Healthy Living, Special Diets on February 19, 2014 by

What is it? Wednesday: Xanthan Gum

We are very excited to bring you What is it? Wednesdays! Every other Wednesday, we’ll explore a different ingredient or product in depth. We’ll be covering the benefits, uses and common misconceptions about each. If you have any requests, leave them in the comments and we’ll work them into the schedule. 


I freely admit that I bit off a little more than I intended with this topic. Xanthan gum is a hard one! It has an unusual origin and many, varied applications. We’ll see if I can clear anything up or if I just make it more confusing! Thank you to everyone who submitted questions on Facebook. We had over 80 submissions and they all break down into these basic questions. If you have more questions, leave ’em in the comments and we’ll get to them.

What is it? Wednesday: Xanthan Gum | Bob's Red Mill

What is Xanthan Gum? The short, basic version is that xanthan gum is a coating from a particular bacteria- Xanthomonas campestris. This bacteria grows a protective coating. Think of it like an orange peel or the skin of an onion. It’s a protective layer. When fed a particular food, this bacteria’s coating becomes very sticky and makes a great binding and thickening agent in baking. I can get super technical about this, but I don’t think that is necessary. Scientists harvest this sticky layer, dry it out and sell it as a food additive. End of story.

What is this “particular food” mentioned above? Most commonly, Xanthomonas campestris is fed glucose (sugar) derived from corn, soy or wheat. This glucose comes from the starch of the plant and contains no protein, which means if you have a corn, soy or wheat allergy, you can likely enjoy xanthan gum. The bacteria that grows our xanthan gum is fed wheat glucose. There is no gluten in our xanthan gum. 

Why use Xanthan Gum? This is a slightly bigger question. Xanthan gum works well in place of gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye and barley that some people cannot tolerate). Xanthan gum helps trap the air bubbles created by leavening agents (baking soda, baking powder, yeast) to allow your breads and baked goods to rise. It helps thicken liquids, which is why it is often found in salad dressings and sauces. This thickening action helps hold gluten free baked goods together and keeps them from becoming too crumbly.

How is it different from Guar Gum? We’ll do a whole post on Guar Gum soon, but a short answer is that they’re made from two different sources- xanthan gum from a bacteria and guar gum from a seed native to Asia. In the kitchen, there are important differences in using xanthan gum versus guar gum. In general, guar gum is good for cold foods such as ice cream or pastry fillings, while xanthan gum is better for baked goods, especially those that use yeast. Foods with a high acid content (such as lemon juice) can cause guar gum to lose its thickening abilities. For recipes involving citrus you will want to use xanthan gum. Read more about how they are different and similar in this post: Guar Gum vs Xanthan Gum.

How should I use Xanthan Gum? Generally, we recommend the following. Every recipe is different. Too little xanthan gum and your baked goods will be crumbly, too much and they’ll be rubbery. If you’re just getting started, we highly recommend following a recipe that calls for xanthan gum to get the hang of how much to use and when.

Cookies………………………………¼ teaspoon per cup of flour
Cakes and Pancakes………………..½ teaspoon per cup of flour
Muffins and Quick Breads………… ¾ teaspoon per cup of flour
Breads……………………………….1 to 1-½ teaspoons per cup of flour
Pizza Dough…………………..…… 2 teaspoons per cup of flour
For Salad Dressings…½ teaspoon Xanthan Gum per 8 oz. of liquid

For liquids, it is best to add xanthan gum to the oil component in a recipe, making complete mix of oil and gum before adding to the rest of liquid ingredients. Using a blender or a food processor is a great way to get the gums to dissolve properly.

Why does it cost so much? This answer is based on speculation, as it’s very hard to pinpoint why some ingredients are expensive. Based on what I know about our ingredients from our Purchasing Department, it is expensive because it is costly to produce (we’re talking specialized labs that must grow, then harvest, this ingredient) and there is a limited supply. Yes, it’s spendy at approximately $15 for a half-pound, but you use very little in a recipe and a bag should last you 6 months (depending on how much you bake).

