How to Use Gelatin and Agar Agar in Gluten-free Cooking

Differences Between Gelatin and Agar Agar

Agar Agar powder
Agar Agar powder. Philippe Desnerck/Photolibrary/Getty Images

Gelatin and agar agar powder can be used interchangeably in gluten-free recipes, but what are the differences in these gluten-free ingredients and why are they used in some gluten-free recipes?

Using Gelatin in Gluten-free Recipes

Most cooks are familiar with gelatin -- the stuff that makes Jell-O gel. You can find it in virtually every market, usually as Knox brand gelatin.

Gelatin is sometimes used in gluten-free recipes to bind and thicken batters and dough.

Used in gluten-free pizza crust recipes, gelatin makes the dough more pliable and easier to shape without cracking. 

Gelatin is processed from animal bone, hooves and connective tissue. It's not suitable for vegan diets.

Using Agar Agar in Gluten-free Recipes

Agar agar is a flavorless vegan alternative to gelatin. It is used in processed foods to gel, thicken, texturize and stabilize confectioneries, dairy products, baked goods, sauces and dressings, meat products and even beverages.

Agar agar is processed from red algae into sheets, flakes and powder. The powder and flake forms are easy to work with and are high in proteins and fiber.

Use 1 tablespoon agar flakes to thicken 1 cup of liquid. Use 1 teaspoon agar powder to thicken 1 cup of liquid. Follow the directions on the product packaging for use.

Tips for Cooking With Gelatin and Agar Agar

  • Add to dry ingredients and whisk to combine
  • If you are a vegan, use agar agar when a recipe calls for gelatin
  • Gelatin and agar agar can make gluten-free breads soggy. Be sure to measure carefully when using these gelling agents and don't use more than a recipe calls for.​

Gluten-free Recipes That Use Gelatin or Agar Agar

Gluten-free Sandwich Bread Recipe

Gluten-free Pizza Crust Recipe

Source: "Agar-Agar - Paramount Gelling Properties and Natural Source of Seaweed Fibres" by Anita Bénech and Alfred L.

Wolff, Wellness Foods Europe, June/July 2008