It’s extremely common to find xanthan gum and guar gum used in gluten-free products and they are regularly called for in gluten-free cookbook recipes, so it’s easy to assume that you can’t make gluten-free baked goods without them. But can you? The answer is yes, although many in the gluten-free baking world would disagree.
The challenge in baking gluten-free without xanthan gum or guar gum boils down to using other ingredients that work well together to replicate the binding and fluffy quality of gluten-baked goods. Gluten is sticky, so you need ingredients that are sticky, bind flours together well, contribute moisture, and add structure all at the same time. This task can be a challenging one. But pastry chefs continue to experiment. Cindy Gawel, a vegan pastry chef based in Denver, Colorado who specializes in made-to-order gluten-free baked goods and confections, does not use gums in her baking. She looks for all natural ingredients that are sticky in and of themselves. For example, she says that amaranth flour and sweet white rice flour work well together in a flour blend to help create the stickiness produced by gluten in wheat flour. She also encourages the use of sticky, moisture holding sweeteners like agave nectar or turbinado sugar to help create a sticky, binding-effect.
Xanthan gum and guar gum continue to be primary ingredients for gluten-free baking. But as chefs, cookbook authors, and consumers become more familiar with the art of gluten-free baking and continue to explore which ingredients and flours work well together to mimic gluten, there may be less reliance on xanthan gum and guar gum in the future.