That is the question.
I personally don’t use it, never have and never will at this point. I read on someone’s blog one day a few years ago that they didn’t really find it to be that incredibly useful for small baked goods like cookies and cupcakes, so I said “psshhhhh, then I’m not buying it!” Because it’s expensive. Maybe not in the long run since you use so little at a time, but throwing down that much cash for a tiny little bag of powder (that sounds wrong) just don’t work for me.
But, it might for you. So I thought I’d pull together some information for you, put it all in one place, and let you decide for yourself. Knowledge is power, or so they say.
Xanthan Gum: What is it?
In Bob’s Red Mill terms, it’s a “plant-based thickening and stabilizing agent,” meaning it increases the viscocity (thickness) of batter, it acts as an emulsifier (helps to keep liquids from separating), and it creates a creamier texture (did you know it can be used in ice cream to help keep it smoooooth and creamy?). Fooducate has a nice little page with quick facts about xanthan gum if you want a little more.
Not that I’m trying to sway you one way or the other (honestly), there are a few other things you need to know:
(1.) It can be derived from corn, soy, or WHEAT. You must check the labeling and figure out where it came from you (as you should with everything you buy if you have food allergies/sensitivities). But xanthan gum is so lauded in the gluten-free community that most people (myself included) may think it’s perfectly safe as a gluten substitute.
(2.) It can cause intestinal gas and bloating, the problem that many of us are trying to avoid (myself included). As a complex sugar, it can be difficult for some people to digest, so that’s definitely something to keep in mind.
(3.) I’ve successfully made cookies, cupcakes, and even cakes without it, with textures extremely similar to gluten-free baked goods that I’ve purchased. Does my bread resemble gluten-containing bread? Nope. Marco won’t eat it. But does he devour my cupcakes and cookies? Damn straight.
So, what do you do? It’s completely up to you. Keep in mind that gluten-free baked goods are very rarely going to be exactly the same as their gluten-containing counterparts, no matter how hard you try (though I would argue that chocolate does fix most things). If xanthan gum doesn’t bother you and you really need it to get a consistency that you can stomach (and you can stomach it), then go for it. You’ll just have to ask Jen how to use it because I have no idea. 🙂