What is agar-agar and how to use it

February 26, 2018
What is agar-agar and how to use it

We’ve had a few queries about agar-agar, the wonder setting agent that’s super stable, heat resistant and vegetarian friendly.

By Kim Hoepfl

Photograph by Graeme Borchers

What is agar-agar?

It is a gelatinous substance obtained from different kinds of seaweed, is sold in creamy coloured  powdered form or set into hardened strands. When added to hot water it dissolves, gradually turning into a solid jelly as it cools.

Is agar-agar a substitute for gelatine?

If you are looking for a gelatine substitute, agar-agar is the best there is: it is stronger and more stable than gelatine and seven times more resistant to heat. This has the advantage of allowing dishes using agar-agar to be served warm without losing their jellied texture. You can’t do this with jellies set with gelatine, as the gelatine begins to melt as the heat increases. Agar-agar’s ability to remain stable under heat is essential to current new cookery techniques. It is a neutral ingredient without flavour or aroma – like tofu, it acts like a sponge, absorbing the flavours of the ingredients with which it is prepared.

Is agar-agar suitable for vegetarians?

An added bonus is that it is the perfect substitute for vegetarians seeking an alternative to gelatine, which is an animal by-product. The only problem is that it can be hard to find, but try your nearest health food stores, or visit wellnesswarehouse.co.za or faithfultonature.co.za.

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