Agar agar is a jelly-like substance that’s common in Japan and other Asian countries. The product is derived from red algae, so agar agar is suitable for vegetarians and is commonly used as a gelatin substitute for setting jellies. The three common forms of agar agar are powder, flakes, and bars.

The best foods to use as agar agar substitutes have similar thickening and binding properties and don’t add unwanted tastes or odors to foods.

Best Substitute for Agar Agar: Gelatin


The best substitute for agar agar is gelatin. Like agar agar, gelatin is a colorless, odorless food ingredient that has a setting, binding, or thickening effect when added to liquids. Gelatin isn’t suitable for vegetarians because the product is derived from animal bones, skin, and tendons.

Powdered gelatin is easy to find in the baking section of most grocery stores. This ingredient can be mixed with water and used immediately. This quick mixing makes gelatin easier and faster to use, while agar agar needs to be boiled before it’s used.

Substitute equal amounts of powdered gelatine for powdered agar agar to thicken jello, custards, mousses, sauces, and casseroles.

Other Agar Agar Substitutes, Alternatives, and Replacements


This section is a list of foods you can use in place of agar agar.

Xanthan Gum

Xanthan gum is a popular additive that’s used to thicken and stabilize foods. This ingredient is made by fermenting simple sugars with bacteria. The product is usually gluten-free and suitable for vegetarians and vegans (unless the packaging states otherwise).

Some supermarkets and online marketplaces sell xanthan gum in powder form. Look for xantham gum in the gluten-free aisle. The powder should be dissolved in room-temperature water before use.

Xantham gum is a good 1:1 agar agar substitute and works as a binding agent in bread, cakes, and pastries.

Pectin Powder

Pectin powder is a powdered variation of pectin. This water-soluble powder is extracted from fruits, so it’s suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

Pectin powder is somewhat rare to find in-person — occasionally available from local grocers — but is easy to find online.

Use a 1.75-ounce package of pectin powder for every 4 tablespoons of agar agar required in your recipe. Pectin powder contains sugar, so it’s best as an agar agar substitute in sweet recipes like jams, marmalades, and jellies.

Guar Gum

Guar gum is a thickener and stabilizer derived from legumes called guar beans. This ingredient is commonly found in powder form and is suitable for vegetarians, vegans, and people with gluten intolerances.

Health food stores are most likely to sell guar gum. Most supermarkets don’t sell this ingredient, so shop online to find the best deal.

Use 1 tablespoon of guar gum for every 1 tablespoon of agar agar in your recipe. This ingredient is an ideal agar agar substitute for thickening smoothies, ice cream, pie fillings, yogurt, sauces, gravies, and soups.



Cornstarch, or cornflour, is a powdery substance derived from the corn grain. This plant-based ingredient is suitable for vegetarians and vegans, and most cornstarch products are gluten-free (always check the label).

This common kitchen ingredient is available in the baking aisle of most supermarkets.

Use 2 tablespoons of cornstarch to substitute 1 tablespoon of agar agar. Cornstarch can only be used to thicken foods as they’re heated, so it’s best used as an agar agar substitute in hot soups, sauces, and gravies. Like agar agar, cornstarch has no flavor and doesn’t add texture to foods.


Carrageenan is a refined seaweed powder that’s used to preserve, thicken, and emulsify foods. This ingredient is suitable for vegans and vegetarians and considered gluten-free in pure form.

Health food stores often sell carrageenan, but it’s most affordable and available online.

Use the same quantity of carrageenan as you would agar agar to substitute. Carrageenan has no flavor or nutritious value, so it can be used as a thickener and a stabilizer in cream sauces, puddings, salad dressings, and ice cream.

Arrowroot Powder

Arrowroot powder is a gluten- and grain-free powder that’s made from a tropical plant called Maranta arundinacea. This plant-based powder is a good vegan alternative to agar agar.

Arrowroot powder can be found under the name “ground arrowroot” in many grocery stores in the gluten-free or baking aisles. This powder is widely available to buy online.

Use twice the amount of arrowroot powder as agar agar powder. In recipes that call for agar flakes, use four times the amount of arrowroot powder. Arrowroot powder is tasteless and odorless, so it can be used as a thickener in sauces, puddings, and jellies.

Cassava Flour

Cassava flour is a gluten-free flour made by grating and drying the cassava root. This flour is vegetarian- and vegan-friendly.

Cassava flour is available in the gluten-free aisle of some grocery stores and can also be purchased online.

Use a 2:1 ratio when substituting cassava flour for agar agar powder, or a 4:1 ratio when substituting cassava flour for agar flakes. This flour works best as a thickener in gravies and baked recipes.

Tapioca Flour

Tapioca flour is made from the starchy part of the cassava plant, in contrast to cassava flour which is made from the entire root. Like cassava flour, tapioca flour is gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan.

Tapioca flour is available in the gluten-free aisle of supermarkets and online.

Use 2 tablespoons of tapioca flour in place of every 1 tablespoon of agar agar in sweet and savory recipes. Tapioca flour is a good agar agar substitute for creating moist gluten-free bread, adding crispiness to pie crusts and pizza, and thickening sauces, stews, puddings, and custards.


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