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Guar Gum, Xanthan Gum, and Cornstarch: The Ultimate Guide to Gluten Free Binding Agents

This handy guide will help you in sticky situations!

By: Molly Hall, Editor, FaveGlutenFreeRecipes.com
The Ultimate Guide to Gluten Free Binding Agents

If you follow a gluten free lifestyle (or cook for someone who does), you've probably seen the ingredients "guar gum" and "xanthan gum" in recipes. Some call for both while others for one or the other. You also might be wondering about cornstarch, since that should be gluten free...right? This guide, Guar Gum, Xanthan Gum, and Cornstarch: The Ultimate Guide to Gluten Free Binding Agents will help you determine the best gluten free binder to use in sticky situations. 

Usually now when we hear the word "gluten," it is usually followed by the words "free" or "intolerant." Besides just being in many foods and being hard to digest for many people, gluten does actually serve a purpose: it is a protein that thickens batters and keeps baked goods from falling apart. 

This is where guar gum, xanthan gum, and cornstarch come into play. They work better in different foods, but they do essentially the same thing. One thing to note is that it is easiest to add each of these thickening agents to a small amount of liquid or oil before adding it to the rest of the ingredients to give it a chance to dissolve. 

The Difference between Xanthan Gum, Guar Gum, and Cornstarch

Guar Gum

Guar gum works best in cold foods and liquids, but it can be used in baked goods as well. The amount of guar gum needed for baking, however, may be more than the amount of xanthan gum needed for the same recipe, so pay close attention to the amounts. In liquid, guar gum acts very similarly to cornstarch as a thickening agent.

Cold Liquids (like pudding, salad dressing, or ice cream): 1-2 teaspoons per quart.
Hot Liquids (like stews, soups, or gravies): 1-3 teaspoons per quart.
Muffins/Quick Breads: 1 teaspoon per cup of flour
Breads: 1 1/2--2 teaspoons per cup of flour
Pizza Dough: 1 tablespoon per cup of flour
Cakes and Pancakes: 3/4 teaspoon per cup of flour
Cookies: 1/4--1/2 teaspoon per cup of flour

Xanthan Gum

Xanthan gum works best in baking and yeasted breads, but it may also work as a thickening agent in homemade salad dressings. Also, if your recipe uses citrus juices, you will want to use xanthan gum as citrus can break down some of the proteins in guar gum and inhibit its thickening properties.

Salad Dressing: 1/2 teaspoon per 8 oz of liquid
Breads: 1-1/2 teaspoon per cup of flour
Muffins and Quick Breads: 3/4 teaspoon per cup of flour
Pizza Dough: 2 teaspoons per cup of flour
Cakes and Pancakes: 1/2 teaspoon per cup of flour
Cookies: 1/4 teaspoon per cup of flour

This recipe for an adorable Mini Chocolate Layer Cake calls for xanthan gum!

Cornstarch

While technically cornstarch should be gluten free, always be sure to check the label for warnings. Pure cornstarch is gluten free since corn does not contain gluten, but some cornstarch is processed in the same plant as other baking products that may contain gluten. Cornstarch works well to thicken soups and stews but can also tenderize baked goods.

To avoid clumps of cornstarch in your soup or baked goods, start by combining equal parts cornstarch and liquid and whisking vigorously until the cornstarch is fully dissolved. 

Cornstarch is available gluten free, so if you have a severe allergy, be sure that your cornstarch is pure and/or gluten free. If you are eating gluten free for other reasons, the trace amounts in regular cornstarch shouldn't be an issue. 

Try using gluten free cornstarch in this recipe for Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken Lettuce Cups.

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My mom is gluten free but she loves baking, so I've been trying to learn about gluten free binding agents with her so that we can bake together. This was really helpful!

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