Agar-Agar: a natural vegan gelatin
Agar-Agar has been around for hundreds of years, but like many other natural remedies, is only now gaining popularity in North America. We are slowly tracking back to cleaner food, more natural diets, and we are looking for healthier alternatives to use in our favorite recipes. Consider Agar-Agar, a gelatinous polysaccharide derived from red algae, in short agar is made from seaweed, but no worries- it tastes nothing like it.
Agar is a vegan (plant based) and healthier substitute for animal derived gelatin (which is made from animal bones, skin and connective tissue). It also has a higher gelling properties.
Agar uses: a great substitute to gelatin
This amazing culinary ingredient is a vegetarian gelatin substitute, a thickener for soups, in fruit preserves, ice cream, and other desserts.
Agar has no taste, no odor and no color. It sets more firmly than gelatin, and stays solid at warmer temperatures. In fact, agar solidifies at temperatures below 50 degrees Celsius, which means that refrigeration is not required to set an agar gel.
Agar is also a much more powerful gelling agent than gelatin. One teaspoon of agar will give as much thickening power as eight teaspoons of gelatin. It is important to note that although both agar and gelatin will solidify liquids, the resulting textures are slightly different. Gelatin can give a more creamy texture whereas agar gives a firmer texture.
Agar will not impart any color, flavor, or odor to the food to which it is added.
Agar has no calories, no carbs, no sugar, not fat and is loaded with fiber. It’s free from starch, soy, corn, gluten, yeast, wheat, milk, egg and preservatives.
It absorbs glucose in the stomach, passes through digestive system quickly and inhibits the body from retaining and storing excess fat. Its water absorbing properties also aids in waste elimination. Agar absorbs bile, and by doing so, causes the body to dissolve more cholesterol.
Nutritional Value of Agar
Agar is 80% fiber, contains no fat, no protein, and only a small amount of carbohydrates. Ten grams, or two tablespoons, of agar contains only three calories, derived from its small amount of carbohydrates. Due to agar's high levels of fiber, agar is sometimes used as a dietary aid to promote fullness or as a laxative.
Agar also contains a small amount of iodine and other trace minerals.
How to Use Agar
Because of agar's high melting point, it must be dissolved in hot water before using. Typically, agar is added to a liquid and brought to a boil to ensure it is completely dissolved. Other ingredients can be added at that time, but the temperature of the mixture must remain above 50 degrees Celsius, or the mixture will instantly solidify.
Once all of the ingredients are added, the mixture can be poured into a mold and allowed to cool and solidify. No refrigeration is needed to solidify the mixture, but you may want to refrigerate for food safety reasons, depending on the ingredients used.
Use 1 teaspoon agar powder to thicken 1 cup of liquid.
- Dissolve 1 tsp agar powder in 4 tbsp hot water
- Bring water to a boil
- Simmer for 1 to 5 minutes
- Mix well with warmed ingredients
- Let it cool to set agar.
Although Agar-agar sets at room temperature, it is best served cold. Let it set at room temperature and then refrigerate for a few hours before serving cold.