Agar Powder Is The Vegan Ingredient To Use In Place Of Egg Whites

A dish and spoonful of agar powder next to a cup of agar jelly
A dish and spoonful of agar powder next to a cup of agar jelly - New Africa/Shutterstock

For vegans looking for a replacement that can offer an animal-free substitute for eggs in baking recipes, agar comes to the rescue. Sticky egg whites help bind ingredients together like glue, and plant-based agar offers an alternative when making creamy mousses, thick puddings, custardy recipes, and even foamy cocktails that call for the inclusion of egg whites. Also known as agar-agar, the ingredient is derived from various red seaweeds. As the seaweed is boiled, a gummy liquid seeps out into the water and is placed aside. It is then dehydrated to become agar.

The nifty gelatin and egg white substitute can be found in either powdered or flake form -- but be sure to look for food-grade agar and not the type used for culturing bacteria in laboratories. Packed with calcium, iron, folate, and fiber, agar gives egg whites a run for their money, as the ingredient is low in calories yet dense in micronutrients. When using it in recipes, the powdered form must first be dissolved in water. Bakers then let the mixture rest before warming it, whisking the combination, refrigerating it, and whipping it yet again before adding it to recipes that call for egg whites.

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Agar Is A Handy Inclusion For Vegan Recipes

package of Eden agar flakes
package of Eden agar flakes - Eden

The discovery of agar was a rumored 17th-century mistake involving a discarded seaweed jelly dish in Japan. A frozen piece had thawed out, leaving behind a powdery substance that offered the materials for an additional supply to make edible jelly. Nowadays, agar is a tricky ingredient to source, however, as producing it requires harvesting it from a specific (and limited) environment where the seaweed grows, it cannot be farmed, and it must be collected by divers or found after it is washed up on shore. As a result, you can expect to pay more for it than you would for eggs -- though a little goes a long way in most recipes.

So, the next time you have homemade marshmallows or custardy desserts in mind and are catering to a vegan crowd, remember to stash some agar powder in your cupboards for convenient use. What's more, agar offers texture without adding any flavor, color, or aroma. A spoonful of the dry ingredient can quickly build up weak soups or runny-looking sauces. For Jell-O fans, the ingredient can also stand in for gelatin, and placing a teaspoon of powdered agar into any cup of liquid will make a dense jelly. For cooks wanting a bit more control without turning recipes into quick jelly, less intense agar flakes (pictured) can also be used instead of the powdered form.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.