How to Find Gelatin Substitutes for Vegetarians

Gelatin is an animal by-product sourced from animal hooves, bones, cartilages, and other parts of abattoir meat leftovers. As such, it's not appropriate for anyone whose diet excludes animal derived products or products from animals killed for consumption. It is possible to find plant based substitutes that can mimic gelatin in a variety of dishes.


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    Use agar agar (kanten). Agar agar is a traditional substitute for gelatin in many recipes and basically it substitutes at a ratio of an equal amount of agar agar for gelatin when substituting like for like (that is powdered for powdered, etc).[1] One tablespoon of powdered agar agar can be used in place of one tablespoon of powdered gelatin.[2]
    • The granulated form of agar agar is twice as strong as the flaked form, while the powdered form is three times as strong.[3]
    • Follow the instructions for activating agar agar with great care. It does not set at the same temperatures as gelatin, hence people tend to assume it doesn't work. However, it does, provided it is handled correctly. For example, agar agar requires a rapid boil and not a mere simmer in order to activate when added to a recipe requiring heating.[4] And, agar agar gels at room temperature when gelatin requires chilling.[5]
    • Soak agar agar first for 10 minutes in the liquid it is to be cooked in. This makes it easier to dissolve.[6]
    • 2 tablespoons of powder, 1 tablespoon of flakes to 600ml (1 pint) of liquid will produce a firm jelly.[7]
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    Use carrageenan (Irish moss) (Chondrus crispus). This won't set as hard as agar agar but it can still be used for liquid setting. One ounce of dried carrageenan will set one cup of liquid.[8] It is also a great gelling agent for a light, delicately balanced jelly or blancmange.[9]
    • To use dried carrageen, rinse it carefully and soak it in water to make it swell. Add it to the liquid to be set. Boil the liquid for 10 minutes, then strain out the carrageenan.[10]
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    Use kuzu (kudzu, Japanese arrowroot). Kuzu is used as a thickener in Japan. To use, add around 1 1/2 tablespoons of kuzu to each cup of liquid used for make a sauce or gravy. If you want to gel a liquid, add 2 tablespoons per cup.[11]
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    Use guar gum. From the guar bean, guar gum can be used as an acceptable substitute for gelatin but requires different handling. Prepare ingredients as the recipe dictates. For the gelatin substitution, divide the amount of gelatin required by the recipe by 6 to arrive at the amount of guar gum to be used. For example, one tablespoon of gelatin divided by 6 results in 1/2 a teaspoon of guar gum. This will need to be played around with though, as the 1:6 ratio is a guide, not exact. Then, add the guar gum to the dry ingredients first while mixing the liquid ingredients in another bowl. Introduce both sets of ingredients slowly, stirring all the while to prevent the guar gum from turning lumpy. The key to guar gum addition is – be gradual and keep testing it.
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    Use xanthan gum. Xanthan gum is produced from the fermentation of a carbohydrate. If substituting xanthan gum for gelatin, use half the amount of xanthan gum that the recipe suggests for the gelatin. For example, if a recipe requires 2 teaspoons of gelatin, only use one teaspoon of xanthan gum.[12]
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    Use arrowroot. Arrowroot is a starch from the roots of a tropical herb, Maranta arundinacea. It is good for thickening an acidic liquid.[13] It is also good for thickening jellies/gelled substances[14]; indeed, the Victorians used to make an arrowroot jelly. However, don't use arrowroot with dairy products as these tend to turn it slimy.
    • Arrowroot does not handle high temperatures well. If it needs to be added to something hot, stir arrowroot in some cold liquid first, add to the hot mixture and leave on heat for no more than 30 seconds.[15]
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    Expect some flops and some successes, and be ready to tweak as you learn. Much of this will be trial and error when making substitutes for recipes that call for gelatin.


  • Pectin is not really recommended as a substitute because it's fussy and requires the right acid and sugar content; okay for jams and jellies but often not so great for other food textures and types.
  • In general, the gums are thickeners and are not usually suitable to create gels. However, you will find exceptions.
  • Ground flax seeds can act as a binder sometimes but this is more of a substitute for eggs than for gelatin.
  • There is one company called Aeroplane that does not have gelatin in its jelly crystals. This may not be a gelatin substitute, but is a jelly that vegetarians and others can eat. I am not 100'/, sure about this because I read it on a website but if you can find it in the supermarket, you may want to check.
  • A lot of kosher gelatins are vegan.[16] Simply check the ingredients when purchasing. However, be very careful as some have been tested and found to contain animal protein.
  • Ingredients with high acidity may require more agar agar than a one-to-one substitution in order to set properly. And mangoes, pawpaws and pineapple need to be cooked first or they won't set.[17]
  • Locust bean gum (carob gum, carobin) is another thickener that can be used as a substitute. It is often used to thicken pie fillings in place of corn or wheat products.


  • Kuzu and arrowroot are not the same ingredient but are often confused for one another.
  • Bars of agar agar are fiddlier than the powdered or flake forms.
  • As with all food products, some can cause allergic reactions in susceptible people. You'll need to be aware of this when making substitutions; know the source the substitute is derived from and what possible allergic reactions might occur. Guar gum is known to cause allergies in some people owing to its bean origin. Corn allergies can be triggered by xanthan gum.
  • Seaweed thickeners can be hard to source in some countries due to import restrictions.
  • The FDA raised some concern about the safety of carrageenan. Ensure that you source it from a reputable supplier; the FDA did not limit its use.

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Categories: Vegetarian