Agar agar and gelatin happen to be two of the most widely used base ingredients in frozen or no-bake desserts. The differences between Agar and Gelatin are quite vague to many. As a result, a lot of people consider them to be the same thing. But the truth is, they are not the same.
If you are also facing trouble figuring out the basic differences in their characteristics, then you have landed in the right place. We have compiled the basic contrasts between the two to get rid of all the confusion. That way you will know the appropriate usage of these two. The amount, methods of using, you’ll get to know the nuts and bolts of both of them.
By the end of this post, you will not only be able to distinguish between the two thickening agents, but you will also have learned their usage and benefits in detail.
Differences between Agar and Gelatin
We have categorized the differences into several distinct factors, starting from their composition to the health benefits. Which brings us to our next big question, where exactly does agar agar and gelatin come from?
Source of Agar agar
Agar agar comes from the cell wall of a species of seaweed (red algae) mostly found in the Pacific and coastal region of California. You can find them in both kitchens and laboratories alike. It’s considered at least 7-8 times stronger than gelatin due to having a plant-based origin.
Source of Gelatin
Gelatin is the non-vegetarian alternative of agar agar. Manufacturers use the acidic and alkaline process to derive gelatin from the collagens of the skins, tendons, and bones of animals. Recently another type of gelatin has earned some popularity which is derived from fish and insects.
Composition of Agar agar
Agar consists of two types of carbohydrates, namely Agarose (70-75%) and Agaropectin (30-25%). It tends to melt at 85 °C (358 K).
The composition of agar agar plays a big role in its property of easy melting and gel stability. It can be ground into a fine powder. So you can commonly find them in the market in the form of powders and strips. It’s white and quite translucent.
Composition of Gelatin
Peptides and proteins are the main constituents of gelatin. They are obtained from the collagen of animal’s bones and other connective tissue through a series of chemical reactions, known as partial electrolysis. Due to its composition, it melts in any liquid with a temperature of 35° to 40° C. It loses its strength upon exposure to a temperature of more than 100° C (373.15° K).
The gelatin found in the market is much more granular than agar agar. You will mostly find them in packs of powders or sheets. It’s colorless, odorless, and translucent
Uses of Gelatin
Gelatin is used to make various sorts of foods. Common examples are marshmallows, marmalade’s, gummy bears, trifles, frozen desserts, sponge cakes, and other gelatinous desserts. Gelatin is also used to make confections such as jelly toppings for cakes.
Large scaled dairy product factories also use gelatin to prepare products such as margarine, mayonnaise, and yogurt. Technical uses of gelatin include the manufacture of cosmetics, photo films, sandpaper, and capsules of medicines.
Uses of Agar
Since both gelatin and agar agar are gelling agents, therefore most of their uses for culinary purposes are common to each other.
Similar to gelatin, agar agar can be used to make semi-solid desserts such as jellies, custards, puddings, no-bake cheesecakes, etc. Popular Asian desserts such as ‘Wagashi’ (traditional Japanese dessert made from plant-based ingredients) are made with agar agar.
You can use Agar agar to make creamy fillings for sponge cakes or pies or use it as a thickener for gravies of desserts. They are also used in the fields of microbiology, dentistry, etc. Many people use it as a laxative as well.
How To Use Gelatin
Gelatin is soluble in warm water. So the simplest way to use it is to dissolve it in lukewarm liquid and leave to set. Here we have provided a demonstration showing how you can use gelatin to make your everyday favorite desserts.
Necessary Equipment and Ingredients
- A bowl
- Smart Refrigerator
- Wooden spatula
- Lukewarm water.
- Gelatin strip/powder.
- Liquid of your choice that you want thickened.
- If you’re using gelatin strips, use one envelope of it. Cut it so that they fit the size of the bowl.
- Pour cold water into the bowl and let the leaves soak for 10-15 minutes before using it.
- Separate the soaked gelatin using a strainer and squeeze gently to remove excess water.
- If you are using Gelatin powder use 1tbsp. (1/4 ounce) in 2-3 cups liquid for standard firmness. Ignore Step 1, 2, and 3 because the powder can be used directly in your recipe.
- Use the wooden spatula to mix your gelatin powder or pre-soaked strip in two cups of warm liquid. It may be anything from sour juice to whole milk cream.
- Focus on stirring the warm liquid until the gelatin dissolves uniformly and leave to set.