What is it? Wednesday: Xanthan Gum | Bob's Red Mill

Xanthan gum is messy, what is the best way to clean it up? I find this question slightly amusing because gluten is very messy and hard to clean up, so it seems rather fitting that its replacement would be equally so. I couldn’t find any good tips for how to clean it up, but one customer did recommend sodium persulfate for cleaning up xanthan gum that has gelled with water. I don’t know who has this laying around the kitchen, but I don’t. I have also heard that peroxide is promising (turns out our awesome test kitchen gals are working on this), so you could try that. No matter what, it’s a total disaster. If you have a good tip, PLEASE SHARE IT WITH US!

How does it affect my body and why can’t some people tolerate it? There have not been any significant studies to determine what effect xanthan gum has on humans, but I did find a good article that talks about the studies that have been done. It appears that there is little to support xanthan gum being harmful to adults, but it should not be fed to infants.

More and more, I meet people who cannot have xanthan gum. It upsets their stomach, causes gas, bloating and diarrhea. These are not all people who follow a gluten free diet. I have heard from several gluten free customers who initially blamed their issues on gluten, but later realized it was actually the xanthan gum. The symptoms are very similar. You’ll see that more and more gluten free food bloggers are not using xanthan gum and are opting to use an alternative or leave it out altogether.

What are some alternatives to Xanthan Gum? First, there is guar gum. It works essentially the same way, but you typically use more guar gum than xanthan gum. The people who cannot tolerate xanthan gum often have similar issues with guar gum. Other people are using psyllium seed husk, chia seed, flaxseed or a combination of these. These work because of their high soluble fiber. When you add water, these ingredients gel up. This works well for binding and thickening for most recipes. Our friend Jean Layton, blogger and naturopath, swears by her Pixie Dust. Her recipe, found here, combines psyllium husk powder, flaxseeds and chia seeds and produces marvelous results (we should know, we tested it to find out!). Depending on the recipe, you can sometimes get away with just leaving it out. Some recipes will be just fine without it. It takes experimentation, but, hey, that’s what gluten free baking is all about!

I hope this helps clear up some of the major questions. As I said above, if you have any others, please, leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to tackle them.


Great post! I’m sharing this one!

Jennifer says:

The source of growth medium to produce the xanthan gum, can be wheat, corn, soy or whey(dairy). Is it possible to disclose this source info on your packaging at Bobs Red Mill? or at least post a warning to those of us who have allergies to any/all of these ingredients? I find it frustrating that it can be called “gluten free” when the growth medium for this product CAN be wheat. Wikipedia even warns against anyone consuming this product with ANY of these allergies…as per Wikipedia xanthan gum page
Xanthan gum may be derived from a variety of source products that are themselves common allergens, such as corn, wheat, dairy, or soy. As such, persons with known sensitivities or allergies to food products are advised to avoid foods including generic xanthan gum or first determine the source for the xanthan gum before consuming the food.
To be specific, an allergic response may be triggered in people sensitive to the growth medium, usually corn, soy, or wheat.For example, residual wheat gluten has been detected on xanthan gum made using wheat. This may trigger a response in people highly sensitive to gluten.

We are very forthcoming about the growth medium for our xanthan gum- wheat. It has not produced allergic reactions, but if you are concerned we urge you to not eat it. Try guar gum instead.

Jody says:

Do I need to add xanthan gum to your gluten-free all purpose flour blend?

Yes, you will need to add some kind of binder to replace the gluten- xanthan gum, guar gum, psyllium husk, etc.

Nice Blog! this blog provides useful information about Xanthan gum and Guar Gum. Xanthan Gum is an alternative of Guar Gum. You know that Guar Gum is a natural product and xanthan gum is a laboratory product.

Michele says:

I was horrified to discover recently that you make your xanthan gum with wheat and don’t disclose that even as you call it the ideal substitute for gluten in baking. I have celiac disease and react violently to xanthan gum. It took a long time to figure this out -many tests did not uncover why I was still having symptoms on a very strict diet until I made a batch of holiday cookies using Bob’s Red Mill Xanthan Gum as well as some of your other flours and got violently ill. The gum was the only ingredient I didn’t regularly use. When I learned that other celiacs had problems with Xanthan Gum it did not even occur to me that it might be made with wheat. I have had products from other companies marketed as gluten free only to get sick and then discover that barley was used -the company protested that they had tested the product and the gluten level was below the legal definition, but that didn’t matter -I still got sick. Cassidy’s response urging you not to eat it if it makes you sick is unacceptable if you don’t clearly disclose on the packaging what it is made from. Please TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for your product and include on the front label that it is made with wheat. Many people will not know to avoid it, and you will continue to make many people sick in the meantime.


