If you have never heard of xanthan gum before (pronounced zanthun), you’re not alone. Most consumers don’t learn about this ingredient until going on a gluten-free diet. But xanthan gum has long been used in the food manufacturing industry in products such as salad dressings, milk products, dry baking mixes, chewing gum, and much more. The increasing need for ingredients that can help replace the gluten effect of wheat has brought attention to xanthan gum, which is also high in fiber.
Scientifically speaking, xanthan gum is a fermented sugar derived from corn. The end product is an odorless, powder-like substance with an off-white color. Xanthan gum is not a finished food or an ingredient that you can eat alone, like sugar or a spice, nor is it used to add flavor or nutritive value to a product. Rather, xanthan gum is used to produce a desired effect in making a food. It helps ingredients like gluten-free flours bind together, and helps give structure to baked products without gluten. When the powder is moistened, it becomes clear, sticky, and viscous. For example, xanthan gum provides viscosity for products like salad dressings. And when xanthan gum powder is moistened in a gluten-free bread batter or cookie dough, it helps bind the flours and other ingredients together, producing a sticky, gluten-like quality that keeps your gluten-free baked goods from falling apart.