Agar, the popular stabilizing, setting, jelling, and thickening agent, is the key ingredient in most Japanese desserts. Let’s dig into the article to discover more about agar!

What Is Agar Made Of?

Agar, also known as agar-agar, China grass, or Japanese gelatin, is plant-based gelatin obtained from red algae. It’s commonly sold in powdered form but can also be found in flakes, bars, and strands at most Asian grocery stores, health food stores, or vegan stores. 

Agar-Agar Vs Gelatin

Agar-Agar contains the polysaccharides obtained from the cell walls of red algae, while gelatin is derived from animal collagen including the bones, cartilage, skin, and tendons. Similarly, the melting temperature of agar is 185°F while that of gelatin is 95°F. The recipes prepared with gelatin tend to lose their stability at high temperatures while foods with agar tend to stay firm. Last but not the least, the texture of gelatin recipes will be creamy, and jiggly while that of agar will be firmer and steadier. 

Image Credit: Flickr user Alain Bachellier ( CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 )

What Does Agar Taste Like?

Agar is colorless, odorless, and tasteless which also makes it an ideal gelling agent. It takes on a jelly-like texture once boiled with water and left to cool down.

How To Use Agar-Agar Powder?

Agar has an array of applications in baking goods, desserts, jellies, soups, and drinks. It’s used as a plant-based thickener in mousses, puddings, candies, gummy jellies, ice creams, and cheesecakes. The Japanese dessert, anmitsu, features transparent jelly blocks that are prepared with agar dissolved in water and sugar. 

Image Credit: Flickr user LexnGer ( CC BY-NC 2.0 )

Agar is especially used in desserts having a high-acidity content like lemon tarts because gelatin doesn’t work ideally in high acidic mediums. Similarly, the Italian dessert Panna cotta uses either gelatin or agar as a thickening agent. Try using agar in our recipes for Rhubarb and Coconut Cream Parfait and Roasted Strawberry & Basil Poke Cake as a vegetarian or plant-based substitute for gelatin.

How to Cook with Agar?

Unlike gelatin which only needs to be soaked in warm water for setting, agar requires to be boiled in water for around 5 minutes to dissolve and stabilize. Based on rough calculations, it takes around 1 tsp of agar powder to solidify a cup of liquid. Similarly, you can swap gelatin with the same amount of agar powder to obtain similar results.

Feature Image:  俊哉 佐伯 from Pixabay 

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