How is vegetarian gelatin made?

In this brief guide, we will answer the query, “How is vegetarian gelatin made?” and will discuss different methods to create vegetarian gelatin.

How is vegetarian gelatin made?

Vegetarian gelatin is made by using agar, pectin, vegetable gums, and carrageenan all of these products are derived from different algae and plants and no animal product is present in them.

Why Gelatin Isn’t Vegetarian?

The first things you may wonder about are what gelatin is and why it isn’t vegetarian-compatible. Translucent, tasteless, and odorless, gelatin occurs in a variety of forms including sheets, powder, and granules. In the kitchen, it’s a thickening, gelling agent, and stabilizing ingredient. Jello, marshmallows, gummy bears, jelly beans, cereals, dairy products, and desserts like panna cotta and trifles are all examples of foods that include gelatin. Gelatin is often used in the production of capsules for vitamins and pharmaceuticals to make them more easily swallowed.

The hydrocolloids market in general estimated to be valued at USD 5.70 Billion in 2015 and at USD 7.56 Billion by 2020, is projected to grow at a CAGR of 5.80% from 2015 to 2020. The use of hydrocolloids in the food and beverages industry has been in demand owing to increasing health consciousness among the consumers and multifunctionality of hydrocolloids (2).

Gelatins are derived from the parent protein collagen by processes that break up the secondary and higher structures with varying degrees of hydrolysis of the polypeptide backbone. Collagen is the major constituent of all white fibrous connective tissues occurring in animal bodies such as cartilage, sinews, the transparent sheaths surrounding muscles and muscle fibers, skin and ossein (the protein matrix of bone). Hides, skins and bones from mammalian sources such as porcine and bovine are preferred, but gelatins are also produced from the skins of cold and warm water fish species as well as minor quantities from fowl. A sequence of processes, including washing, hydrolysis and thermal processing and extraction makes the final gelatin product a mixture of polypeptide chains with different compositions and molecular weights and different properties (1).


Carbohydrates from seaweed, notable algae from the Red Sea, are used to make agar, also known as agar-agar or agar. 

Agar is defined as a strong gelling hydrocolloid from marine algae. Its main structure is chemically characterized by repetitive units of D-galactose and 3-6,anhydro-L-galactose, with few variations, and a low content of sulfate esters. The extraordinary gelling power of agar is based exclusively in the hydrogen bonds formed among its linear galactan chains that provide an excellent reversibility, with gelling and melting temperatures that differ normally by about 45°C. Being ‘physical gels’ they provide agar with interesting and unique properties in many of its applications (1).

The lack of taste, smell, or color of agar-agar lends itself well to use in food preparation. Gelatin may be replaced with this thickening agent, and it can be used in a variety of desserts, including jams, jellies, ice cream, and other sweets that need setting. One of the most common ways to consume this ingredient is to buy it in bars, flake form, or powder form.

Powdered agar may be used in place of gelatin in most recipes as a general rule. Because the powder is more potent than agar flakes or bars, it is not a 1:1 ratio when using them. It is equivalent to one teaspoon of agar powder, or half of an agar bar, to use agar flakes in place of powder. You may use either one teaspoon agar powder, one tablespoon agar flake, or half an agar bar to set one cup of liquid.

Agar-agar dissolves with heat. It melts just by heating but gels again upon cooling. These transformations can be repeated indefinitely in the absence of aggressive substances that could hydrolyse the agarose molecules or destroy them by oxidation (1). The agar must be thoroughly dissolved for smooth results, and this may need blending. It should take around an hour or so for the agar-agar to set at room temperature if you don’t refrigerate the mixture.


Commercial pectins used as food additives are hetero-polysaccahrides which contain at least 65% by weight of galacturonic acid-based units. Fruit peels and rinds are used to produce pectin. Within the commercially processed types of citrus, the peel from lemons or limes is preferred for most qualities of pectin (1).

Dehydrated from a soft gel made from a mixture of cooked ingredients. It is often used to thicken jams, jellies, and marmalades since it is created from fruit. Pectin-rich fruit may be substituted for eggs in baking because of its ability to thicken. It takes roughly five cups of sugar per box of powdered pectin and three to four cups of sugar in each bag of liquid pectin for pectin to gel completely. Lemon juice may also be used to provide a hint of acidity. 

