Gelatine is still used in many recipes, despite there being many plant-based alternatives. It’s used to set jellies and meals, but made from boiling bones, skins and tendons of animals. Although it has no flavour, gelatine can leave a nasty taste in the mouth, and also give allergies and stomach problems. Plus there is more risk of disease (like BSE). This vegan creme caramel (Full of Plants) is set using agar-agar.
Although seaweed should be avoided by people with iodine/thyroid issues, agar is very mild so should be okay for most 9check with your GP). Keep these desserts away from pets, due to toxic ingredients like chocolate (never sweeten with xylitol near pets, it can be fatal).
Agar agar (also called ‘kanten’) is made with seaweed and sold in powder or flakes, and easy to use. It can be used to make vegan panna-cotta and the ‘jelly’ on vegan pork pies. It has no taste. This strawberry aquafaba mousse (Full of Plants) is thickened with agar (get the measurements right as only a little is needed). You may need to increase amount when setting with acid liquids (lime, cranberry etc).
- Chia seeds are tiny, but swell up in liquid, and are also good as to make jam and replace eggs. Easy Chia Pudding (Minimalist Baker) is made with 4 ingredients. As chia seeds expand, mix with water and avoid for young children and people with swallowing problems (or allergies or needing to regulate fibre intake).
- Organic Irish Moss (not chemically-made carrageenan) is a red algae seaweed grown in northern Europe and the Caribbean. Used as nutritious food during the Irish potato famine, it’s tender on the tummy, so avoid for digestive issues. You can use it to thicken soups, stews and sauces, and even apply to sunburn.
- Pectin is a naturally occuring soluble fibre, found in fruit. For this reason, this polysaccharide is used to make homemade jam. The fruits are boiled and dried to create a powder. Not good for sweet recipes, nor does it work well for citrus or sour fruits.
- Xantham gum is similar to pectin, made naturally by fermenting sugar with bacteria, to set puddings and prevent crystals forming in iced desserts. Also used in gluten-free baking, it does not set well for sweet recipes, and is a laxative, so avoid for digestive problems (but good to bind crumbly cookies!)
- Just Wholefoods Vegeset can be used for sweet and savoury recipes, and works well with plant milk (one pack sets 5 pints). Just Wholefoods Vegeren is a food-approved milk clotting enzymes (a rennet alternative to make veggie cheese, rather than calf rennet).
Alternatives to Hidden Gelatine
- Just Wholefoods makes good vegan jelly mix (in 4 flavours, just cool and set or add plant milk to make ‘milk jelly – recycle packaging at supermarket bag bins).
- Some roasted peanuts use gelatine (from pig hooves) to bind the salt. Instead, try Cracking Nuts (avoid for young children).
- Many chewy sweets contain beef gelatine (or beeswax, not vegan). Find a better bag of vegan sweets.
- Abroad, some soft drinks use gelatine to stabilise the colour for orange or ‘fruity’ drinks (other brands use bone-char filtered sugar). Stick to reputable organic brands – or water!
- Only choose wine or beer with vegan labels, as most others use gelatine or fish bladder to filter the sediment.
- Most hidden gelatine is in sweets, crisps and French fries.