Agar Agar can be found in virtually every health food store and it’s fast becoming a staple for vegan and vegetarian dessert connoisseurs. As a thickening agent, it’s used for a variety of different recipes from jelly to pudding and soups and is the primary vegan substitute for gelatin.
But Agar Agar is more than a placeholder ingredient. This substance has a long history in a variety of different industries around the world. It’s used as a stabilising and clarifying agent in scientific and biological experiments and laboratories and breweries. But what exactly is it? How is it used and what are the health benefits? Here’s all you need to know.
What exactly is Agar Agar?
Agar Agar is a plant-based gelatin-like substance that is derived from red seaweed. It’s roughly 80 per cent fibre, and acts as a thickening agent when added to water or other liquids. When added to water, it thickens and in the right amounts can turn into jelly - creating a whole world of desert opportunities.
Where does it come from?
Originally, Agar Agar is thought to have come from East Asia, where seaweed has and still is harvested and used for a variety of cooking purposes. It is thought to have been first discovered in Japan, where it is known as Kanten. You may also know it as Japanese isinglass, China glass, China grass, or Japanese gelatin.
Agar Agar vs Gelatin
Both gelatin and Agar Agar are commonly used in the kitchen for their thickening properties. The main difference between these two ingredients is that gelatin is made from the collagen found inside the skins and bones of animals. While both are essentially colourless and translucent, Gelatin is almost completely protein, whereas Agar Agar is more dynamic in its vitamin content.
Agar Agar comes in a variety of different forms. It’s sold as pure powder, flakes, bars, and thin strands. Initially, the seaweed is boiled into a gel and then dried and pressed into various different shapes and consistencies. If you’re looking for the easiest type to cook with, Agar Agar powder dissolves the quickest and is easily incorporated into a range of home recipes. More on this later.
What does it taste like?
Nothing! It is completely tasteless and odourless - making it an ideal ingredient for a range of sweet and savoury recipes. Depending on the kind of Agar Agar you have - the texture could appear different at first - but once dissolved it’s all the same.
Agar Agar Recipe ideas
As a plant-based thickening agent and gelatin substitute, Agar Agar recipe has a wide scope of use in any vegan or vegetarian kitchen. Here are some ways to include it in your favourite recipes at home:
1. Jelly Shots
Whether they’re made with the ingredients of your favourite cocktail or non-alcoholic based for a kid's party - jello shots aren’t just fun and tasty but with Agar Agar - they’re also completely plant-based and totally good for you.
2. Probiotic jelly
A wobbling bowl of jelly will bring delight into anyone’s kitchen - but a probiotic jelly mix? Now you’re talking. Dissolving Agar Agar in boiling water then once cooled - add your favourite probiotic drink - whether it's kombucha or kefir - get creative.
3. Desserts and Sweets
As a natural thickener and gelling agent, Agar Agar is ideal for combining your favourite ingredients in puddings, cakes, and jelly sweets. Because it's completely tasteless - it’s an ideal base for any and all of your favourite flavour palettes. One of our personal favourites is the Coconut & Mango Jelly, which is perfect for vegans.
Health benefits of Agar Agar
When it comes to health, Agar Agar is the ideal ingredient to include in any and all of your recipes requiring a bit of thickening. It is low on saturated fat, it contains hardly any calories, and it’s a bountiful source of fibre, calcium, iron, folate, and manganese. Here are some of the more widely documented benefits of including it in your diet:
1. It can help you lose weight
Agar Agar is indeed high in fibre yet extremely low in all the things that increase the waistline - we’re talking sugar, calories, saturated fats, and all that garbage.
2. It is good for your gut
Packed with fibre, Agar Agar can draw out nasty toxins, and also acts as a natural laxative - relaxing and cleansing the bowel movements is critical for digestive health.
3. It improves bone health
Agar Agar is practically bursting with calcium and magnesium, both of which are essential to improving bone density.
4. It improves iron levels
If you’re suffering from low iron levels and experiencing symptoms like dizziness or shortness of breath, Agar Agar can improve your iron levels by increasing your red blood count. To better absorb iron, ensure you get enough calcium into your diet too.
Is Agar Agar vegan?
Yep, it’s vegan gluten-free, sugar-free, and completely plant-based. It’s a popular component of the Kanten diet - which prioritises seaweed-based foods as a snack substitute or side-dish. Because Agar Agar is full of that vegan-plant-based fibre goodness - you can effectively fill up on a calorie-free meal - and with no environmental guilt or repercussions.
Where to Buy Agar Agar powder
Online is the easiest way to get it delivered to your door, there’s no need to refrigerate until you’ve actually started cooking with the stuff. At Nourishme Organics, we supply 100% natural Agar Agar powder - ready to be included in all your favourite home recipes. Order yours online today!