Xanthan gum is an effective binder in gluten-free baking and gives baked goods that fluffy texture, but it is possible to successfully bake WITHOUT xanthan gum. Continue reading to learn my tips for making gluten-free baked goods without xanthan gum.
Gluten is found naturally in wheat, barley, rye, and oats. While celiac disease (a condition where the immune system attacks the lining of the intestine) affects around 0.5% of Americans, other autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis affect millions more. These conditions require strict adherence to a gluten-free diet.
Some recipes call for xanthan gum in gluten-free baking. It's a thickener made from fermented cornstarch. Xanthan gum can be found in most gluten-free flour blends available today, but there are a few brands that don't contain any. Xanthan gum can trigger allergic reactions in some people, so if you're avoiding that ingredient, you may find yourself stuck when trying to make most gluten-free recipes.
1. Substitute Gluten-Free Flour Mixes
Many gluten-free flour mixes contain dry ingredients like xanthan gum, along with other ingredients like tapioca starches, guar gum, and brown rice flour. But, there are a few gluten-free flour blends that don't require xanthan gum. For example, King Arthur makes a gluten-free all-purpose flour mix that does not contain xanthan gum and can be used interchangeably with regular all-purpose flour.
2. Use Xanthan Gum Alternatives
Xanthan gum is used in gluten-free baking because it creates a fluffy texture. There are alternatives to xanthan gum like guar gum, agar, locust bean gum, konjac root powder, and tara gum. My favorite replacement for xanthan gum is psyllium husk, a natural fiber that comes from the seeds of the plant Plantago ovata. When psyllium husk is soaked in water, it becomes a gel. The gel can keep muffins, bread, cookies, and cakes soft and moist.
3. Add More Liquid (a cup of water)
Adding more liquid to your recipe can compensate for the lack of thickeners. For example, adding ½ cup of water or milk to a cake batter can replace the function of xanthan gum. More liquid is always necessary in gf recipes to prevent a dry texture. To read more about why gluten-free baked goods can be dry, read my blog on the science of gluten-free baking.
4. Experiment With Different Baking Methods
Baking methods also change the consistency of dough. Baking bread in a hot oven rather than a cold oven results in a denser loaf. Oven temperature is essential in gluten-free recipes, so I recommend an external oven thermometer and reading up on why oven temperature matters HERE.