Make and Keep Xanthan Gum Gel at the Ready

With this quick make-ahead tip, you’ll be able to wield the thickening, emulsifying, and stabilizing superpowers of xanthan gum instantly.

Xanthan gum is most commonly used in home kitchens to help reinforce structure in gluten-free baked goods. But this powdery substance, which forms a gel when combined with liquid, is also terrific to have on hand for many other uses: A touch of it can help prevent coarse ice crystals from forming in home-churned ice cream, bring a luxurious thickness to gravies and pan sauces, stabilize whipped cream, or even emulsify smoothies and keep them lush and velvety for hours. Unlike a thickening agent such as cornstarch, which requires heat to do its job, xanthan gum works immediately in a wide range of applications. 

But it has two challenges: Since very tiny amounts are usually required, unless you have a gram scale, it’s hard to use in applications with only a cup or two of liquid. It also clumps when added to liquids, which means that you can’t just whisk a little into a pan sauce to thicken it—you have to mix it in forcefully with a blender. The solution: Prehydrate the powder to create a gel that you can simply whisk into liquid in easy-to-measure amounts.

To make gel: Pour 2 cups water into blender. With blender running on low, slowly add 1 tablespoon (9 grams) xanthan gum to vortex. Increase speed to medium and process for 2 minutes. Transfer gel to airtight container and refrigerate for up to 1 month.

To thicken pan sauces and gravy: Whisk in 1 tablespoon at a time per 1 cup liquid.

To stabilize whipped cream: Add 4 teaspoons to 2 cups heavy cream halfway through whipping.

To emulsify smoothies: Add 1 tablespoon per 2 cups smoothie to blender before processing.

To prevent ice crystals in ice cream: Whisk in 1 tablespoon to 1 quart base before churning.

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