“Using Magical Powders for Healthier Cooking (Gelling Agents): Kappa and Gellan”

“Using Magical Powders for Healthier Cooking (Gelling Agents): Kappa and Gellan”

gelling agents

As a chef that wants to cook healthier food using healthier ingredients I decided to try a product that was not derived from animal products to change the texture and consistency of a liquidy mix.

I was surprised to find out how many  gelling and thickening agents are available to us and my question of course was: which one should I use?. Well the answer was simple: It depends on what I was using it for.

There are many of these “consistency changers”:


gelling agents more

Some of the list above act as  “gelling agents” and others act as “thickening agents” for water-based liquids like juice, nut milks, soda, coffee, stock, etc) and they are all called Hydrocolloids .

“Modernist chefs are using a broader array of hydrocolloids in order to give foods specific textures, thicknesses, and appearances at different temperatures, acidity levels, and concentrations” (Matthew Johnson, 2011) and each one has different uses depending on how they react with different components. In essence, they are a food additive used to change the state of an ingredient that otherwise would be in liquid form.

Cool. It looks that I need to add a new shelf to my galley for these “Magical Powders”.

I decided to try two of them, compare them and blog about it. So here we go:

Today I’m just blogging about my cheffing experience with Gellan and Kappa.

Kappa comes from a red algae and has been used since the 15th century and has E number  E407 is classified in Europe as an Alginate and Gellan comes from the fermentation of microorganisms found in the tissue of the lily plant. Gellan was initially identified to replace Agar in the late 70’s. Gellan has E number E418 and is classified as a Natural Gum.

Both, Gellan and Kappa are mixed cold and activate with heat, both withstand heat and conserve their shape, so they can be served cold or hot, neither one resists freezing process and neither one works with too saline or too acidic solutions.

Both can be used to make hard and cold/hot gels with a little difference in consistency and texture. Out of all the gelling agents Gellan produces the hardest gel and can even be shredded. Kappa achieves a firm gel while Gellan achieves a flexible gel but sort of grainy and broken. Kappa allows a clean cut that Gellan doesn’t. Gellan stands higher temperatures than Kappa (Up to 70oC or 158oF).

Kappa needs 2 gr per Liter (or 200gr de liquid/3gr Kappa) and Gellan 5g/Liter for soft gelling and 13gr per Litter (or 250 gr de liquido/4.8 g de Gellan). Color of Kappa is transparent Gellan is yellowish so it changes a bit the color of the final product.

Kappa can be used as a thickener as an stabilizer in a wide variety of products, vegetable milks, low calorie drinks, shakes, sauces, ice creams and yogurts. Kappa can be used to make pearls with a syringe or to make a thick puree from a liquid or a hard gel as a final product.

Gellan is good for hot gels like broths and flavorful pulps. Kappa is good to cover a dish, a product or a preparation with a dense sauce that would not slide down to the plate and will stay on the food.

I made a couple of plant based cheeses and split the mix in two. I added Gellan to one and Kappa to the other one. (Soon Click here for recipe)

ChefMena-Vegan - Mallorca Vegan - Gelling Agents- Ximena Olds-2

I found that both reacted quickly within half hour so I recommend to use them to speed up a process that would normally take longer. I needed to use more Gellan to achieve similar result so I feel safe to say that Kappa more economical because you need less of it to get similar result and in fact Gellan is the most expensive Gelling Hydrocolloid found in the market at the moment. The color or taste of the mix didn’t change lots.

Now here is the catch: The majority of a total of 14 people that tried each of my cheeses preferred the consistency achieved with Kappa. The consistency of the mix with Gellan was grainy and separated which wasn’t as pleasant as a hard flexible like gelatin consistency with Kappa. Today, is over a week since I made the test and I have a bit of each and in the refrigerator and both are conserving well and taste exactly the same as when they where freshly made.

I hope you find this info encouraging to try magical powders and if you pair Pistachios and pears and let me know how it goes writing in the comment box below! Cheers.







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