gelatin vs. agar-agar

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Agar-agar

Gelatine (animal) and agar-agar (vegetable) are the best-known gelling agents used to thicken, stabilise and shape sweet and savory dishes. What are the advantages and disadvantages, how to use them correctly and what are the qualitative differences? The information on gelatine and agar-agar simplifies the choice and ensures the trouble-free use of the gelling agents concerned.

Gelatine or agar?

Gelatine is an animal product extracted from bones. It is sold commercially in the form of transparent sheets which must be softened for five minutes in cold water and squeezed out before being added to a liquid preparation. Gelatine can be used hot or cold.

For vegetarians, there is an alternative: agar-agar, obtained from red algae. This gelling agent is particularly suitable for hot liquids, as it has to be brought to the boil. Agar-agar can be found in the bakery section of supermarkets or in health food shops. 

Agar-agar is a very powerful gelling agent: 1 tsp. agar-agar corresponds to 6 sheets of gelatine.

How to use agar-agar?

Agar-agar is only partially suitable for cold masses, as it has to be boiled for approx. 2 min to activate its gelling properties. In addition, agar gels very quickly when cooled and does not mix well with cold masses.

Mix the agar-agar with a little cold liquid or part of the liquid to be gelled (non-dairy milk, vegetable broth, etc.), until the powder is dissolved. Bring the mixture to the boil, lower the heat and cook for approx. 2 min over low heat, stirring.

What do I need to know?

Agar-agar must be added to the liquid or mass and boiled, but it gels when it cools. The gelling properties of commercially available agar can vary. It is therefore recommended to test them beforehand. Acids and fat inhibit the gelling properties of agar; fruits with a high pectin content (apples, apricots) enhance the gelling effect.

Approx. dosage of agar-agar

Creams: 1 teaspoon of agar (4g) per 5 dl of liquid
Jellies (flans, aspics): 2 teaspoons of agar-agar (8g) for 5 dl of liquid
Jams: 1 tsp. agar (4g) per 500 g fruit; 

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