Everything you need to know about agar


Agar Agar

What is agar?

Agar (or Agar Agar), sometimes referred to as kanten, is a gelling agent coming from a South East Asian seaweed. It is used for scientific purposes (in biology for instance), as a filler in paper sizing fabric and as a clarifying agent in brewing. Agar can also be used as a laxative (it’s 80-percent fiber) and as an appetite suppressant.

And it’s of course an amazing culinary ingredient. It’s a vegetarian gelatin substitute, a thickener for soups, in fruits preserves, ice cream and others desserts.

Where can you find agar?

Agar is available in health food stores, in supermarket that carry health food lines, in Asian grocery stores and online.

Health Benefits

Agar has no calories, no carbs, no sugar, not fat and is loaded with fiber. It’s free from starch, soy, corn, gluten, yeast, wheat, milk, egg and preservatives.

It absorbs glucose in the stomach, passes through digestive system quickly and inhibits the body from retaining and storing excess fat. Its water absorbing properties also aids in waste elimination. Agar absorbs bile, and by doing so, causes the body to dissolve more cholesterol.

A great substitute to gelatin

Agar is the perfect substitute to traditional gelatin. It’s made from a plant source rather than from an animal one. That makes it suitable for vegetarian and vegan diets, and other diet restrictions.

Agar has no taste, no odor and no color, which makes it pretty convenient to use. It sets more firmly than gelatin, and stays firm even when the temperature heats up.

Though agar is a great substitute to gelatin, don’t expect the same results when replacing gelatin with agar in a recipe. First, it doesn’t give the same texture. Gelatin can give a «creamy» texture whereas agar gives a firmer texture. And agar is much more powerful than gelatin : 1 teaspoon agar powder is equivalent to 8 teaspoon gelatin powder.

How to use Agar

  • The most important thing to know is that agar needs to be first dissolved in water (or another liquid like milk, fruit juices, tea, stock…) and then brought to a boil. It will set as the ingredients cool down. You can not add agar flakes or powder as it is in your food.
  • You should definitively follow the package directions and the recipe to determine which quantity to use. But here is a basic rule you can adapt : use 1 tablespoon agar flakes to thicken 1 cup of liquid, and 1 teaspoon agar powder to thicken 1 cup of liquid.

Here is the basic «recipe» to use if you can’t boil your liquid directly.

  1. Dissolve 1 tbsp agar flakes or 1 tsp agar powder in 4 tbsp hot water
  2. Bring water to a boil
  3. Simmer for 1 to 5 minutes for powder and 10 to 15 minutes for flakes
  4. Mix well with warmed ingredients
  5. Let it cool to set agar.

 

Sources:

  • How to use Agar Agar – wikiHow
  • Agar Diet – eHow.com
  • Agar Diet – Livestrong.com
  • Gelatin and Agar Agar – About.com
  • Agar Agar – Wikipedia

I used agar in my Skinny Raspberry Tart with Cinnamon Crust, go check it!

Wanna know anything else about agar? Ask me in the comments below!

Comments

  1. Selena PM says

    I have looking to extend the life of jello shots for room temperature storage. How long with it last and is there something I can add to extend the life?

    • Kevin says

      Agar will last a long time, and it will stay firm at room temperatures (or higher). But it is not as squishy and jiggly as jello–experiment to find a consistency that works for you, as you might find it too firm with the basic recipe.

  2. Hannah says

    Hi, Where do you buy agar powder from in Australia? I dont think Woolworths or Coles would be selling this. Thanks :)

  3. Gavin says

    Hi marie,

    I am trying to find a recipe for a vegaterian marshmallow, using agar, or any marshmallow recipe suitable for vegans. Can you help.

    • Marie says

      Finding a vegan recipe for marshmallow is actually on my to-do list! I was planning to use a ‘regular’ recipe that calls for gelatin and try to substitute it with agar. I don’t think it’ll come right the first time though, I’ll probably have to make a few batches. If you find one that you like, please let me know!