We are so sorry to hear your story. I am so glad that you’ve found out that xanthan gum is not something you can consume. I will pass along your comments to our quality assurance team. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. I will say that I have trouble digesting xanthan gum and no problem digesting gluten, so I do not think it’s an across-the-board gluten issue for everyone (I am not saying that this is your situation). There is no gluten protein used in the production of xanthan gum, but I appreciate your concerns and think you have a very valid point. Again, thank you for sharing this with us.

Heidi says:

Michele is not alone, only bobs red mill xanthem gum makes my family sick. Coincidence? I think not. Sensitive Celiacs cannot consume anything derived from wheat, even though so called experts say that it is safe. not alcohol, not anything, and certainly not Bobs Red Mill xanthem gum. I am making it my personal crusade to get you to change this. My son just was sick for 3 days and missed work because a family member put the Bobs xanthem gum in some cookies and fed them to him unsuspecting. You cannot assume you are not hurting people. Do not call it gluten free, if it is derived from a wheat source. How many people are you keeping sick?

Sharon says:

Thanks for posting this! Ive found it very helpful. My family and I love your products! My mom has an issues with wheat but can and does use your products. My dad is on a gluten free diet and your products actually make him feel better as your products dont contain bromide which gives him chest pains.. keep up the great work!

Caroline says:

Do you use dairy (whey) as the medium for any of your xanthan gum? I have a severe dairy allergy and am on a strict diet, but still getting symptoms from something. I have been tested for allergies to everything I eat and dairy is the only thing so far that I have had an allergy to, desperate to find what has dairy in it that I am still being exposed to. Thanks for your help.

Hi Caroline,

No, we do not use dairy at all with our xanthan gum. We do not even have any dairy in our gluten free facility. It’s possible, though, that you can’t tolerate xanthan gum. That’s not uncommon and can cause similar gut reactions. If you’re having anaphylactic reactions, it’s probably something else, not the xanthan gum. Never hurts to try cutting it out for a month, though, and see if you feel better. Good luck on your search!

Shavon Smith says:

Hi and thank you for researching different ingredients for us all. I had a question is xanthan gum yeast And also can you do a research on all leavening agents including washing products and items? Thank you so much and I will be sure to share this on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you, Shavon. Xanthan gum is not a yeast. They are two entirely different forms of microorganisms. I’m not sure what you’re asking in the second half of your question. Do you want us to write an article on using baking soda and baking powder for cleaning?

Caitlin says:

My son as was recently told he has a corn allergy. I have read mixed reviews on Bob’s Xanthan gum. Do you used corn in the production of your product?

No, we do not use corn in the production of our xanthan gum.

Jen says:

I have found the very best thing to clean up xanthan gum that has spilled is a Norwex microfiber cloth! No smearing, no residual slime. It’s amazing! I ditched my sponge after seeing how well the Norwex products worked on xanthan gum. 🙂

Awesome! Thanks for the tip, Jen!

david shafer says:

Is it an option that you make xanthan using a sugar medium not using soy or a grain?


It may be an option, but we don’t manufacture xanthan gum. If you can’t tolerate xanthan gum, you might try psyllium husk or guar gum instead.

Linda says:

I have a nephew that I’m baking for and he is allergic to corn or corn derivatives. I’ve heard that Xanthan Gum is most often grown on corn, or corn sugars. I’m writing in inquire of the source of your Xanthan Gum product.


If you’ll read the post, we do mention that it’s grown on a wheat sugar medium. If you have further questions, please call us at 800-349-2173.

KayDee says:

My step son has moderate allergies to Wheat, corn, rice, soy etc but his allergist and nutritionist recommended that these items be completely eliminated from his diet. He does not have a gluten allergy however. And though he is allergic to corn, he can still consume corn syrup according to the allergist. We have begun learning how to make alternatives but I am not clear about xanthan gum. I understand your xanthan gum is made from wheat but would that mean that someone with a wheat allergy should not consume it or because its made from the sugar, would it be okay?

