8 Gelatin Substitutes Every Vegan or Vegetarian Needs to Try

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Enjoy mousse, custards, and more with these vegan gelatin substitutes. Use them in your favorite desserts as a thickening or gelling agent!

From homemade jello to chocolate mousse, many sweets call for gelatin as an ingredient. But what happens if you eat a vegan or vegetarian diet? After all, gelatin is made from boiling animal parts — such as bones, tendons, and cartilage — to extract a protein called collagen. The result is gelatin, also known as hydrolyzed collagen.

But thanks to these eight vegan gelatin substitutes, you can have your jelly (or gelatin-based desserts) and eat it too.

1. Agar agar

Agar agar, also known as katen or agar, is a flavorless jelly-like substance. It comes from the cell walls of red algae and is semi-translucent. In Asia, agar agar is widely used in custards, jellies, and puddings.

Since it’s made from algae, agar agar is an excellent gelatin substitute (it’s our favorite for making vegan jello). It’s used to gel, emulsify, and thicken foods. Agar is usually available as flakes or powder, but you can find it in bar or sheet form too.

Agar is firmer than gelatin. It’s also not as “jiggly.” However, it’s the most popular vegan alternative to gelatin.

How to use agar agar

To use agar, simply dissolve it in hot liquid like water. Let it sit for about 60 minutes until it firms up. You don’t need to store it in the refrigerator.

Generally, agar agar powder replaces gelatin at a 1:1 ratio. In other words, if you need 2 teaspoons of gelatin, use 2 teaspoons of powdered agar agar. If you’re using agar agar flakes, use 1 tablespoon for every 1 teaspoon of agar agar powder.

For best results, follow the recipe instructions or the directions on the packaging.

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2. Pectin

Pectin is a fiber that’s found in the cell walls of many fruits. When pectin is heated and mixed with acids and sugars, it forms a thick gel-like substance. It’s a popular, common ingredient in store-bought jellies and jams.

Commercial pectin, which usually comes from apples and citrus fruits, is available as powder or flakes. It’s also used as a thickening, gelling, and stabilizing agent.

Compared to gelatin, pectin is more gummy and syrup-like.

How to use pectin

Like agar, pectin needs to be boiled in order to gel. However, there isn’t an exact substitution ratio, so it’s best to follow the recipe’s directions.

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3. Carrageenan

Carrageenan, also known as carrageen or Irish moss, comes from dried red seaweed. Like agar, it develops a gel-like consistency once it’s boiled.

In fact, carrageenan is added to many store-bought foods. Products like ice cream, frozen pizza, marshmallows and chocolate milk are often made with it. And while these foods aren’t traditionally vegan, carrageenan certainly is.

This gelatin substitute is available as a powder. Compared to normal gelatin, the texture of carrageenan is softer.

How to use carrageenan

To prepare carrageenan, mix it with liquid then heat. For softer foods, like puddings or custards, it’s best to use iota carrageenan. For firmer foods, use kappa carrageenan. The latter is often used to make homemade vegan cheese.

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4. Vegan Jel

Vegan jel is a type of product, rather than a single ingredient. Depending on the brand, it may contain ingredients like vegetable gum, carrageenan, and tapioca dextrin.

Usually, store-bought vegan jel yields the closest consistency and texture to normal gelatin. The product, after all, was designed for this exact purpose!

How to use vegan jel

Since the ingredients vary by brand, it’s best to follow the package’s directions. The powder is typically mixed with cold water until it’s dissolved.

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5. Cornstarch

If you’re making a recipe (like fruit sauce or chocolate mousse) that uses gelatin as a thickener, you can use cornstarch instead. As the name suggests, the ingredient is the starch (carbohydrate) from corn grains. When mixed with liquid, the cornstarch absorbs moisture and expands, which creates a thickening effect once heated.

That being said, cornstarch can’t be used to make jello-like recipes. It also doesn’t set as it cools.

How to use cornstarch

To use cornstarch as a thickener, mix equal parts cornstarch and water. Add it to your recipe as it cooks; the heat will activate the cornstarch.

Cornstarch can’t replace gelatin at a 1:1 ratio, so you’ll want to use this method with more adaptable recipes like sauces and creams. Otherwise, consider following recipes that list specific measurements and ratios for cornstarch.

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6. Xanthan Gum

Gluten-free cooks will recognize xanthan gum, a natural powdered thickener. It’s made when Xanthomonas campestris, a strain of bacteria, ferments sugar from ingredients like rice or corn. The resulting xanthan gum can be rehydrated with water, which turns it into a sticky substance that can thicken or stabilize recipes.

Like cornstarch, xanthan gum won’t create a gel. But you can use it in place of gelatin in homemade syrups, baked goods, ice creams, cheesecakes, and sauces.

How to use xanthan gum

When replacing gelatin with xanthan gum, use half the amount. For example, if a recipe uses 3 teaspoons of gelatin, you’ll need 1 1/2 teaspoons of xanthan gum.

Note that xanthan gum will immediately gel when mixed with liquid.

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7. Guar Gum

Guar gum, or guaran, is powder made from the cluster bean. The gum has a substance called galactomannan, which becomes a thickener and stabilizer when mixed with water.

This ingredient is a great option when you need the thickening properties of gelatin. It will also give structure to baked goods and pastries, like pancakes and cookies.

How to use guar gum

The best amount of guar gum depends on the recipe. In general, you’ll need a lot less (about 1/5 as much) guar gum than gelatin. Additionally, 1 cup of liquid can be thickened with 1/2 teaspoon of guar gum.

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8. Instant Clear Jel

Instant clear jel is essentially modified cornstarch. But unlike traditional cornstarch, it’s pre-cooked, so it doesn’t need to be heat to be activated. This means it’s ideal for thickening no-cook recipes, like refrigerator cream pies, though some versions can be used for recipes that are heated.

As with other gelatin alternatives on this list, instant clear jel can’t be used to make a firm and jiggly dessert like Jell-o. Instead, it creates a stablized gelatin texture.

How to use instant clear jel

To be safe, follow the directions on the packaging or in your recipe. In most cases, you’ll need to mix 1 tablespoon instant clear jel for every 1 cup of liquid.

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