Xanthan Gum Gives Gluten-Free Pancakes A Texture Upgrade

If your last gluten-free pancake had the texture of a rubber discus that was perfect for tossing out the window, it's time to experiment with xanthan gum. The name of this genius ingredient may sound odd, but just a pinch of this white powder will instantly upgrade the texture of your gluten-free pancakes, transforming them from dense and unpalatable to light and airy.

Xanthan gum is a synthetic food additive that's similar in appearance to a finely powdered sweetener. Almost flour-like, this clever ingredient (that's made when certain sugars are introduced to the Xanthomonas campestris bacteria) acts as a thickening, binding, and stabilizing ingredient in many gluten-free recipes. This is because it mimics some of the prized characteristics of gluten, such as lending elasticity to breads, encouraging a loftier rise in cakes, and eliciting a tender texture in soft-baked cookies. 

While you can make delicious-tasting gluten-free pancakes without xanthan gum, they don't have the same appetizing texture as pancakes made with regular flour. Denser than classic pancakes, they fall short of that light and airy texture that makes this traditional breakfast food so moreishly good. Luckily, xanthan gum steps in by replicating the features of gluten and binding the individual qualities of the ingredients together. The result? High-rise pancakes that take as much time to prep as a classic batch featuring a fluffy, tender middle and rounded flavor.

Add xanthan gum to your dry pancake ingredients

Usually sold in a tub or a resealable packet, you can buy xanthan gum from supermarkets in a convenient and easy-to-use powdered form. A small amount of this white, almost creamy-colored powder, goes a long way. For example, ratio-wise you'll only need a quarter of a teaspoon for every 200g of gluten-free flour when making a cake, or even less when preparing pastry. Using measuring spoons, you can dole it out like other baking ingredients used in minimal amounts (such as baking powder or salt).

The beauty of xanthan gum is that it dissolves in liquids, therefore you won't need to cream it or whip it together with other ingredients to incorporate it into your pancake batter. Simply add it to your dry ingredients, including gluten-free flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder, and stir it through to distribute it evenly. Then add the wet ingredients into the dry mixture by making a well in the center, just like you'd do when prepping the batter for regular pancakes. Indeed, the process is so easy that it will leave you considering why you've never added a little to your gluten-free pancake recipe before. Fire up your griddle pan and experiment with other classic pancake recipes by substituting the flour with a gluten-free option and adding a pinch of xanthan gum.