Because pectin is a charged hydrocolloid, it is sensitive to variations in pH. High methyl ester pectins will gel only in the presence of sugars or other co-solutes, and at a sufficiently low pH, so that the acid groups in the polymer are not completely ionized. In a system with sucrose as the sweetener, at around 65% soluble solids, typical of high sugar jams and preserves, high methyl ester pectins gel at up to pH 3.4 (rapid set pectin) or 3.2 (slow set pectin). As the pH is reduced, gel strength and setting temperature will increase. The gelation of low methyl ester pectins is governed mainly by the interaction between the pectin and calcium ions. For this reason, the availability of calcium ions is important, and this is commonly governed by sequestrants either naturally present or added (1).

Vegetable and microbial produced gums

Ice creams and gluten-free baked items often utilize vegetable gums. Xanthan gum, guar gum, and locust bean gum are examples of vegetable and microbial produced gums. Xanthan gum is a common ingredient in gluten-free baking, but it may also be used to thicken sauces and smoothies. 

Xanthan gum is an extracellular polysaccharide secreted by the micro-organism Xanthomonas campestris, which produces the polysaccharide at the cell wall surface during its normal life cycle by a complex enzymatic process. The bacteria are found naturally on the leaves of the Brassica vegetables such as cabbage. Commercially, xanthan is produced from a pure culture of the bacterium by an aerobic, submerged fermentation process. The bacteria are cultured in a well-aerated medium containing glucose, a nitrogen source and various trace elements (1).

Some vegetable gum powders are available. Galactomannans are multifunctional macromolecular carbohydrates found in various albuminous or endospermic seeds. Gum guar is one example and is recovered from the seeds of the guar plant Cyamopsis tetragonoloba L. This plant is an annual summer legume that grows mainly in arid and semi-arid zones (1).

The directions on the package will tell you to use 50% more than the recommended quantity of gelatin and to mix it with water. For the best results, follow the instructions on the package. The chewy, meaty texture of these Tex-Mex burgers comes from locust bean gum.


Instead of gelatin, a dried seaweed extract is known as Carrageenan, or Irish Moss may be used. To produce Carrageenan, the seaweed is washed to remove solid impurities before treating with the appropriate type and amount of alkali to swell the seaweed and extract the carrageenan. The alkali may be selected to obtain a particular carrageenan salt which has important consequences for the resultant extract, by determining dispersion, hydration, thickening and gel-forming properties. The thickening and gelling properties of the different types of carrageenan are quite different. For example, kappa carrageenan forms a firm gel with potassium ions while iota and lambda are only slightly affected. Iota carrageenan interacts with calcium ions to give soft, elastic gels but salts have no effect on the properties of lambda carrageenan. In most cases, lambda is used with kappa in milk systems to obtain a suspension or creamy gel (1).

Carrageenan has no taste and is less stiff in its setting properties than gelatin. Carrageenan can be found in jellies, mousses, soups, ice creams, puddings, and dairy goods. Many vegetarian goods, including plant-based milk and cheeses, include it in their ingredient lists. You may use 1 ounce of dry carrageenan per cup of liquid as a replacement for gelatin.

Some people, including the FDA, feel that carrageenan is harmful, while others believe it is safe to consume. It has been associated with minor gastrointestinal disorders and other health concerns. The investigation is ongoing to evaluate whether or not it should be avoided.

Other FAQs about Vegetarian that you may be interested in.

Is calcimax vegetarian?

Is caldikind plus vegetarian?

Is Celin 500 vegetarian?

Is brie vegetarian?


In this brief guide, we answered the query, “How is vegetarian gelatin made?” and discussed different methods to create vegetarian gelatin.


  1. Phillips, Glyn O., and Peter A. Williams, eds. Handbook of hydrocolloids. Elsevier, 2009.
  2. Shanmugam, M., and R. G. Abirami. Microbial polysaccharides-chemistry and applications. J Biol Act Prod Nat, 2019, 9, 73-78.