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Gums, or hydrocolliods, are used to alter texture, extend shelf life, and stabilize foams, dispersions, and emulsions in baked goods.


Also Known as Hydrocolloids

What are Gums?

Gums, or hydrocolliods, are hydrophilic carbohydrate polymers used in food to increase viscosity and improve mouthfeel. These substances form a gel upon coming in contact with water. Gums can be used to alter texture, extend shelf life, and stabilize foams, dispersions, and emulsions. Gums are used in both cake and bread applications for frozen or fresh products.


Most gums are natural, coming from plants or microbes. Although most are considered natural, some gums can be synthetically created.


  • Agar—from red seaweed; in the same family as carrageenan. Forms stable and clear gels used for icings, gels, jellies.
  • Alginates—from brown seaweed; a sheer-thinning thickener or a low-viscosity emulsifier used for pie fillings.
  • Arabinoxylans—found in the bran layer of grasses such as wheat and rye; affect water binding properties and dough rheology and gas retention.
  • Carrageenan—polysaccharides from red seaweed; used as a thickener, suspension, and gelling. It also stabilizes casein, the milk protein.
  • Carboxymethylcellulose (CMC)—a derivative from cellulose; dissolves quickly in cold water and mainly used for controlling viscosity without gelling.
  • Cellulose—found in plants and mostly prepared from wood pulp; primarily used for holding water, but also used as an anticaking agent, emulsifier and thickener.
  • Methylcellulose is also preferred for gluten-free baking as a gluten substitute.
  • Guar gum—extracted from the leguminous shrub; an economical thickener and stabilizer and ideal for use in freeze-thaw cycles.
  • Pectin—found in fruits and vegetables such as citrus peel and apple pomace; mainly used as a gelling agent but also a thickener, water binder, and stabilizer.
  • Xanthan gum—produced synthetically on a large scale through aerobic fermentation; used to control viscosity, making it ideal for emulsions and stabilizing. There are other hydrocolloids beyond this list, however these are the most commonly used in the baking industry.

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