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Getting the Most Out Of Agar

how to use Agar

Agar is the name for the natural jelly from seaweed. Learn how to use Agar to give texture, while reducing fat and sugar.  

Most Asian cultures know how to use Agar, having used it to make jellies for centuries. Agar is available there in 3 different forms:

  • bars (made up of strands),
  • granules and
  • powder.

Because Agar needs to be heated to 90 C to dissolve properly, the powdered form is easiest to work with. To measure them properly, break bars and flakes down into a powder using a coffee or spice grinder.  The powder form dissolves faster and more evenly.
Conversion: 1 teaspoon agar powder = 1 tablespoon agar flakes = 1/2 agar bar

Using Agar – the ratios

The ratios below are guidelines only – experiment a little as this can also vary by recipe depending on the acidity level of what you are preparing.

  • for a hard set: 1 tsp Agar powder per cup of liquid
  • for a soft set/wobbly: ½ – ¾  tsp Agar per cup
  • for a ‘jam-like’ effect: 1/3 – ½ tsp Agar per cup
  • for dressing-like effect: ¼ tsp Agar per cup

Top tips for working with Agar:

  1. A little goes a long way – measure Agar carefully
  2. Blooming & bringing Agar to temperature are key factors in enabling the gelling power – not too hot, not too long!
    • Agar needs to ‘bloom’ or re-hydrate in the liquid first for 8-10 minutes before applying heat to activate the thickening agent in the Agar.
    • Agar must be heated (85-90 degrees centigrade) or it won’t melt.  Don’t prolong boiling past the melting point as this can destroy the gelling capabilities.
  3. It is important to stir constantly until complete dissolution, otherwise Agar may stick to the bottom of the pan.
  4. The acidity of the liquid used will impact the gelling ability of the Agar; a more acidic liquid will require more Agar powder to set. For example Agar breaks down and doesn’t set if exposed to the enzymes of certain raw tropical fruits like kiwi fruit, papayas, pineapple, peaches, mangoes, guavas and figs,which contain an enzyme (bromelin) that can prevent Agar from setting. Heat the fruits before using them with Agar to destroy the enzyme and allow the recipe to set successfully.
  5. Agar will set at room temperature so do not wait until the liquid becomes cold before pouring it into a serving dish, once Agar sets it will not reset properly once disturbed!
  6. Unlike gelatin (see converting from gelatine), Agar can be re-melted if necessary, so there is no such thing as a mistake with Agar!
  7. To test whether your dish will set properly, spoon a small amount on a cold plate – it should set in 20-30 seconds. Add more Agar or more liquid to remedy the situation, following the directions described above.
  8. Jelly made with Agar may ‘sweat’ when weather is humid. To prevent this, you may dissolve 1 tsp of corn starch (corn flour) with the agar into the liquid that you are cooking

Do Experiment with Agar! Here’s Why it’s Worth the Effort!

  • Replace gelatine -an animal based gelling agent with a healthy (sea) plant alternative.
  • Unlike gelatine, Agar is colourless, odourless and tasteless so won’t impact the flavour of what you are preparing.
  • being a functional food, Agar provides more than a jelly substance, it can help our health in many important ways.
  • It has so many uses – for example in puddings, savoury jellies, jams & marmalade (with less sugar), dressings without fats, fruit puree and yogurt.
  • Agar can also be used other ways to replace eggs in vegan recipes or to reduce fat & sugar while keeping the creamy texture.

See our agar-recipe-brochure for inspiration. It is possible to make Raw  dishes using agar.

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