Great question. Xanthan gum is not made from wheat. Think of it this way- if you feed a cow wheat and later you eat the cow, you will not have an allergic reaction to the meat because the cow processed it. Xanthan gum is made in a similar way- it is a microorganism that is fed wheat glucose (which does not have any of the protein that causes allergic reactions). You’re not even eating the microorganism, but it’s protective layer. It’s complicated, but I think your son would be just fine eating xanthan gum. If you’re still worried about it, though, try guar gum or psyllium powder instead.

Crystal says:

Celiac disease is still something that researchers are learning more about every day. I would recommend Cassidy staying more up to date with the information she provides on behalf of the company. Many of her responses include information that was believed to be accurate 5 or 10 years ago, but that have since been proven false. For example: The reality is that there are MANY people with Celiac disease that are unable to consume any meat or dairy products other than those that are grass-fed – because of their crippling reactions to the grains consumed by the animal. Your lack of knowledge is hurting people.

I already had xanthan gum, which I use in gluten-free baking, and wondered about using it for general thickening, as we now use corn starch, gelatin, flour, etc. I did some trials and found it’s magical! Super-convenient. 1/8 or 1/4 teaspoon and a hand blender are all you need to go from watery to wonderful.

I was dismayed that I could not find a simple guide to using it, so I wrote one in my blog. Basically:

– One bag will last forever, is shelf-stable
– Works for hot and cold! Salad dressing, sauces, etc.
– Use 1/8-1 teaspoon per cup of liquid. A light dose adds body; medium to thicken; more to gel. Easy to overdose: Go lightly.
– Use a hand blender or blender and sift the powder into the whirring mixture, because it clumps easily.

Full story:

That’s wonderful, Moe! Thank you for sharing!!

Julie says:

We recently discovered my daughter has a wheat and soy allergy. Imagine my extreme disappointment and anger discovering that the medium used to create xanthan gum is wheat starch. This info isn’t on the label or on the official product page on your website. I only found this particular page because I typed in several variations of my question (what is xanthan gum made of) and somehow stumbled upon it.

My point is, I had to hunt for this information when it should be readily available on either the label or your website.

I made a batch of bread with what I thought had zero wheat and soy products. Guess what, my daughter broke out into hives within 30 minutes of eating it. I initially dismissed the bread but given it was the only new thing my daughter had eaten, it had to be it. I researched the flours again and as an after-thought, looked up xanthan gum.

So frustrating! We had no choice but to apply derma-smooth. This is a product which can cause hormone disruption but my daughter’s allergic reaction warranted this. Not to mention we basically had to dope her on benadryl and pore a gallon of calendula + borage oil on her skin.

I’m raising my hand as another person in full support of properly labeling your xanthan gum to disclose the medium used to create this product.

3.5 hours later, my daughter is barely comfortable enough to go to bed (she’s stopped crying so that is a plus) however, we will be dealing with this mess in the coming days.

Her skin was at the point of being completely healed so this is incredibly frustrating to start back at zero. It took us WEEKS to get to this point and for it to be ruined in a span of 10 minutes of eating supposedly wheat/soy free bread is the absolute worst.

We are so sorry to hear that. Thank you for sharing your story with us. We will pass it along to our team.

Diana says:

I have successfully used your gluten-free flours for making sorghum pancakes, and a few weeks ago I started making gluten-free bread with those same flours + your xantham gum. My child was getting progressively sicker, but recovered when we discontinued the bread after I read this blog post. She can eat xantham gum, but she can’t eat yours. I am pretty horrified that you use wheat glucose as the growth medium without disclosure and while putting gluten-free on the label. There can be residue. Please reconsider your policy as this is undermining the trust associated with your brand around whether the gluten-free label is really valid or not.

Vincent says:

Is all xanthan gum the same or just this brand? I’m not interested in cooking with it, just concerned about it in foods I consume. I do not have an allergy to gluten, or soy, but I do have an intolerance and have noticed this ingredient in many gluten free foods.

