Gelatin powder is usually easy to find and easy to use; however, there are several reasons why you may not want to include it in your food. For example, the fact that it is made from animal cartilage and ligaments will rule it out as an ingredient for vegans. Try one of the gelatin powder substitutes below if you need an alternative that has similar properties.
Your best bet: Agar agar powder
Often referred to simply as agar or agar powder, agar agar powder is an extract from seaweed. Its gelling properties come from its soluble fiber content and make it an excellent vegan alternative to gelatin, which is made from animal products. Like gelatin powder, agar agar powder is flavorless and odorless. It is used to make Asian jelly candies that have a smooth, soft texture that is similar to the texture of gelatin. It is more versatile than gelatin in that it can set at room temperature and has a higher melting point. In comparison, gelatin needs to be refrigerated to set with a jelly consistency.
Note that the enzymes in certain fruits will keep dissolved agar agar powder from setting. Those fruits include pineapple and papaya. You can get around this by cooking the fruit to neutralize the enzymes before adding them to the agar agar mixture.
A decent second choice: Pectin powder
Pectin is extracted from certain fruits. Among the fruits that are richest in pectin are apples and oranges. In both cases, the peel is a good source of the pectin. Like agar agar powder, dissolved pectin powder can set at room temperature. That ability means that it can be used in a broader range of applications when compared to gelatin powder. Key drawbacks with pectin powder include the fact that a substantial amount of sugar must be added to get the best results. Pectin powder is bitter since the commercial version is sourced from citrus peel, the sugar helps to mask the taste and is also necessary for it to set properly.
In a pinch: Carrageenan
Carrageenan is another vegetable-based gelling agent that can work as a gelatin powder substitute. Like agar agar powder, carrageenan comes from a seaweed. Its gelling and thickening powers come from its soluble fiber, which makes it similar to both pectin powder and agar agar powder. Carrageenan’s drawback is that it solidifies to a jelly that is somewhat softer than the jelly made with gelatin. It is better suited for applications that do not require a firmer texture. It is flavorless and odorless like gelatin, which means that its effects are limited to the texture of the dish.
Guar gum is native to India and comes from the guar plant, which is sometimes called the cluster bean bush. The seeds are ground and the endosperm separated to make guar gum. Like gelatin powder, guar gum can transform liquids into a solid with a jelly consistency. It is similar to agar agar in that it can do this at room temperature. As with other gelling agents, the use of acidic ingredients can hinder guar gum’s ability to solidify properly.
Locust bean gum comes from the carob seed and is another thickening and gelling agent that can serve as a substitute for gelatin. It can be used by itself or in combination with other gelling agents like agar agar powder. It is sometimes combined with agar agar powder to create a more elastic gel.