Verdict: Most xantham gum is vegan, but you’ll have to contact the manufacturer to be 100% sure.
- Xantham gum is made by fermenting bacteria.
- The bacteria itself is vegan, but whether or not the xanthan gum is vegan depends on the culture used to ferment it.
For such a small and not particularly common ingredient, this was a fairly tricky one to get to the bottom of.
But, you’ll come across it often as a vegan in many recipes and products like Sriracha.
So let me summarize what I learned.
How Xanthan Gum Is Made
Xanthan gum is produced by fermenting a specific type of bacteria.
The problem is that there are many different ingredients used to culture it.
- Sugar cane broth – vegan (source)
- Corn – vegan
- Glucose – vegan
- Sucrose – vegan
- Soy products – vegan
- Cheese whey byproducts – not vegan (source)
- Lactose – vegan
Note that regardless of the feed used, there will be none of it in the final product if that makes a difference to you.
Most xanthan gums are created using corn feeds, but a significant amount use whey or lactose.
That’s unfortunately why you’ll need to contact the manufacturer and ask if their xanthan gum is indeed vegan or not.
I did this for Bob’s Red Mill, and they said their xanthan gum was made using corn and soy products to feed their bacteria.
Furthermore, the product-page indicates that it’s a “plant-based” product, although I wouldn’t always take that at face value.
It’s usually safe to assume xanthan gum is vegan, but since it can be made using animal products like whey, you’ll need to contact the manufacturer if you want to be 100% sure.
What Do You Need Xanthan Gum For?
Maybe this is the better question.
When you’re baking and see xanthan gum, could you just skip it?
It has 3 main purposes in cooking:
- As an emulsifier, it helps liquids mix together that don’t usually mix well.
- As a thickener to make a creamy texture.
- To imitate gluten in gluten-free baking.
You can omit it, but the texture of your food will suffer.
Vegan Xanthan Gum Substitutes
If you don’t have any xanthan gum and need it while cooking, there are a few substitutes for xanthan gum that can fill the same purpose in dairy-free baking, and are also always vegan.
The best ones are:
- Guar gum – The closest 1:1 substitute, made using guar beans.
- Agar agar – Made from seaweed. Not surprising that it’s a good alternative, since xanthan gum is a good substitute for agar agar powder as well.
- Ground flaxseed – This will absorb liquid in the recipe and “gum” up to form a gelatinous mixture. May affect taste a bit though.
Whether or not xanthan gum is vegan is probably not the most important debate in the world, but hopefully this post helped you answer the question for yourself.