NickiB says:

I was extremely disappointed to learn that your xanthan gum is derived from/grown on wheat!
You see, I and my 2 youngest children have been diagnosed with Celiac. This has been an incredibly difficult time for us not only because I used to be an avid baker, but because we have all had to completely change our eating. Most comfort foods I have grown up with in the South are out. My youngest kids sometimes cry because we can’t have “normal” foods, or we can’t stop for a quick bite out anymore. (They are 3 and 5.)
I have always used Bob’s Redmill products and have always trusted them.
Imagine my dismay when after consuming cookies made from your “gluten free” cup for cup flour mix, my kids had broken out in the rash they get when consuming gluten, as well as their intestinal upset. I will not get into my symptoms, as they may be tmi for most.
I then have had to spend countless hours researching the ingredients used in that flour, as I knew it was the only thing new we had used.
We all had reactions to “gluten free” bisquick as well, even though they too claim to use gluten free facilities.
The constant in these 2 cases is the xanthan gum.
Why any company would market their products as gluten free and celiac safe when they use an ingredient grown on the very thing that people like myself and my children cannot consume without being extremely ill is beyond me. But in most things involved with business, I have to guess it is a money thing. Profiting while people get sick, and not changing the product even after people have come forward to you and told you how sick it has made them and others. How many others are sick and don’t know the cause? There is such a thing as residue and cross contamination in these instances.
I urge Bob’s Redmill to purchase a xanthan gum that is not grown on wheat, or to use an alternative ingredient.
In the meantime, I regretfully can no longer trust that your products are safe, and cannot continue to use them with any peace of mind. Nor can I recommend them to anyone else with Celiac.


Thank you so much for reaching out to us. I am so sorry to hear this. I am a mother of a little one and I can completely understand the way you feel right now. I will pass along your comments, but I would urge you to try exposing them to a xanthan gum that has not been grown on wheat and see if they react. I’m curious if it’s actually the xanthan gum itself that is the issue. I’ve heard of more and more people with celiac that cannot tolerate xanthan gum at all and it gives them reactions like their celiac reactions.

If I can explain it better, I will try- the wheat that we grow xanthan gum is only the starch. There is no protein in it. Gluten is a protein. We test every batch of xanthan gum for gluten and we produce it in a gluten free dedicated facility. As a mom, I totally understand your fear. To help you, though, I would urge you to try another brand of xanthan gum to see if they react. I would want to know that it was absolutely our xanthan gum versus any xanthan gum.

Sharina says:


Can the Pixie Dust recipe be substituted in for xanthan gum directly?


I think that the pixie dust can be used as a one-for-one replacement, but I suggest posting this question on the site where the recipe is listed, Dr Layton will know for sure.

Brenda says:

I too have recently become suspicious that the Bob’s Red Mill xanthan gum is problematic for me. I have Celiac disease and am very sensitive to gluten. I also am sensitive to rice, unfortunately. We developed a great french bread recipe using sorghum without rice but I found recently that it bothers my stomach. I was terrified that I had developed a sensitivity to sorghum, but I’d been using Trader Joe’s sorghum pancake mix while traveling the previous three weeks, and sorghum flour for thickening and breading without issue. However, the sorghum bread recipe does use a fair amount of xanthan gum, and my husband used the Bob’s Red Mill brand. I felt terrible after eating it, and now am strongly suspecting the xanthan gum, especially knowing it is grown on wheat-based glucose. It is difficult to test other brands as they don’t disclose the growth medium. It is strange to me that Bob’s proudly states that they don’t use corn to grow their xanthan gum to people with corn allergies but tell gluten-intolerant and wheat allergic patients that it should be fine for us to consume this. For me, this product is not working, and it is very frustrating.

Ann says:

This blog posting and the comments are very interesting to me. Twice this month, I have been violently ill after eating gluten free baked goods made with Xantahn Gum from a fresh package of Bob’s Red Mill Xanthan Gum. Previously, I used Xanthan Gum of unknown origin, purchased in bulk form at a food coop. I will try other brands. I have tossed the Bob’s Red Mill Xanthan Gum—no more experimenting on myself. I agree with others who have stated that the package should state that wheat starch is the growing medium. Something is happening to a subset of people who ingest this product. Perhaps we do not know all the answers yet but we can begin to ask questions based on people getting sick.

Mary says:

I just purchased my first bag of xanthum gum because a recipe called for 1/4 teaspoon. It was $12.99 for 8 oz, which would last a lifetime except that Isee here it is best used within 6 mos – 1 year. Why don’t you package this in very small packages like yeast to keep it fresh and allow for low usage? I don’t bake much because I prefer to do without the empty carbs of bake goods except for special occasions.

That’s a great suggestion- I’ll pass it along. It would be hard to use a bag within 6 months if you don’t bake very often.

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