  4. Vera says

    Hi Marie,

    I wish to substitute agar for 3 tbsp of cornstarch in a vegan cheesecake recipe to get a firmer texture. How much agar powder or agar flakes should I use. Thanks

    • Marie says

      I would say 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons should be enough, but I can’t tell for sure. Just know that you won’t get the exact same texture with agar.

  5. Tina says

    I’ve had some agar agar flakes for YEARS. I’ve kept it in the freezer, probably for most of the time. Is it still safe to eat?

  6. Jeremy says

    Thanks for the description and especially for the flakes to powder ratio. I’m cooking a tart recipe from the 70′s and new nothing about agar, so was quite pleased to find this post.

  7. Gloria says

    Is it at all possible to add boiled, hot agar liquid straight to cold cheesecake ingredients (for example cold cream cheese) like they do with gelatin?

      • Ena says

        Hi Marie,
        I am new to baking… Well just need ur guideness on baking. I wish to bake a vegen cheesecake, they required 4 tablespoon of agar agar flakes.. Well I am not sure wat they mean by that, is it they are referring to liquid straight or the all flakes

        • Marie says

          I think they’re referring to the flakes themselves but I can’t be sure since I don’t have the whole recipe. Would you send me the recipe so I can help you more ?

  8. Gloria says

    I made kind of a charlotte russe cake with agar. I’m gonna serve it tomorrow to my friends so I tasted an itty bitty piece of it (well, that doesnt tell everything). It was even too clotted and I noticed that it wasn’t so sweet it was before putting agar in. Have you seen this happening, that the agar weakens the sweetness? I’m also wondering does 1 teaspoon of gelatin powder really equal to 1 tsp of agar powder because I would next time put half amount the agar. In the original recipe there was only 4 teaspoons of gelatin powder and turning it to 4 tsp of agar seems to be too much.

    • Marie says

      Hi Gloria! 1 teaspoon of gelatin powder does not equal 1 teaspoon of agar powder. Agar is much more powerful than gelatin. One teaspoon agar powder is equivalent to 8 teaspoon gelatin powder.
      I’ve never heard about agar weakening the sweetness of a dessert though, that’s interesting! Thanks for letting me know.

    • Marie says

      I just looked at the recipe and it looks amazing. I had no idea you could make yogurts with coconut milk, so thanks for sharing! Honestly I have no idea if the water would disturb the fermentation process or not. I think it would work because cow’s milk contains some water and it doesn’t disturb the fermentation process, but I’m really not sure. You would have to try. You could ask directly Sue if she ever tried with agar instead of gelatin. Sorry I couldn’t help!

      • zohara says

        Yes, agar in your yogurt will (1) disrupt fermentation and (2) prevent you from using the yogurt as your next starter. What will happen is that the agar will help set the milk, rather than slow fermentation. If you wish to thicken your yogurt even further, you have two options: (1) pour it into cheesecloth and let it hang for a couple of hours, which drains much of the natural liquids – but the final outcome may not be as yogurty as you want, more like a very light cream cheese; or (2) set aside a starter from your batch of yogurt, for next time, and then pour off the natural yogurt liquids, use them to dissolve a little agar, bring to the boil, and then stir back into the entire batch of yogurt. In our house there’s never really time to bother with this stage, though, because the yogurt just gets eaten too fast! There are ways to get your yogurt slightly thicker without having to go through so many stages. It mostly has to do with how long you leave it fermenting in low heat and how long you let it rest before using it.

    • Kendall says

      You can dissolve agar in any hot liquid, doesn’t have to be water. Joy of Cooking says to soften in 1/4 cup cold liquid, than dissolve in 3/4 cup hot liquid.

  9. Dante says

    It’s not made from plant material. It is extracted from the cells of Rhodophyta, Red Algae. Rhodophyta evolved separately from land plants and green algae, and as such, are not considered the same. Vegetarians are not consuming plant material, they are consuming algae.

  10. Estelle says

    C’est marrant, je suis une française AUSSI sur Sydney pour un an et je cherche à acheter de l’agar agar ici… Et que tombes-je sur qui? Et bah une française qui en parle bien évidemment, alors dès demain, je fais les supermarkets asiats ! Le seul moyen de m’en procurer, j’ai vu sur internet c’est 33$ les 200g, alors j’espère vraiment trouver mieux demain!
    Bonne continuation pour ton blog!
    Moi aussi je suis en train de créer le miens, (tout tout début)
    See ya !!!!

