Agar agar and gelatin both serve as gelling and thickening agents in various recipes. While gelatin is made from animals, agar agar comes from red algae.
The difference between agar agar vs gelatin is that agar agar is very suitable for vegans as it’s made with red algae, while gelatin is produced from animals and cannot be consumed by strict vegetarians.
It’s worth noting that agar agar is a good substitute for gelatin as vegans commonly use it.
What Is Agar Agar?
Agar is a jelly-like substance made from red algae. Agar-agar is majorly used in most Asian cuisines. It has a gummy and chewy texture and is also used for edible gums.
It is a popular vegan food substitute that replaces gelatin in vegan dishes. Agar powder, flakes or bars can be found in health food supermarkets, majorly in countries like China, Japan, and Korea.
Agar helps stabilize gels and the thickening of beverages and baked foods. Agar can be used in dishes like ice cream, custards and delicate dishes like cheesecake and panna cotta.
It has minimal health benefits as it’s low in calories, cholesterol and carbohydrate.
What Is Gelatin?
Gelatin is a gelling and thickening agent from the skin, bones, ligaments and tendons of animals like cows, horses and even pigs.
Gelatin can be sold in powdered form in major health groceries stores. Since it can also be derived from bones, it contains a reasonable amount of calcium.
Gelatin is a signature ingredient in jellies and marshmallows and also in puddings.
It is ordinarily brittle when dry and rubbery when wet or moist. Gelatin is also tasteless, odourless and sometimes colourless in appearance.
It can be dissolved in polar solvents like water, acetic acid and glycerol. Gelatin absorbs about 5- 10 times its weight to form a gel.
The melting point for gelatin is not fixed as it depends on its temperature.
What Is Agar Agar Used For?
1. Culinary Purposes
Agar is used in jellies and custards. When making jelly, it is boiled until the solid dissolves.
Then, other sweeteners, colourings, and flavourings are added to them and poured into moulds before being served.
Agar-agar is approximately 80% dietary fibre and is also used as an intestinal regulator.
A petri dish is used to provide a growth medium using a mix of agar and other nutrients. Since agar is indigestible by microorganisms, the growth of micro-organisms would not affect the growth of the gel.
Agar is also used as a natural ingredient in the moulding of clay to produce clay pots, an impression material used by dentists and an organic fertilizer used by farmers.
What Is Gelatin Used For?
1. Gelling Agents
Gelatin is probably known as one of the best gelling agents in making a lot of dishes.
Some examples of foods that contain gelatin include aspic, trifles, marshmallows and cotton candies; it is also used in confections like gummy bears, fruit salads and jelly babies.
2. Stabilizing Agents
It is also used in yoghurt and margarine as stabilizers, texturizers, or thickeners. Many types of Chinese dumplings, such as Shanghainese and xiaolongbao, include gelatin in them.
3. Clarification Of Juices
Some specific clarification of juices processes contains gelatin. Juices like apple juice and vinegar are clarified using this.
4. Medical Purposes
Gelatin is used to produce the shells of most drugs to enhance easy swallowing. It is also used for other purposes like animal glue, binder in match head and sandpaper.
Is Agar Agar the Same as Gelatin?
Agar-agar and gelatin do not mean the same thing. While agar is made from a red alga, gelatin is gotten from animals’ skin, bones, and ligaments like sheep, cattle, and pigs.
One can be substituted for the other in recipes because of their similar gelling and stabilizing abilities. But in the cases of vegan dishes, agar is preferable because it is100% plant produce.
Agar Agar Vs Gelatin: The Difference
While agar is used for microbiological tests and is a laxative in chemistry, gelatin is used in photography and cosmetics.
Difference In Form
Agar-agar is white, translucent and sold in strip forms and powders, while gelatin is colourless, translucent and sold in forms of granules, sheets or powder.
Agar is low in fats and cholesterol and high in calcium and iron, and suitable for people with intentions to lose weight and maintain good health.
At the same time, gelatin, if eaten in excess, results in the mass loss of proteins.
Agar is derived from red algae only, while gelatin is produced from the collagen in pork, cattle bones and cattle hides.
Can You Substitute Gelatin for Agar Agar?
Even if gelatin is an excellent substitute for agar, the same results should not be expected when one is substituted for the other because gelation gives a creamy texture while agar is firmer.
Even if you want to use gelatin as a substitute, you should use it in a ratio of 1:8 ( agar powder to gelatin powder).
Can You Mix Agar and Gelatin?
Although it is unnecessary in most cases, they can be used together. When combined with water, gelatin forms a gel that traps water and becomes stretchy, and for this reason, it is used in gluten-free pizzas.
It is also used in gluten-free recipes to thicken batters and dough, and when water is added to agar, almost the same results are provided.
If they are both used excessively or more minor than required, it can make the bread soggy as even the slightest mistake can spoil a whole dish.
So, make sure to mix the dry gelatin and agar properly before mixing with water to give better results.