Kappa & Iota Carrageenan

A traditional alternative to gelatin with some surprising advantages

What is it? Carrageenan is a gelling agent extracted from a type of red seaweed that is now primarily grown in the Philippines but is also native to the north Atlantic coast. It has been used as a culinary ingredient for centuries and is the main ingredient in a traditional Irish milk pudding. Many chefs are now exploring its wide range of uses as an alternative to traditional gelling agents such as gelatin. It is vegetarian and vegan friendly. The two main varieties used for culinary purposes are kappa and iota. Kappa carrageenan is recommended for potassium rich foods and iota carrageenan for calcium rich foods. For highly acidic foods such as lemons, seek an alternative gelling agent such as agar agar.

What does it do? Kappa carrageenan creates a firm gel with a brittle texture while iota produces a softer result. They are suitable for both hot and cold preparations.

How does it work? Carrageenan is a hydrocolloid that works by controlling the structure of water molecules within a food.

How should it be used? Carrageenan should be used at a concentration of between 0.5-2% depending on the required texture of the final result. It can be dissolved into cold preparations but must then be heated to boiling point before being cooled.

Because gels made with carrageenan set between 30-60°C and stay stable up to a temperature of 70-80°C, they can be used to make hot jellies. Gelatin derived from animal collagen melts at just 35°C. Also, unlike gelatin and agar, gels and jellies made with carrageenan are thermo-reversible meaning they can be reheated and reset more than once giving incredible flexibility.

Cream Supplies is the UK’s largest supplier of molecular gastronomy ingredients and tools.