Derived from seaweed, Agar Agar is a vegan alternative to gelatin and can be used as a thickener and gelling agent in jams, panna cotta, vegan jelly and jello shots.
Agar agar is versatile and can be made thicker or looser by adding more agar or more water. To use: substitute gelatin with agar cup for cup.
NB: acidic fruit will dissolve the gelling agent in agar agar so you may need to use slightly more than the recipe calls for. Cooking the fruit before adding the agar will help it set.
Where to buy agar agar
Honest To Goodness Agar Powder $18.95
The Melbourne Food Ingredient Depot Agar Agar Powder $37.25
Sunnybrook Health Store Spiral Agar Agar Flakes $8.95
Whereas agar is predominantly used in sweet dishes, carrageenan - derived from a type of red seaweed known as Irish moss – is also used as a firming agent in vegan cheese.
Carrageenan is said to be a better coagulant than gelatin when it comes to making jelly and, when used to make fudge, helps prevent the fudge from sticking to your teeth.
According to the PETA website, "To prepare carrageenan, rinse it thoroughly, and then soak it in water until it swells. Add the carrageen to the liquid you want to set, boil for 10 minutes, and remove the carrageen. One ounce of carrageen will gel 1 cup of liquid."
Where to buy carrageenan
The Red Spoon Co Kappa Carrageenan powder $12.80
Woolworths Queen Jel-It-In Vegetarian Gelling Powder $4.00
The Melbourne Food Ingredient Depot Carrageenan Powder $44.85
Is vegan gelatin healthy?
Controversy around carrageenan and its alleged health risks (causing inflammation of the digestive system, bloating, loose bowels) have been heavily reported.
In 2009 Durham University published a review and analysis of the data. Their study concludes that much of the worries stem from a derivative of carrageenan that was used to treat peptic ulcers (unsuccessfully) and was removed from the market.
"Carrageenan was intentionally degraded to make C16 for use in a specific pharmaceutical product for peptic ulcer that is no longer on the market. The only use for this product today is industrial in nature (X-ray imaging diagnostics)."
The carrageenan used in foods is said to be safe, but as the researchers at Durham University conclude: "At present regulation has provided support for the safe use of carrageenan in food. However, there is also the paradox that the more safety is proven, the more controversial that proof becomes."
Foods with vegan gelatin
Just incase your tastebuds are tingling from all that talk of food, here are some vegan-friendly lollies that use a gelatin substitute and are safe to eat if you're vegan or vegetarian.
- Mentos (all flavours)
- Darryl Lea Liquorice
- Go Natural Organic Liquorice
- Freedom Vegetarian Marshmallows
- Skittles (Australia only)
- Coles Sour Rainbows
- Woolworths Sour Straps
- Chupa Chups
- Bols Mint Leaves
- Eco Vital Wine Gums
- Dominion Naturals Sour Stilts