Also called Agar – Agar, this tasteless white seaweed is a fantastic thickener used in Asian desserts and French cuisine. I like it because it REALLY holds, it is quick and easy. Agar thickens better than gelatin, and it is vegan. Agar-Agar means “sticky-sticky” in Malasian. The Japanese call it Kanten. I use it in puddings, ice creams, cheesecakes, and other egg-free recipes..
Agar Flakes vs. Agar Powder
Agar flakes are available in most grocery stores. They thicken well, requiring 2-3 minutes of boiling to soften, and must be blended for a smooth result. Agar Powder is cheaper, easier and quicker to use. It dissolves in water almost instantly, can be cooked very briefly to soften, and does not require blending. Find agar powder online.
How to use Agar Flakes
To use agar flakes as a thickener, put 1/4 cup liquid (water or alternative milk) into a shallow pan. Stir in 1 tablespoon agar flakes over medium heat. Cook and stir gently for 2 to 3 minutes, until it is bubbling and gummy, and the flakes begin to dissolve. Add this warm agar immediately to the blender or whatever mixture you wish to thicken, and stir well. A blender works best to remove any lumps. The mixture will fully thicken in 30-45 minutes or faster in the refrigerator. Take care with highly acidic fruits, which tend to reduce the holding power. For acid fruits, I suggest increasing the amount of agar you’d normally use. Find agar flakes in the Asian or seaweed section of any good whole foods market, any Asian market. Online find it at Edenfoods or Amazon. Click at the bottom of the page to order it now.
How to Use Agar Powder
Stir the agar powder into any cool liquid until it dissolves. Heat it in a pan over low heat and allow it to bubble for 45 seconds. Then add it to the mixture you wish to thicken. In a recipe, use use one-third the amount of powder that you would use for flakes. (So if the recipe calls for 3 teaspoons agar flakes, use 1 teaspoon agar powder.) Use the same amount of agar powder as gelatin in recipes. Buy agar powder in bulk 1-pound, or 4-ounces from several suppliers such as Healthy Village, Penn Herb, HerbCo, or Amazon. You can also buy Telephone Brand powdered agar agar in most Chinese and Southeast Asian markets.