Agar agar is a gelling agent derived from red algae, used mainly in vegan recipes to replace gelatin.
It’s fairly easy to find now, but if you don’t have it on hand for a recipe, there are a few alternatives.
The 3 Closest Plant-Based Substitutes for Agar Agar
You can substitute any of the following ingredients in a 1:1 ratio (e.g. 1 tbsp of either gum for 1 tbsp of agar agar):
- Xanthan gum (most xanthan gum is vegan)
- Guar gum
They won’t give you quite the same “jelly” texture as agar agar, but will thicken up your food.
I’d recommend looking for the first 2 options first, as carrageenan is usually harder to find.
If you’re desperate, there’s 1 final option: starch. Either corn starch or tapioca starch can do in a pinch. They are both used to thicken up liquids (like in vegan heavy cream substitutes).
It’s a bit more time consuming of a substitution though.
How to Substitute Corn or Tapioca Starch for Agar Agar
Note that tapioca starch also goes by the name of “tapioca powder.”
Start with a 2:1 ratio, so 2 tbsp of corn or tapioca starch for each tbsp of agar agar flakes or powder.
Then, mix it with water in a 1:1 ratio. For example, 2 tbsp of cornstarch should be whisked together with 2 tbsp of water. Then add it to your recipe.
If your recipe isn’t thickening up enough, add more starch to it.