Agar Agar Powder Substitutes

Mary and Brenda Maher

By Brenda & Mary

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That trendy agar agar powder everyone’s talking about? Turns out it’s not the superhero we thought it was for every recipe or diet. Nobody could be more shocked than I am!

agar agar powder

But there’s no need to panic; I’ve done some digging around and found eight fantastic buddies that can swoop in and save the day for most of what agar agar does. Stay tuned!

Why Do You Need A Common Substitute For Agar Agar Powder?

Agar agar is a great kitchen helper… most of the time. In some others, it’s not always the perfect fit! Here’s when you should give it a miss:

  • Rushed Moments: Agar agar needs prep – mix, boil, cool, you know the drill. So, if you’re short on time, it’s not your best bet.
  • Texture Snob: The texture is very firm, unlike gelatin’s classic creaminess. Try another option if you crave that smooth feel for your dish.
  • Clear Results: This powder tends to cloud up. For a see-through color, try something else. 
  • Citrus Clash: Acidic ingredients aren’t your best friend here. Trust me, agar agar in citrusy dishes is a big fat No! 
  • Swallowing Woes: Any health issues bugging you lately? Then look out: agar agar might thicken and block your esophagus if taken without enough water. 

Top 8 Alternatives To Agar Agar Powder

Cornstarch swoops in at a 1:1 ratio, while arrowroot shines in pies and soups as the stealthy taste-buster. Tapioca starch, born from cassava, thickens at a 2:1 ratio; just remember to avoid any zesty pairing. 

Pectin brings fruity delight at a 3:1 ratio, and Xanthan Gum and carrageenan make an even exchange for gluten-free treats. Guar Gum, at a mere half tablespoon, also flexes its thickening muscles easily. And lastly, do not forget Vegan Jel, a master of gelatin-like effects for all desserts!

1. Cornstarch


Out of agar agar and need a quick yet perfect substitute? Enter cornstarch! This versatile ingredient is probably lounging in your pantry already. Pulled straight from white endosperms in corn kernels, it is the MVP for thickening topping sauces and gravies – a classic kitchen hero. 

Sure, this guy might not mimic agar agar exactly, but it’s super easy to handle! Simply swap in cornstarch at a 50:50 ratio to replace agar agar. Sometimes, I mix it with water (you can choose another liquid if you want), then heat it until it thickens. A minute or two of boiling should do. 

Worried about its vegan status? Fear not! Cornstarch is simply ground corn kernel endosperm, so it’s basically gluten-free and plant-based. Perfect for a variety of vegan recipes if you ask me! 

2. Arrowroot Powder

Arrowroot Powder

You know arrowroot powder, right? An undercover agent in the cooking world and a real jack-of-all-trades when it comes to thickening stuff! 

It’s like a blank canvas, white and tasteless, ready to jump into your pies, soups, or sauces whenever needed. You can grab this arrowroot powder in baking aisles, health food stores, or click-to-order online purchases.

So, if you’re out of agar agar flakes, this powder can stand in, especially for stovetop marvels and oven-baked goods! No need for the whole water mix-up like agar agar; just throw it straight into your savory recipe. 

  • For baked treats, mix it with dry ingredients.
  • For stovetop delights, dissolve it in equal parts liquid for that magical slurry.

Just one very small note: arrowroot-plant powder may make your jelly fruit cakes a tad thinner than agar agar would, so use it wisely.

3. Tapioca Starch

Tapioca Starch

Ah, tapioca starch, the kitchen’s backstage star! It’s extracted from cassava plants – South American root veggies – and has always been a brilliant wizard behind thick fillings in pies.

But here’s a little secret: in the U.S., tapioca flour and tapioca starch are basically twins. But in some other regions, they call the latter cassava flour, which is a whole different story! So, if you’re on the hunt for tapioca starch, hit up the gluten-free/baking corner at your local store or grab it online after checking the hashtags carefully. 

When it’s time to shine, mix it with your dry ingredients as a replacement for agar agar powder with a 2:1 ratio, then blend in the wet ones for that perfect thickness. But hey, never pair it up with citrusy mates; trust me, this guy’s never a fan of acidic company!

