Monday, February 14, 2011

The Seeds vs. The Gums : Which do you use?

Bob's Red Mill Organic Flaxseed Meal, 16-Ounce Packages (Pack of 4).Bob's Red Mill Chia Seeds, 16-Ounce Bags (Pack of 4).Bob's Red Mill Guar Gum, 8-Ounce Packages (Pack of 8).Bob's Red Mill Xanthan Gum, 8-Ounce Packages (Pack of 6)

Lately I have been reading a lot about flaxseed meal and chia seeds in gluten free baking.  Mostly because I have been using flaxseed meal as a replacement for eggs in my baked goodies in an attempt to incorporate a heart healthy diet for me, with a completely gluten free diet for Shawn, my adorable gluten free spouse.

I must say that I was completely skeptical at first.  I mean ground seeds replacing eggs?  Who wouldn't approach with a bit of skepticism?

Flaxseed meal has become my best friend.  I just adore the results I get when replacing eggs in my brownies, cakes, and breads with flaxseed meal.  The results are fabulous!  The health benefits are even more fabulous!

Flaxseed meal and water

Flaxseed meal is power packed with fiber, lignans (a powerful antioxidant), and alpha-linolenic acids (plant versions of Omega-3 fatty acids).  Just 2 tablespoons of Flaxseed meal contain 4 grams of fiber (as much as 1 1/2 cups of cooked oatmeal), more lignans than 30 cups of fresh broccoli, and 2400 milligrams of Omega-3.   Wow!  That is definitely what I would call power packed with nutrition.

Recently, I got letters from more than one reader asking about using flaxseed meal as a replacement for guar gum or xanthan gum in gluten free baking.  They sent me links to one of Shauna's new blog posts "Chia seeds and Flax seeds"  over at The Gluten-Free Girl and The Chef. She seems to have shown some great promise in eliminating the Gums.  It is worth a trip over to her blog for a read.  (and a few follow up visits to get some of the newer gum free recipes).  I had just read that post, that morning when I had seen it on Bob's Red Mill facebook.

One reader of mine in particular sent me a photograph of her in progress attempt at making my cinnamon roll recipe using Shauna's suggestions and flaxseed meal.  This reader had tried to replace the 2 and 1/2 teaspoons of Xanthan gum in that recipe with a slurry made of 2 and 1/2 teaspoons of flaxseed meal and 5 teaspoons of boiling water.  The dough came out extremely wet and unmanageable.  5 teaspoons of water may not seem like much, but I recommended that She offset that amount of liquid from the recipe.

But then I thought,  Is that enough to simply offset the liquid?

I wanted to test for myself what removing the gums do to an existing recipe.  I was getting ready to make my Gluten Free, Egg Free, Dairy Free brownies anyway, so I chose to leave out the 1 teaspoon of Guar gum and since the recipe already had 3 tablespoons of flaxseed meal as an egg replacement, I did not add anymore to replace the absent Guar gum.

To begin with the batter was a lot runnier than it was with the Guar gum in it, and I mean a lot runnier.  They baked more like a cake and sank in the center towards the end as if they lost air in the last few minutes of baking.

With the Guar gum in the recipe, the batter is stiff, almost too stiff and it bakes at a uniform height without sinking in the middle, consistently.

Without the Guar, the brownies cracked and one broke when transferring them to the drying racks.

With the Guar, this never happens.  They remain flexible, and I kind of like that.

I do agree that when I use flaxseed meal as an egg replacement  in my gluten free breads I get a more
bread-like texture than without it.

I don't think it can be readily substituted into other recipes in place of the gums without taking into account the "gumminess" and thickening quality of the gums and altering the recipes liquid to flour ratio to make up for the lack of that "gumminess" and the addition of the liquid in the flaxseed meal slurry.  Do not underestimate how much thickening and cohesiveness a teaspoon of guar gum can bring to a batter or dough.

I wholeheartedly agree that eliminating the gums in favor of a flaxseed slurry is a good idea.  I will attempt to create a few working recipes that use this concept and post them here for you.  If I have great success with this, I will post some conversions of my older recipes also.

I guess so far in my gluten free baking experiments, I have concluded that, when used together, both flaxseed meal and Guar gum give me the best results.  Xanthan gum has fallen out of favor with me.  All have their uses and their distinguishable textures.

I will experiment more, and as always post my best and proven results here for you all to share.

Keep the questions and suggestions coming.  I really enjoy them.


  1. I did learn, about flax seed, that it should always be added LAST to the bread machine! I grind up 3-4 Tbsp to add to my bread, and made the mistake one time of adding it to the water/oil/liquid sugar, instead of perching it on top of the dry ingredients. The mix was so "gluey" that the machine couldn't handle it. So, yes, very sticky stuff... LOL!

  2. When I get a bread machine (it's on my Christmas list), I will keep that in mind. Thanks for the tip.

  3. You should probably choose what you think is best. Thanks a lot for comparing the two.

    dentist kansas city

  4. The use of flaxseed can also benefit the eyes. Flax seed can reduce the risk of macular degeneration, and is also good for combating dry eyes. Another benefit of flax seed oil is that it can improve eyesight and the perception of colors.

    eye care

  5. According to studies, phytoestrogens in flaxseed could help fight obesity and even diabetes. It also shows that there is significant decrease in HDL and LDL cholesterol levels only in obese rats.

  6. I would be interested in seeing a test between the difference of using psyllium husk vs gums??? Then also when using psyllium, to mix with liquid first to make a gel or to simply add into dry ingredients? With ground flaxseed/chia, how about a test of using as a replacement for eggs? And the same as the psyllium, is it better mixed with water first or add straight into dry ingredients?

  7. I'll toss in that I've been baking GF for friends for about 4 years. Nearly all with gums. The last couple weeks I've been experimenting with 50/50 flax/chia. Freshly ground dumped into the boiling water and stirred briskly. Where my experience departs from, it seems like. quite a few is that I don't get a slurry from the seed to water ratio listed. I get a solid MASS. Because of that, I've doubled the water ratio with better results. From the best I can tell actually boiling and stirring briskly the 'slurry' activates the mucilage more effectively. The results are baked goods that I'm having difficulty telling apart from their gluten counterparts.

  8. This is some good information for me. I just started baking gluten free for a friend of mine, and the amount of information needed is crazy. I've been trying to cut down the amount of unhealthy eating in my house in general, and turning to more gluten free options seems to be helping with that.

  9. Hi, nice to see you. I have to express my thanks to you, it is so useful to me, and about your confusion, I think that you should choose the one which is the best and health to yourself, because I think that health is very important, and if you need any dental equipment, wish you have a contact with me alan dental, have a nice day!!!!

  10. John, when you use 50/50 flax/chia - I am assuming you originally used a 1 part seed to 2 part water. And that now you are using 1 part seed to 4 part water combination to make a slurry. Is that correct?

    If the recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of Xanthan Gum ... would you then substitute 1 tsp of the slurry created?

    In the original recipe the xanthan gum is added to the dry ingredients. Would I do the same - adding the slurry to the dry ingredients?

    I need to make gluten free cupcakes for my boss and would like to use the chia and flax seeds I have on hand. Appreciate any input from more experienced Gluten Free bakers! Thank you!

  11. Hi, thanks you for posting such useful info for me. The tips are really important to me, and I think that protect teeth is just like education, we should begin it from the toddlers, wish your next post, by the way, if you need any dental equipment(Lampe à photopolymériser), welcome to contact with matériel dentaire, have a nice day!!!