- If you plan on using the gelatin mixed liquid for cold frozen desserts, then we recommend you to cool the mixture to room temperature first.
- Lastly, leave the mixture to freeze and set. Enjoy your gelatin dessert after about an hour of freezing.
By altering the proportion of gelatin to liquid, you can adjust the firmness according to your desire.
How To Use Agar Agar
Agar agar is not soluble in just warm water. So the easiest approach is to use agar-agar is by mixing it in hot liquid and bringing it to a boil for setting to occur. Let us walk you through the steps of making jelly from agar agar through simple steps.
Necessary Equipment and Ingredients
- Fruit juice such as cranberry, apple, or pomegranate.
- Wooden spatula
- Jelly Mold
- Powdered agar agar
- Take a liter of your favorite fruit juice in a pan.
- Add 3-4 tbsp. agar-agar powder into the juice for medium firmness.
- Add about 100 g (3½ Oz) of sugar.
- Leave the mixture as it is for about 10-15 minutes for the agar agar to soften.
- Start to heat it over low heat and use the wooden spatula/spoon to stir and dissolve the agar agar.
- As soon as you see the agar agar to have dissolved halfway through, increase the heat and bring it to boil. Simmer for about 3-4 minutes until the agar agar is dissolved completely.
- Now put the hot agar agar induced mixture in a jelly mold and wait for it to cool.
- Once it reaches room temperature, refrigerate the mixture for 5 hours.
Enjoy your wobbly agar agar Jelly by unmolding it straight out of the fridge.
The sweetness of each juice varies, therefore use sugar according to your preferred taste. Agar agar is stronger than gelatin. So use it to make jellies of fruits such as pineapple and kiwi as gelatin won’t set for them.
Health Benefits of Gelatin
We consider gelatin as a protein product due to its composition of 98-99% protein and 1-2% water. It’s quite popular for the following benefits:
- Gelatin is the richest food source of amino acid glycine.
- It may improve the health of your bones and joints.
- Gelatin may also improve brain function. So it’s good for your mental health.
- It plays a role in beautifying your skin and hair
- Although gelatin is a protein-based edible, it can still play a role in weight loss.
- Plays a role in helping people at the early stages of diabetes by lowering the blood sugar levels.
- The amino acid glycine helps to induce a night of sound sleep and improve gut health.
- Gelatin may slow down the multiplication of cancer cells in the human body.
Health Benefits of Agar Agar
Agar agar is entirely devoid of carbohydrates and fats. Here are some of the benefits of agar agar consumption:
- It’s an appetite suppressant; therefore plays a direct role in weight loss.
- Agar agar helps in digestion and excretion as it is rich in fiber.
- It also tends to absorb bile so it causes the body to dissolve large amounts of cholesterol.
- Agar agar passes through our digestive canals very fast. So it doesn’t store excess fat in our body.
- Apart from playing a big role in bone and brain health, it also helps to prevent anemia.
- Agar-agar is rich in galactose or ‘brain sugar’. Therefore, it’s healthy for our brains.
Frequently Asked Questions
If your gelatin has any haram component like pork collagen, it’s definitely haram. But some brands produce halal versions of gelatin from allowable sources, which is totally halal. Check the halal tag before buying it, or buy vegetarian gelatin instead.
No, Agar Agar comes from vegetable source, so it’s completely halal. Still, you should check the halal tag before buying.
China grass and agar agar are actually different names of the same ingredient. The only difference is china grass comes in a string form where agar agar comes as a powder form.
All the components of gelatin are naturally gluten free. So you can use gelatin in any gluten free recipes.
The components of gelatin are actually good for the skin. They provide essential protein and nutrition your face skin needs. That is why it is often used to make face masks, which we know as peel off masks.
Make your desserts even more exciting with your favorite gelling agent!
Unlike many people, you are now capable of bringing that extra something your frozen desserts and no-bake cakes need. Be it gelatin or agar agar, now you know how to perfectly use the two in your everyday recipes.
Both gelatin and agar agar require separate procedures for the best results. If you have read through our in depth presentation on the difference between agar agar and gelatin, then you are ready to step up your culinary skills and use the gelling compounds appropriately.
If you have any question regarding this post, drop it on our comment section. We will get back to you and solve your confusions as soon as possible. Until then, happy cooking!