Xanthan gum isn't just for gluten-free recipes.
Recipes for gluten-free baked goods often call for xanthan gum to reinforce structure, but we found that this ingredient has a couple of other worthwhile uses.
SAUCE THICKENER: We often use a flour-and-fat roux to thicken gravies and sauces; xanthan gum will do the same thing and deliver a cleaner flavor while eliminating the fat (plus it’s gluten-free). We compared a batch of gravy thickened with a roux (1/4 cup of flour and 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter) with the same recipe thickened instead with 3/8 teaspoon of xanthan gum. The xanthan-gum batch tasted more clearly of meat and vegetables, while the roux-thickened gravy was more mellow, as the notable amount of flour and fat muted flavors.
ICE CREAM STABILIZER: Many ice cream manufacturers add xanthan gum to their products because it prevents the formation of large ice crystals during churning and storage. And that translates into a smoother ice cream. This can easily be done at home. Adding 1/8 teaspoon of xanthan gum to the base prior to churning had our ice cream starting out smoother and less noticeably icy than a control recipe made without the gum—and it stayed that way for more than a week.
Xanthan gum has a tendency to clump when it comes in contact with liquids; here’s how we ensure even incorporation.
Create a vortex: Place ice cream base or finished gravy in tall, narrow container, leaving at least 4 inches of headspace. Insert immersion blender to bottom of container. With blender on high speed, create vortex in middle of liquid.
Sprinkle and Blend: Slowly sprinkle xanthan gum over vortex (3/8 teaspoon per 2 cups of gravy or sauce and 1/8 teaspoon per quart of churned ice cream), allowing it to be sucked down into blade of blender for at least 30 seconds to thoroughly combine.