Sunday, 16 November 2014

The ABCs - G is For Gelling Agents

Gelling agents go hand in hand with stabilizers and thickeners.

Gelling Agents

Gelling agents give shape and structure to food. They are used in jams, jellies, fruit pie fillings, desserts,  and vegetarian foods.

Thickening Agents

Thickening agents are exactly what it is. They thicken food. Milk shakes and low-sugar products are some products that use thickening agents.


Stabilisers maintain the physical structure of the food and also texture property of the food. They are used in ice-creams, sauces, dressings and yoghurt.

The Sources of Gelling Agents, Stabilisers & Thickeners

1. Seeds

The outer layer of the seeds are removed and the endosperm is grounded into a powder which then is used to thicken, stabilise or as a gelling agent.

Examples would be guar gum (E412), locust bean gum - seeds from the Carob tree (E410) and tara gum (E417).

2. Plant Exudates

Some plants excrete sticky liquids which can be then harvested and used.

Examples would be gum arabic (E414), karaya gum (E416) and tragacanth gum (E413).

3. Citrus fruits and apples

Pectin (E440) is obtained and drawn out from the fruits in liquid form and then filtered and jellied from the solution.

4. Plant Materials

Cellulose (E460) is obtained from plant cells.

5. Seaweed

Farmed commercially, seaweeds are used to thicken, gel and stabilise foods.

Examples would be agar (E406), alginates (E400 - E404) and carrageenan (E407).

6. Maize and Potato

The starch (E1404 - E1451) from maize and potato is obtained and processed.

7. Gelatin

Gelatin (E441) is derived from the collagen of domesticated cattle, chicken, pigs and fish.

Homemade Use of Natural Thickening Agents

1. Flours (Wheat, Maize, Rice)

Used to thicken gravies, gumbos and stew.

2. Roux (Mixture of flour and fat which is cooked into a paste)

Used to thicken gravies, sauces and stew.

3. Cereals (Oatmeals, Couscous, Farina)

Used to thicken soups.

4. Tomato puree

Used to thicken soups.

5. Egg yolks

Used in professional cooking.

6. Yoghurt

Used in Eastern Europe and Middle East to thicken soups.

Gelling, Thickener & Stabiliser Agents Trivia

1. Food thickening are important for people with medical issues who have problem swallowing or chewing as it reduces the chances of choking and inhalation of food particles which can lead to aspiration pneumonia.

2. Fumed silica is accepted as a safe food additive which is used frequently in cosmetics. It is also used in toothpastes.

3. Petroleum jelly functions as a thickening agent in emulsions.

4. Fruits such as strawberries, raspberries and cherries need a small amount of pectin to form jam.

5. The use of thickeners in the paint and printing industry is depended upon heavily.

6. Gelling agents are used when there are oil spills in the seas. The gelling agents will react with the oil and form rubber-like solids. The spilled oil then can be removed by suction, skimming and etc.


  1. I have serious reactions to cellulose which is usually made from pine wood. And it's in most medications, prescriptions and over the counter. Of course, every pharmacist has told me, "NO ONE ever reacts to cellulose!" Yeah right. Finally I had one say to me, "No one ever reacts to, well, if you aren't allergic to pine." AH HA!

    1. :P My IBS medication has cellulose in it too!

    2. Speaking of bowels, when I ingest cellulose it feels like I'm digesting shards of glass. Very painful. The first time it happened I almost took myself to the hospital I was in such pain.

    3. Sounds like my-after-surgery-experience where I felt I was shitting out shards of glass!