How to Use Agar Agar, a Vegetarian Gelatin. Make Savory Jello's and Play in the Kitchen!

An Agar Agar Watermellon

The world's best chefs have been playing mad scientist within the molecular gastronomy movement for a decade or more. Why? – Because it's fun and also because you can do some very cool things that also happen to taste great!

And even if you're not ready to turn your home kitchen into a laboratory in the name of gastronomy, there are still some very neat things that you can do (without spending a lot) with a few simple ingredients.

And agar agar is a great starting point for your experimentation.

What is Agar Agar?

Agar agar is similar to gelatin. While gelatin is a meat product, agar agar is derived from seaweed and is vegetarian. You can use agar agar as a vegetarian substitute in recipes calling for gelatin powder.

Agar agar is stronger than gelatin, and liquids gelled with the plant protein will remain solid at room temperature. What this means is that you can turn savory liquids into very adult tasting "Jellos" for the plate - and they won't melt even when paired next to heated ingredients (agar agar jellied liquids will melt at 85 degrees Celsius).

Some examples of things you could do include:

Jellied tomato water with basil granita and fresh mozzarella

Jellied hard apple cider with sharp cheddar cheese and nuts

Jellied passion fruit purée with raspberry ice cream and some good dark chocolate

If you can imagine it you can do it!

How Do You Use Agar Agar?

The Alinea reference cookbook calls for the use of agar agar at 0.5% by weight.

That is, if you want to gel 500ml (grams) of a liquid – you should use 2.5 grams of agar agar.

What you do…

  1. Mix the agar agar with any liquid that you want to gel, and bring that liquid to a boil, whisking as you do so to dissolve the agar agar. Once the agar agar has dissolved completely, remove the liquid from the heat, and allow to cool. The liquid will remain liquid until it cools to 35 degrees Celsius, at which point it will begin to gel.
  2. The gel will remain solid until it is heated again to 85 degrees Celsius.
  3. You can also transform that liquid gel into a pudding by blending it until smooth.

Why Should You Use It?

Top chefs have been pushing the boundaries of science in the kitchen to unearth new sensory and taste experience for the plate. Techniques like sous vide cooking, equipment like the anti griddle (which is a pan the cooks through extreme cold) and hydrocolloid ingredients like agar agar are now available for the creation of before impossible to produce foods.

Play around with agar agar gels and let your creativity run wild!

You should do it because cooking is fun, and creating dishes that will surprise and delight your family and friends is a big part of that fun.

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Comments 9 comments

patrick 6 years ago

can I use agar agar in the same way as leaf gelatine . Each gelatine leaf weigh about 2g . How wiil it work with marshmallow mixture . Patrick from limerick

chechetka profile image

chechetka 5 years ago from London, UK

Wow, I have never heard of agar agar, this is some valuable information! thanks for posting:)

sonu  5 years ago

please tell me what is gelatin? and this beg or no-veg?

John D Lee profile image

John D Lee 5 years ago Author

Sonu, gelatin is a thickening agent made from animal bones. It is not vegetarian, although agar agar, which is made from seaweed, is.

Susan Goh 5 years ago

Kindly help me 22 gm of gelatine I want to excel to agar powder how much sugar and liquid to put to boil

My recipe for mixture of different types of crystal Jelly Lime, Pineapple, and strawberry

Derek 5 years ago

Have just found this site. PLEASE HELP ME, where do i get Agar Agar? I need it to help a vegitarian.

Karen 5 years ago

Derek, you can buy agar powder, threads or bars from most Asian or Oriental Markets. You can also buy them on some online sites, but cheaper at the Asian stores! Good luck!

maribel a77 profile image

maribel a77 4 years ago from Bologna, Italy

The powdered Agar Agar which I bought in a health food store had instructions which said to use 5 grams per 500 ml of liquid. I used a tablespoon (abt 10g) and it did not gel the way the gelatin sheets do.

I think it needs to cook a bit more so I put the pudding back in the pot (a day later) brought it to a boil while stirring constantly, when it boiled I stirred for a minute and put back in the cups. A few minutes later as it cooled down I could see that the consistency was better than before I cooked it for a second time. so the key is to cook it for at least a minute stirring constantly. good luck!

maribel a77 profile image

maribel a77 4 years ago from Bologna, Italy

as a follow up to my prev comment, I'll say that 10g x 500 ml of liquid is decidedly too much. the pudding is too stiff. I will repeat with the initial dose I was told (5g) and report back.

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