is Xanthan Gum?
Not to be confused with bubble gum, xanthan gum, or xantham gum is a food additive, emulsifier (aids in mixing liquids together that otherwise wouldn’t easily mix together, and also a food thickener to make for a creamy consistency.
How Xanthan Gum is Made
Xanthan gum is a xanthapolymeric carbohydrate – which is a macromolecule composed of repeating carb subunits of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms. Glucose and sucrose, which are simple sugars that are fermented in the production process. Nitrogen is added to the mixture along with some trace elements, and after a couple of days, the solid polymer (again, a repeating molecule chain) is extracted from the solution. Lastly, it’s dried into a powder, and voila – xanthan gum is produced.
As you can see, the xanthan gum production process is pretty scientific and intricate.
You might be wondering where this food additives bizarre-sounding name comes from. Well, it’s called xanthan gum after the bacteria Xanthomonas campestris that’s used in the production process.
This ingredient binder is actually made from the same bacteria that causes black rot in vegetables like broccoli and leafy greens – but, not to worry, as it’s not harmful to your health.
How is Xantham Gum used?
This food additive is used as a binder in recipes in place of eggs or egg whites to help ingredients stick together that otherwise wouldn’t.
This vegan ingredient mimics gluten in baking muffins, cakes, bread, puddings, and tasty treats of the like, and can also be used to thicken soups, sauces, ice cream, syrups, and salad dressings.
If you’re a vegan that’s a fan of bagels, you may have very well already eaten one with xanthan gum as an ingredient.
This product is also used outside of the food industry – in the oil fields, it’s used to thicken the mud in drilling ventures.
It can also be found in toothpaste, lotions, and toiletries like soap.
Is Xanthan Gum Healthy?
If you eat too much of it, it can have a laxative effect and give you diarrhea, but odds are you aren’t going to overdo it.
It’s also been proven to help with dry mouth by increasing saliva production .
And, if you use a toothpaste with xanthan gum, it can form a protective layer over the teeth to prevent acid from certain foods from leaching into the enamel.
Xanthan gum is also possibly effective against treating diabetes in reducing blood sugar, but the studies are not conclusive.
How to know if your Xanthum Gum is Vegan
As with most all vegan food products, the easiest way to tell whether a food product is vegan is to check and see whether there is some type of vegan certification on the item.
Do know that not all vegan products are necessarily certified vegan, even if they are vegan. The certification is just an easy, surefire way to check the vegan-ness of a food item.
The risk of xantham gum potentially being non-vegan stems from the source of the enzymes. Sometimes the enzymes have been derived from an animal source – it’s not always the case, but it’s a possibility.
Also, there are rare cases where xantham gum is made from whey or egg whites- so be wary of those ingredients. This isn’t a detail that’s typically listed on the ingredients list, though.
You can always contact the company and find an email address on the web site for any ingredient-related questions.
Also, if you have a food allergy to dairy products or gluten, it’s also important to know whether the product was produced in a facility where those items are also produced to minimize the risk of cross contamination. You can always contact the manufacturer for more information.
Best Xanthan Gum Vegan Brand
There isn’t too big of a selection of xanthan gums on the market, so we’ve narrowed it down to this one.
Bob’s Red Mill
A trusted and popular xantham gum brand, this one features non- GMO corn and soy products that feed the bacteria culture. No potential animal sources to see here.
It’s also gluten-free and is even produced in a gluten-free facility, so it’s safe for you gluten-intolerant folks out there.
If you don’t feel like going to the supermarket to buy this ingredient, you can have it shipped to you through Amazon.
Vegan Bread Recipe with Xanthan Gum
Check out this video for how to make your own homemade vegan, gluten-free, and soy-free bread from the comfort of your own kitchen.
Xanthan Gum Substitutes
The following are xanthan gum substitutes that are vegan most all of the time, and will provide the texture you need for vegan baked goods.
This vegan binding ingredient is made from guar beans.
Do note that this is the best ingredient substitute to use as far as texture goes for salad dressings if you like to eat a lot of salad.
It’s not ideal for combining with foods that have a high acid content, such as lemon juice, as it loses its thickness property.
This food product is derived from seaweed and is 100% vegan.
If you like to bake, agar gar makes for a moist cake and a stretchy dough.
This is a plant-based ingredient made from Plantago ovata seeds, or plantain seeds.
Psyllium husk is usually found in the bulk section of the grocery store as a fiber supplement, but can also be used in baking. It not only works as a great binder but it will also give your dish more fiber.
Ground flax seeds mixed with water are also a great alternative.
Just be sure to grind them up before you use them, as this is what makes for the binding action – plus, it’s also easier for the body to digest.
Flax seeds are an ingredient rich in omega-3 acids, fiber, iron, protein, and they even help lower blood pressure. And, if you happen to be going through menopause, they even help with hot flashes.
Corn and Tapioca Starch
These vegan ingredients may also be used as a substitute in recipes for xanthan gum.
For more in-depth information about tapioca starch, this article is informative.
Now you know all about this thickening agent, and that it’s a safe choice for vegans.
Next time you’re at one of your local health food stores and see this on the aisle, perhaps you might be more intrigued to pick up a bag to try out in your vegan baking dishes.
And, if xanthan gum just doesn’t sound like your thing, then perhaps one of the alternatives like guar gum or flax seeds will do the trick for you.