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Gelatin Alternatives

It’s probably no coincidence that gelatin rhymes with skeleton—because that’s exactly what it is—animal bones (along with animal skin, hooves, tendons, ligaments, and cartilage all boiled together into a goo that’s added to all kinds of candy and baked goods). Luckily, there are plenty of easy gelatin alternatives available so that baking doesn’t have to be bad to the bone.

Agar-Agar

This flavorless gelling agent, derived from cooked and pressed seaweed, is available flaked, powdered, or in bars. For best results, grind the agar-agar in a coffee grinder or food processor and then cook it, stirring it regularly until it dissolves. When used in a recipe, agar-agar sets in about an hour and doesn’t require refrigeration to gel. For a firmer gel, add more agar-agar, and for a softer gel, add more liquid. And don’t worry if you don’t get it right the first time—you can fix a faux pas simply by reheating the gel. Here’s a general guide on how to use agar in recipes:

• Substitute powdered agar-agar for gelatin using equal amounts.

• 1 Tbsp. of agar-agar flakes is equal to 1 tsp. of agar-agar powder.

• Set 2 cups of liquid using 2 tsp. of agar-agar powder, 2 Tbsp. of agar-agar flakes, or one bar.

• Keep in mind that highly acidic ingredients, such as lemons, strawberries, oranges, and other citrus fruits, may require more agar-agar than the recipe calls for. Also, enzymes in fresh mangoes, papaya, and pineapple break down the gelling ability of the agar-agar so that it will not set. Cooking these fruits before adding them to a recipe, however, neutralizes the enzymes so that the agar-agar can set.

Carrageen

Also known as Irish moss, this seaweed, found in coastal waters near Ireland, France, and North America, is best when used for making softer gels and puddings. To prepare carrageen, rinse it thoroughly, and then soak it in water until it swells. Add the carrageen to the liquid you want to set, boil for 10 minutes, and remove the carrageen. One ounce of carrageen will gel 1 cup of liquid.

Kosher Gelatin

Many kosher gelatins are vegan. Try Lieber’s unflavored gel, Carmel’s unsweetened gel, KoJel’s unflavored gel, and Hain Superfruits.

Don’t forget to check out our vegan shopping guide and delicious recipes.

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  • Jonny says:

    “Many kosher gelatins are vegan.” Stope writing these irresponsible statements. There is nothing vegan abot kosher gelatin. You cannot make gelatin out of plant sources.

  • daba says:

    I think tapioca may be a useful idea for any thickening, not sure how
    well it will work in any recipes. I know it sets granola well.

  • Swamp Thing says:

    Re: Frank Truth:
    High quality, whole irish moss (carageenan) is covered in salt from drying sea water, and is unlikely to be degraded at that stage. I have used and eaten lots of it in raw food preparation, and never felt any ill effects!
    Regarding whether it degrades once it’s in your body…well, doesn’t everything degrade once it’s in your body?

  • Frank Truth says:

    Degraded carragenan may cause intestinal lesions and cancer. It is hard to know what percentage of degraded carragenan is in commercial carragenan or if carragenan degrades in the body. In the east, carranenan is called agar-agar. They are both polysachrides made from red algae. Is there any differnece between the two? Can agar-agar also cause lesions and cancer? If labeling is technically correct agar-agar is a polysachride with a hydroxly molecule, while carrageenan is a polysachride with a sulfide molecule or vice versa. They are both very similiar. Other alternatives may be lecitan, xanthan gum, locust bean gum, gum arabic, though some gums also have animal origin. Lichitan may also be an animal product.

  • Shadowordeath says:

    Do vegetarian gelatins hold the same nutritional value? My tendons lack sufficient gelatin and it’s giving me bone problems.

  • Chngbk says:

    Just bought the Antonio Chef pure gelatin from a kosher shop. Can someone advice whether this brand of gelatin is for vegan consumption? Thanks

  • CoolCups says:

    There is a vegetarian and vegan “jello” replacement called Cool Cups that can be found in many health food stores such as Whole Foods Markets.
    Cool Cups has developed a healthy natural alternative to gelatin based snacks, made without artificial flavoring, food coloring, GMO, gluten or any animal bi-products.

    Cool Cups, who is the number one selling Natural Gelatin Free Desserts in America; is proud to be part of the “better for you” snacks.

    Most gelatins typically are made with artificial ingredients and colors, and often contain a very wide range of animal products and by-products.

    Cool Cups products are 100% natural and vegetarian.

    Carrageenan is the natural gelling agent used to produce Cool-Cups and is made entirely from seaweed harvested from the ocean.

  • Savita Agarwal says:

    I LOVE Animals and I am a complete vegan.Thanks for the info about vegetarian forms of gelatin.Keep up the good work.

  • Daina says:

    Hello, please help me – where in Europe can I buy Carrageen? I live in Latvia and the only one address I found is in China – which is pretty expensive shipping.

  • Charmaine V. Salt says:

    How can one possibly say that gelatin made from fish of cow is vegan, no way. Can you please tell me where i can purchase agar-agar as i am living on a remote Island and we are British dependent.

