What is xanthan gum, and why is it used in recipes?
Xanthan gum is a polysaccharide—a chain of complex carbohydrates produced during the fermentation of corn syrup by the bacterium Xanthomonas campestris. Lately, it has been turning up at fine-dining restaurants in foams, gels, and other creative applications. However, it has also long been used as a thickener, emulsifier, and stabilizer in the commercial production of foods ranging from ketchup to salad dressing and ice cream.
In home kitchens, this powdery substance is most commonly used in gluten-free recipes for its supposed ability to add lift and glutenlike elasticity to baked goods. When we added xanthan gum to zucchini and banana breads made with gluten-free rice flour, we weren’t crazy about the finished products, but the loaves weren’t nearly as dense and heavy as the same breads made without it. Xanthan gum can be purchased at some supermarkets and at natural foods stores.