4. Pectin Powder

Pectin Powder

Pectin, the fruity gel-maker, comes to the rescue for all the vegan and vegetarian dessert lovers out there! 

It’s a champ in jelly fruit bakes, glaze cakes, and marmalade pies, swinging in both liquid and powder forms. You’ll often find pectin rocking the labels of gummy candies, jams, or disguised as “fruit pectin” in your local grocery store.

When substituting pectin for agar agar, I usually start with the 3:1 ratio (triple the pectin amount compared to agar agar powder). But hey, feel free to tweak the ratio after you’ve seen how it rolls!

5. Xanthan Gum

Xanthan Gum

Made in the lab through a fermentation process involving sugar and Xanthomonas bacteria, Xanthan Gum ends up a gel-like ingredient that’s later dried and powdered.

All my baking friends call it the agar agar’s trusty sidekick! Its main gig is to stabilize, emulsify, and thicken your recipe games, especially in gluten-free bakes craving that gelatin effect.

But here’s the thing: Xanthan Gum is a soluble fiber and can’t break down in your system, which might cause serious issues for folks with sensitive tummies or allergies to dairy, soy, corn, or wheat. Thankfully, there’s no long-term harm known from using it! 

Use Xanthan Gum at a 1:1 ratio for a great agar agar swap. Just sprinkle, whisk, or blend it into your recipe to thicken things up!

Heads-up: At the end of the day, Xanthan Gum is more about stabilizing and thickening than gelling. No wonder it’s a champ in cakes, dressings, syrups, sauces, etc. But if you’re dreaming of a jelly texture, well, just try something else! 

6. Guar Gum

Guar Gum

Once a pro chef’s go-to, now guar gum’s making its way into home kitchens too. It’s made of guar beans (part of the pea fam) and is fantastic at binding foods and making things twice thicker. That’s why we baking lovers call it a savior for our vegan and gluten-free foodies! 

And the best part? You don’t even need much! Just a half tablespoon of guar gum can replace a whole agar agar cup. Talk about a mind-blowing powerhouse right in your pantry.

7. Carrageenan

Carrageenan powder

Carrageenan is a seaweed-derived ingredient you might have spotted on soy milk labels, working its magic as a preservative and thickener. While it isn’t as popular in home cooking as in commercial food production, carrageenan can still be quite a wizard for your kitchen experiments!

Like its agar-agar pal, carrageenan’s got seaweed roots but leans more toward thickening rather than jelling. So, to swap it in, start with an equal part replacement for agar agar in your recipe. If you think the consistency isn’t quite there, just adjust the amount and increase it by two or three times until you reach the desired texture. Easy-peasy! 

8. Vegan Jel

Vegan Jel

Vegan Jel (or Jel Dessert) is like the magic of gelatin powder but without animal products. Truly an awesome agar agar substitute for a variety of dishes where gelatin’s the star – think Jell-O, dessert recipes, or even marshmallow swirl cakes! 

This unique gel is usually a blend of essential ingredients like potassium citrate, citric acid, tapioca dextrin, and vegetable gum, depending on the brand. You can easily snag it online or through Amazon, available in both clear, flavorless options and flavored “Jell-O” varieties for that extra richness!

Simply mix Vegan Jel with hot water as directed, add the mixture to the recipe, then set this whole savory dish in the fridge. There you have it! 


These buddies are ace replacements for agar agar powder and work seamlessly as a 1:1 swap (or sometimes even less). Just embrace the slight flavor twists if there are any; trust me, they might surprise you!

If you still need help or tips for using these ingredients in your recipes, feel free to drop me a line.

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Mary and Brenda Maher

Mary & Brenda Maher

Mary & Brenda Maher, are the founders of Cake Girls, a Chicago-based online baking shop specializing in cake supplies, party decor, and DIY cake tutorials. They are known for their elaborate and artistic cake creations, which have been featured on the Food Network Challenge and in a reality show, Amazing Wedding Cakes.

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