  • AwesomeGirrafe says:

    I would be wary of eating kosher gelatine after reading this;
    It is from the Vegetarian Resource Group :
    Kosher gelatin can be made with fish bones, and/or beef skins. Contrary to assumptions, it is also considered kosher to use it with dairy products. Kosher law is very complex and the bones and hides used in gelatin production are considered pareve. The general meaning of pareve refers to foods that are neither milk nor meat, and many people assume this means that the product is vegetarian. However, OU pareve certified ingredients can have animal products, such as fish, eggs, and gelatin, in them.
    “Kosher Gelatin Marshmallows: Glatt Kosher and ‘OU-Pareve’,” an article that appeared in Kashrus Magazine, explains the distinctions. A quote from the article is as follows:
    “…since the gelatin product is from hides or bones – not real flesh – and has undergone such significant changes, it is no longer considered ‘fleishig’ (meat) but ‘pareve’, and can be eaten with dairy products.”

  • maxwell says:

    Just a quick note about kosher gelatin: Even some kosher gelatin that is marked pareve is derived from fish, because fish are not considered animals in the kosher tradition.

  • David says:

    Where can I buy Gelatin without animal profuct

  • miyodea says:

    You can’t just trust kosher gelatin to be vegan. You can be 100% sure the a kosher product has no meat or milk derived ingredients IF somewhere near the heksher symbol (the symbol showing its kosher status) there is the word parve or pareve. Pareve means neutral, in relation to meat and dairy. A caveat to that statement is that eggs are also parve, so make sure there are no eggs in the product before you buy it.

  • LadyOrchid says:

    @Adrienne, I suggest speaking to your Dr. and pharmacist, and company that makes the vegan capsules before deciding whether or not to try them. First off I say Dr. and pharmacist because I never just take a medication my Dr. prescribes without discussing it with my Pharmacist, unless I am already familiar with the drug, because I have had Dr.s prescribe me medications that either have drug interactions with my other medications, or are not supposed to be taken with one of my health diagnosis. What I am concerned about is at what rate the vegan capsules dissolve, too slow it may not work at all, too fast and it may cause an overdose. I am guessing most Dr.s of western medicine will have no idea what to tell you, and it may be the same for the pharmacist, but the company that makes them may be able to tell you the rate at which they dissolve, that way you can share that information with the Dr. and pharmacist.

  • david says:

    If one is kosher, can one assume that gelatin is so far removed from animal bones or flesh that it is therefore ok to eat, even with dairy food?

  • marilee says:

    To Adrienne – I get chronic migraines that pretty much control my life without my medicine, so I understand how serious not having a medication you feel comfortable with is. It is important that you have a medication and still find you are following your convictions.

    I personally take a triptan. Was it a triptan that your doctor had prescribed you? If so, GOOD NEWS! Triptans also come in nasal sprays and injections. The injections aren’t fun to take, so I would suggest asking for a nasal spray first. According to the studies done, Zomig Nasal Spray is one of the very best triptans! I would suggest asking your doctor about Zomig Nasal Spray. There are also rapid melts, pills that melt in your mouth, but they have lactose in them so if you are vegan that would not be suitable. I think your best shot is probably the nasal sprays.

    If it was a different type of medication, such as an analgesic, then probably the reason it is in a gelatine cap is because it is a long-acting medication. Often doctors will prescribe long-acting versions because they don’t want people to be able to abuse the medications or get addicted to them. Never crush or chew any of your medications, unless told to specifically by your doctor. There are empty veggie-caps that you can buy online or in most health food stores, and it might be possible to just switch them over, but you’d probably have to do that which is time consuming, and you’re really just throwing out the gelatin ones in the end, so you’re not really helping animals then.

    If it was an analgesic or an antiemetic, then I would suggest asking your pharmacist to tell you what non-brand name drugs exist and if any of them come in a non-gel-cap form. If you buy non-brand name, it’s cheaper too! If there are no generics on the market, ask if there are any similar drugs that do the same thing. For example, if your doctor prescribed you Ketoprofen (which currently only comes in caps), then you might want to ask about Naproxen, as they are both NSAIDS and the Naproxen might to do the same thing.

    Hope that helps!!!

  • Felicia says:

    1)@Adrienne, While shopping online I found vegan capsules (ready to fill). This way the medicine would be coated for a time release. I gather that is the reason for the capsules. NOTE: I am not a doctor and only provide this link as information to share and discuss with your doctor/pharmacist.
    http://store.veganessentials.com/vcap-gelatin-free-00-size-capsules-p1404.aspx
    That site plus a few others have vegan products which can be shipped to you if there’s no health food store, Sprouts or Whole Foods nearby.

    I hope pharmacies have vegan capsules to use, but I would not be surprised if the pharmaceutical companies try to interfere with that. Places won’t know we want animal-free options if we don’t keep asking for them. So please don’t give up! :)

    2) Vegetarians: have you considered going vegan? Besides the lives saved (which is reason enough), many people see improvements in health issues when halting dairy intake. See the film “Forks Over Knives” in theaters this month. Consuming dairy supports sentient beings being bred, force-impregnated, enslaved for longer periods of torture and dying unneccesarily.Please try it out. There are so many alternatives available all you need is the compassionate desire to save lives.

