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Agar (thickener)

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Agar is a gelling agent extracted from red algae. It is commonly used to stabilize foams (talking culinary gastronomy here) and to thicken or gel liquids.

It doesn’t mirror gelatin 100%, but it’s a great vegan substitution if you are looking for one.  And interestingly enough it is derived from red algae.

Truthfully, the stuff scared me.  I didn’t understand what it was, why it was used or most of all… how to use it in my home kitchen.  It seems as though it belonged in a chemistry lab! But after using it a few times and learning just how easy and fun it was to work with, I felt silly that I allowed a little white powder to frighten me so.

Health Benefits

Agar actually has some great health benefits even though it isn’t a raw product. It is a good source of calcium and iron, and is very high in fiber (water-soluble, indigestible fiber).  In the digestive tract, it absorbs water, increases bulk, and stimulates large bowel muscle contractions. One of agar’s most common therapeutic use has been as a laxative, and it has been used for decades as a daily treatment for chronic constipation.

As it travels through the body, helping with cleaning the pipes… is known for its ability to aid in digestion as well as carrying out toxic waste out of the body.   It can also help to reduce inflammation, calm the liver, and bring relief to the lungs.  For more information you can read about it at the WellnessTimes site.  Pretty amazing stuff.  And here I thought it was just some odd thickener that you only read about, but never had in the kitchen pantry.

How to use Agar

  • Agar is an excellent Vegan replacement for gelatin, which is derived from animal hooves.  But don’t expect the same results when replacing gelatin with agar in a recipe.  It won’t give the same texture.  Agar gives a firmer texture.  Plus it  is much more powerful than gelatin : 1 teaspoon agar powder is equivalent to 8 teaspoon gelatin powder.
  • Agar has no taste, no odor and no color.  It sets more firmly than gelatin, and stays firm even when the temperature heats up.  The melting point is around 185 degrees (F).
  • Agar can be very firm on its own. Combining it with other thickeners such as lecithin and / or Irish moss can make it more delicate.
  • Acidic foods (such as lemon or pineapple juice) can interfere with the gelling of Agar so you may need to increase its volume.
  • The most important thing to know is that agar needs to be first dissolved in hot / boiling water or another liquid. It sets as the ingredients cool down and it doesn’t take long!

 Agar – Flake & Powder Form

Agar comes in the form of flakes and powder.

  • 1 Tbsp agar flakes = 1/2 tsp agar powder
  • 2 Tbsp agar flakes = 1 tsp agar powder
  • 4 Tbsp agar flakes = 2 tsp agar powder
  • 8 Tbsp agar flakes = 4 tsp agar powder
  • 1 tsp agar powder = 2 grams

Formula to gel 2 cups of liquid using agar powder:

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp agar powder
  • 1 cup liquid

Preparation:

  1. Soak in 1 cup of liquid for several minutes and then simmer for a couple of minutes until it dissolves.
    • In order for agar to hydrate properly it has to be brought to a boil for 3 to 5 minutes.
  2. Pour the liquid into molds and let it set at room temperature.

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15 thoughts on “Agar (thickener)

  1. Chris says:

    Can you mix agar agar flakes with almondmilk in a vita-mix to make a pudding? If so, how much? THanks

    • amie-sue says:

      Good question, I have no idea Chris. Never tried it before. I would use Irish moss or chia seeds (ground in spice grinder).

  2. Lyeta Herb says:

    Do In cool& refrigerate agar agar before mixing it into recipe?

  3. Shirley says:

    I want to prepare my own agar powder and flakes from raw agar. How do I go about it? Are there books that can help me with it? Thanks.

    • amie-sue says:

      Good morning Shirley… I have no idea about finding a book just on agar agar. I would think something like that exists in this world of knowledge. Try googling it. :)

  4. Naomi says:

    Hope I don’t sound too silly here. Agar agar is expensive stuff and this is new terrain for me. I have flakes, so after step 1 will I have 1 cup of gel? The additional liquid mentioned in step 2, is that to create a looser gel, before adding to a recipe? Or is the 1 cup of agar gel the recommended amount to thicken 1 cup of liquid in a recipe. And lastly, how much of the basic agar gel is needed to substitute in a recipe calling for Irish moss gel? Thank you so much for clairfying this.
    Best,
    Naomi

    • amie-sue says:

      Ok Naomi, give me minute to think this through, I just wanted you to know that I here. :) brb

    • amie-sue says:

      Ok Naomi… go back over to the recipe for the cake.. and look in the comment section. I wrote it up for you there so you didn’t have to bounce back and forth. I tried to simplify it for you. :)

  5. Nicole says:

    Interesting, agar-agar is called ‘sea-moss’ here. It’ll be cheaper for me to find a way to use the type we have here…..I remember growing up they soaked it in hot water as well……I’ll let you know how it turns out in taste.

    Do you know how I can be assured it is still raw – looks like a thickened kelp noodle.

    • amie-sue says:

      Hello Nicole… I am trailing behind you throughout my site. hehe :)

      What is the name of the sea weed that you are referring to? Irish moss? I need more info to help. :) amie sue

  6. Kathryn Knoll says:

    could I use the kelp noodle gel you talk about in another place here on your site?

    • amie-sue says:

      Good morning Kathryn,

      Not in all recipes. It will depend on each individual recipe based on the roll and texture that is being desired. If you have a particular recipe, let me know and I can look at it. Kelp paste or Irish moss paste doesn’t set up like agar at all, but if used as a thickener it might. Sorry to be vague but there isn’t a black and white answer. Have a happy day, amie sue

  7. Hans says:

    Hi,
    What would I use to keep liquid out of my vegie chic salad?

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