    • Marie says

      C’est marrant oui! Tu as fini par en trouver? Je n’en ai pas consommé depuis que je suis arrivée ici en septembre dernier!

  11. Lynn says

    Hello,
    I have been searching for a healthier alternative to thicken thin liquids. I have been using arrowroot, and kudzu root, but they may be causing constipation? I would like to try agar agar. How much would I need to use to thicken 1 cup to “nectar thick” consistency, and once it is set, will it maintain this thickness if it is brought to room temperature?
    I appreciate this information and your help, thank you so much!

    • Marie says

      I didn’t know about arrowroot causing constipation but agar would be a great alternative. Finding the right quantity to use is not easy but you could start by trying with 1/2 teaspoon of agar powder, no more. You’ll have to dissolve the powder in the liquid, then bring it to a boil and let it cool. You can then keep it at room temperature.

      • Marcia says

        I am trying to make a veggie pot pie (translating it from SAD to plant-based) and recently learned that arrowroot (which is what I usually use to replace corn starch) cannot be reheated. I purchased some agar agar flakes and was planning to use that instead. After reading all the comments, I don’t think it will work properly. Do you have any suggestions? I do have potato starch, would that be better? Too many variables! If all else fails, I’ll just go back to the arrowroot and hope for the best! Thanks so much. Your article is fantastic and I’m going to save it!

  12. Lynn says

    Hi,
    I used powdered agar for the first time, to thicken a sweetened ginger tea, it set up just fine, but gave the tea an awful taste. I checked the expiration date, which is years from expiring. The brand is “Now Real Foods”.. Is there any explanation for this?
    Thank you in advance for your help.

    • Marie says

      I’m sorry it ruined your tea :( I don’t really have an explanation, I’ve never faced this issue before and I really don’t see why agar would give this awful taste as it’s usually totally taste-free… Sorry I can’t help you more!

      • Kendall says

        Agar can give a weedy taste if not purified well. I’ve always trusted Now brands, but you may try a different source.

  13. Courtney says

    I’m trying to substitute agar flakes in a mousse that calls for dissolving 1 tablespoon of gelatin in 1 cup of coconut milk. I simmered the mixture for 30 plus minutes and the agar still didn’t dissolve completely. I think I had the wrong ratio though. I used 3 tablespoons of Agar flakes per 1 cup of coconut milk, and it was very, very firm.

    • Marie says

      Try to dissolve the flakes in water first and then add it to the coconut milk. 3 tbsp agar flakes for 1 cup is a lot! Next time, try with 1 tablespoon, that should be plenty!

  14. Malak says

    Hello
    I am using agar agar for the first time. I bought agar stripes , cut them into small pieces and grind them since i wanted to measure them in tbs . Actually i wanted to make panna cotta. I soaked 2 tbs in normal water for 5 minutes, then added them to milk and cream and bring them to simmering.unfortunately , the agar didn’t dissolve. What do you think I made wrong. Thank you.

    • marie says

      I usually use agar powder so I couldn’t tell for sure but next time you should try dissolving the ground stripes in a little hot water, then add this mixture into your milk and cream and bring them to a boil. If you can, use agar powder, it’s easier to use. I hope this helps :)

  15. sapna says

    Hi, After dissolving agar agar in water can i cool it and add it to room temperature mango juice to thicken it.

    does agar agar powder work differently compared to agar agar flakes…

  16. Eeva Häkkinen says

    I like to make preserves like toast jellies and keep running in these problems:
    - agar-agar is very sporadically available in our small town and always in small shops
    - the packages never seem to include instructions for use and the stuff cames in different formats, like powder, flakes or something that looks like sea sponges, but is hard to touch (you have to break off pieces and have no idea about weight or volume).
    I understand agar-agar jelly does not keep, but needs a preservative.