  • justcurious123 says:

    I’m doing a school project and I need to know what’s so bad about gelatin? I understand it comes from animals and that’s just completely wrong, but what harm does it do to your body?

  • Adrienne says:

    I am a vegetarian, and I suffer from horrible migrains and a neurologist recently gave me a prescription for a new medication, well the pills on come in a capsule form (gelatin).. I have been sickened by it. I can not think of what else to do, they said it would be unsafe to just the medication without the capsule. Pharmaceutical companies need more pressure put on them to make non-gelatin capsules. They are leaving people without options.

  • trinity treat says:

    Kosher Gelatin is NOT necessarily vegan.
    Gelatin is considered Pareve, meaning it is neither
    milk nor meat. However this does not mean VEGAN!
    Kosher Gelatin is made from fish bones or cow bones–
    the assumption being that the bones are not flesh;
    therefore, gelatin is so far removed from the actual
    flesh of an animal that is can be combined with dairy.
    Therefore, it is kosher to mix dairy and a “pareve” food like
    Gelatin. Unless you KNOW that a Gelatin source is exclusively vegetable-based, assume it is from animal bones and hides.

  • NanaofRhett says:

    Agar Agar, when found at health food stores is EXPENSIVE. I found a small box, for over $7. Instead, I shop at my local asian market, where I pay less than a dollar a packet. Two packets equals one small box. :)

  • Jasmineblooms says:

    Does anyone have ideas of where to buy agar agar? I went to a local health food store, and to Raley’s and neither place had it, in any form. I want to make some jello that is firm enough to cut with cookie cutters for my daughter. If there are any other gelatin alternatives that would work that are more accessible, please include those also. Thanks!

  • Lois says:

    I’m vegetarian & take vitamins. The vitamins all have gelatin in them. I don’t like the idea of eating what gelatin is made of. Are there any vitamins that don’t have gelatin?

  • GramJ says:

    Thanks for the alternatives that can be used in gummy candy. I have a relative that found out what gelatin was made of and won’t eat it anymore, so these are some good options to try instead.

  • Elsje Massyn says:

    I have recently joined the vegetarian-gang because I am a total animal-protection-loving freak. I am now so shocked to find out that gelatine is made from animal-stuff and marshmellows are not gelatine free either. I dont want to EVER compromise on the vegetarian-decision I have made. Where can I find a list of all the ingredients that are found (names also of products) that seem innocent (non-animal) but have HIDDEN animal properties. Your help will be so much appreciated.

  • mike says:

    Found this article very useful. Is there any suggestion on what kind of vegetarian gelatin can be used in cheese cakes. the best is of course gelatin derived from beef. I tried an experiment using xanthan gum and guar gum.. But unfortunately the cake doesnt freeze well.

  • p says:

    Some marshmallow spreads in jars don’t contain gelatin. I can’t remember any brand names, but I bought one from Ralphs that was gelatin-free.

    If you want a texture like thick jelly (the kind you put on toast) or soft Jell-O (the kind you can suck through a straw), you can use powered arrowroot. The key to firmness is to stir your mixture as little as possible or not at all. Dissolve the arrowroot (I use 1 tbsp per cup of liquid) in a small amount of unheated liquid (like fruit juice), heat the rest of the liquid to just below boiling. Dump the hot liquid into the arrowroot mixture trying to mix the two by just the dumping action. Stir a little if needed, but stirring will reduce firmness. Let it set in the fridge overnight. Arrowroot holds up great in acidic juices. You can also use it for making vegetarian or even vegan (rice or soy) pudding. Just heat 1 tbsp of arrowroot powder per cup of milk in a double-boiler stirring continuously and add sugar and flavoring/chocolate to taste. It’ll set overnight in the fridge.

    Pectin is another vegetarian gelling agent which can give you a thick jelly firmness. It’s made from fruit skins/rinds. I haven’t used it much though as it requires a lot of sugar to set, though I’ve seen some “low-sugar” pectin at Whole Foods.

  • j says:

    don’t fret, you weren’t stupid, I’m sure she’d rather know than find out later. Now she’s aware of alternatives and isn’t that the goal of veggies out there? :)

  • CatStina says:

    Kosher gelatin can be made with fish bones, and/or beef skins. Contrary to assumptions, it is also considered kosher to use it with dairy products.

  • K says:

    Just tell her to eat Kosher marshmallos…

  • Stupid-stupid-meat-eater says:

    I just found out the origins of gelatin, and very stupidly told a vegetarian friend. She enjoys (EnjoyED) marshmallows.

    She liked smores, and had just had a cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows before I so stupidly told her.

    She now plans to never eat a marshmallow again, so I went in search of vegetarian alternatives. This posting really helped and is what I was looking for, thank you.

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