Guar Gum

What is it?

Guar gum (E412) is a fine power made from grinding up guar beans which are principally grown in India and Pakistan. It can be used as a thickener, emulsifier and stabiliser.

How does it work?

Guar gum impedes the movement of water molecules, allowing it to act as a very effective thickening agent. In fact, it is one of the most effective thickeners amongst all the hydrocolloids. When mixed with xanthan gum or locust bean gum, the final viscosity is more than when either one is used alone.

In food manufacturing, it is primarily used as a thickening agent for dairy products, beverages, and soups. Because of its ability to thicken solutions very effectively, it is a good emulsifier as it helps prevent oil droplets from merging, keeping the emulsion stable. It can also act as a stabiliser as it provides viscosity that helps to suspend solid particles – for example in salad dressings. Guar gum remains stable over a range of pHs, however it will degrade and lose its thickening power in very acidic solutions, especially when heated.

How it should be used?

Guar gum is cold water soluble, and can be added, at concentrations as low as 0.5%, to a variety of liquids to provide quick and effective thickening. When added to an ice cream mix, it will bind with water molecules, preventing the formation of large ice crystals that can give a grainy texture. In pastry fillings, it prevents “weeping” of the filling, thus keeping the pastry crisp. It can also be used in dough made with gluten free flours to help increase dough yield, give greater elasticity and improve texture.

Who uses it?

David Arnold at The French Culinary Institute in New York

Heston Blumenthal at The Fat Duck