    The first one I’ve found a bypass for with the advent of internet shopping, but with the other one still need trial runs. Thank you for all the information and if someone else is making preserved jellies, I’d like to here of your successes anf failures.

    Eeva from Finland

  17. Alex says

    Agar Agar should be available from some asian grocers, imported goods/delicatessen shops, health food shops, some supermarkets, or try posting in a local classifieds/Gumtree style site and you might find some local fans to swap recipes/information with :D

  18. Julie says

    Hi,

    I am new to using agar agar and am just wondering about use in a cheesecake recipe as a substitute for gelatine. The original recipe calls for 3 teaspoons of gelatine in 1/4 cup boiling water, would the correct conversion be about 1/3 teaspoon of agar agar powder in the same volume of water?

    Thanks

  19. Siew says

    I have a pack of agar agar powder that has expired for 2 years now. I just tried to make some jelly and it came out fine. Question is if agar agar powder should not be used after expiry…

  20. Becca says

    Hi, I’m interested in using agar agar to thicken soup. I’m a little puzzled exactly how to accomplish this since my experience is agar is it is pretty liquid when hot and solid when cool. Since I would like to eat hot soup what should I do to cause it to thicken without cooling. Thanks.

  21. Heather says

    Hi Marie,

    I just saw the Vegetarian marshmallow recipe from January of this year, but I notice that the recipe measurements are in (t)’s. Does this mean teaspoons, tablespoons?

    Also what happens with Agar Agar when you use in Jelly? I want to make a trifle with jelly and the marshmallow as I am lactose free. I understand it can be stiffer? I also need to find that raspberry/strawberry jelly recipe with agar agar… does anyone have one? :-)

  22. zalak says

    my mango cheesecake with 500gm cream cheese recipe asks for 1 tbsp of gelatine, in 1/4 cup of boiling water. if i am using agar agar, should i use same quantity of agar agar that is 1 tbsp in 1/4 cup water or i need to use less agar agar powder?

    • marie says

      Hi there! 1 tablespoon agar agar powder sounds like a lot to me. I would only use 1 or 2 teaspoons. Remember though that it won’t have the same texture as gelatine so don’t be disappointed ;)

  23. Rebecca says

    Hi Marie!

    I have a 3d cell project and I interested in making my 3d cell project out of agar. I was wondering if there was a way to color the agar any way you like, so that my project will looking appealing. Thanks so much for the great blog. Also, what do you mean when we you say, this is the recipient, of you can’t boil your liquid directly? Also, at exactly what temperature will agar melt, like how long can it be left out? Thanks again.

  24. Lynnsey says

    I heard that the agar agar powder and flakes ratio to liquid is different, so what if I’m using the “bars?” What is the ratio then? I’m especially talking about substituting agar agar BARS for gelatin. :) Thank you!

    • marie says

      I’m sorry Lynnsey but I’ve never heard of agar agar bars before…I’m afraid I won’t be able to help you! Anyone ever used bars? Any tips would be appreciated :)

      • Lynnsey says

        What about strands? These are like strands actually…long strings like those rice noodles come in…but…agar-y. ;)

  25. Diane says

    Do you happen to have a recipe for gummi candies using agar?
    Your information has been most helpful to me.
    Thank you!

  26. darlene says

    I want to make juice and/or fruit popsicles, how much agar to liquids and how would I mix it in to achieve good popsicles

  27. Aisha says

    Hi can u plz help me with how much aggar bar or agar flakes i should i use in this recipe .

    3 dl sourcream
    200 g creamcheese
    100 g powderd sugar
    1 ts vanila sugar
    3 dl cream

    100ml is in one DL

    Right now i have orderd aggar bars , it seems like in picture that they are very thick not thin like gelatin. I dont want the cheesefilling to be to stiff or hard i want it to be not to stiff .

  28. fresh pasta says

    It’s actually a nice and useful piece of information. I’m happy that you shared this useful information with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

  29. alyssa says

    I want to make fruit snack with agar agar for my daughter who is 3. The fact that it is fiber is great as being gluten free we lack a lot of fiber. However is it safe if it is also an appetite suppressant? It would be a small amount used in the recipe (6 T)

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